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After outlawing death sentence, Rwanda has now rallied behind international efforts to have the capital penalty abolished in all countries.

James Munyaneza

By James MunyanezaPublished : August 31, 2007

After outlawing death sentence, Rwanda has now rallied behind international efforts to have the capital penalty abolished in all countries.

Last month, Rwanda scrapped the sentence from the penal code, which saw over 1,350 convicts on death row survive the gallows with their sentences commuted to life in prison.

President Paul Kagame said on Thursday that Rwanda is fully behind the campaign for a universal moratorium on capital executions.

“Rwanda will be happy to work together with other African countries, and to join the European Union in co-sponsoring the resolution at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly (due this month), in support of this important initiative,” Kagame said.

He was speaking in Rome, Italy in his acceptance speech after receiving the “Abolitionist of the Year 2007” award.

The award is presented by Hands Off Cain (HOC), an international pressure group leading a worldwide campaign to abolish the death penalty.

“We are pleased that Rwanda has joined the family of nations and peoples that reject the death penalty,” Kagame said.

Kagame said that Rwanda’s violent history, which climaxed with a Genocide that killed one million lives in 1994, was the main factor behind the country’s abolition of death penalty.

“When we began the debate on capital punishment, it was heavily influenced by the history of Genocide. Through national dialogue and consultation however, our people realised that they had been historically peace-loving and united, and at no time had they, on their own accord, sought to take the lives of their neighbours,” he said.

He said before 1994, life in Rwanda had lost meaning because the past regimes introduced and promoted a culture of impunity “as exemplified by the periodic massacres that occurred since the late 1950s, and (the 1994) Genocide.”


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