2 November 2012

Rwanda: Govt Seeks to Amend Genocide Ideology Law

The Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama, yesterday tabled before parliament the proposed amendments to the law against Genocide ideology, which seeks to give the legislation more clarity.

According to the ministry, the amended legislation will do away with all forms of ambiguities related to the current law.

Tabling the bill before Parliament, Karugarama said the old version of the law was becoming problematic for courts to interpret because it was in a way ambiguous and not definitive.

"Our courts have been having problems with this in that it required to be interpreted in most cases," Karugarama told the House chaired by Speaker Rose Mukantabana.

He insisted that government was not amending the law out of external pressure but internal cohesion because Rwanda has always been built by compromise and that external experiences had been borrowed to get better practices incorporated in it.

"We want the law to be definitive..." the minister said.

The minister said the new law will enable courts establish the causal link between the offence committed and the intention which makes it easy to detect the sequence of the commission of the offense of genocide ideology and other related offences.

"....and defines clearly constitutive elements of such offences...," the minister said.

He added that over the last two years government had engaged scholars, civil society and everyone with divergent views to come up with best practices embedded in the new the law.

The draft suggests that only conducts should be punished if they are manifested with intention in public. The existing law punishes thoughts or ideas.

"Internationally, a crime is complete when intention and action come together....this was lacking....we are removing this ambiguity..." the minister said.

Karugarama said the new law shall remove overdrive and excesses and differentiate fair comment from genocide ideology.

If passed in its current form, upon conviction those who manifest genocide ideology are liable to financial penalties ranging from Rwf100,000 - 1m and prison sentence not exceed ing nine years.

Justifying the bill, Karugarama said that though the Penal Code provides for penalties on the offence of genocide ideology and other related offences, it does not define what genocide ideology means.

Under the new law the gravest offence is the theft or destruction of the remains of a victim of genocide which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years and a fine not exceeding 2 million.

Enacted in 2008, the law against genocide ideology has been widely challenged with many saying it is ambiguous.

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