30.05.07 - RWANDA/UN - LOUISE ARBOUR APPLAUDS THE INITIATIVE TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY IN RWANDA

Arusha, 30 May 2007 (FH) - The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, welcomed, during her visit in Kigali, from the 23 to 25 May, the legislative initiative launched in Rwanda to abolish the death penalty and to ratify the Convention Against Torture, it was announced in an official statement of the United Nations. 
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"The authorities indicated to me that legislative work for a law to abolish capital punishment is quite advanced", Louise Arbour was delighted, according to the United Nations News Service.
 
Louise Arbour was on visit to Rwanda from 23 to 25 May, marking the last leg of her central African tour where she underlined the paramount place of human rights in the efforts of reconciliation and rebuilding.
 
"The abolition of the death penalty in Rwanda, a country which is still rebuilding itself from its tragic past, will be a powerful signal of the need to continue justice while rejecting violence in all its forms", stated the High Commissioner. She also greeted "the determination of the authorities" in their intention to ratify the Convention Against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments (CAT)" of December 10, 1984.
 
"I encourage the authorities to also ratify the optional Protocol to the Convention, which will make it possible for national and independent experts to visit the places in Rwanda where people are deprived of their freedom, in order to avoid any cruel or degrading treatment ", she underlined.
 
Louise Arbour also invited to make it so that the judgments given by the traditional courts instituted to judge the thousands of authors of acts of genocide, known under the name of Gacaca, respect the legal guarantees in line with national and international standards.
 
"The intention to judge nearly 750.000 defendants in one year" is prone to concern, she said; especially that the defendants risk prison sentences of 30 years and that Rwanda will not be able to absorb an exorbitant number of prisoners.
 
The High Commissioner nevertheless welcomed the "courage and imagination" which oversaw the establishment of these institutions modeled on the traditional justice of Rwanda.
 
The official statement does not specify if Mrs. Arbour met during her visit with President Paul Kagame as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had announced.
 
ER/PB/MM 
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