Kigali, 20 July 2007- The eagerly awaited abolition of the death penalty in Rwanda will not involve the suppression of the accessory penalties linked to the death penalty, according to a bill awaiting promulgation.

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The Rwandan penal code stipulates that the death penalty as well as sentences of life in prison "automatically involve perpetual and total civic degradation".

Civic degradation includes, notably, the exclusion from all public functions, jobs and public offices including within the police force and the army.

It also implies the deprivation of voting rights or eligibility and the incapacity to be an expert witness and to testify in court other than to give information.

The death penalty will be replaced by life imprisonment in all the sentences in Rwanda as of the promulgation of the new bill.

It is also envisaged that the right of civil action by victims and the payments for damages decided by the courts will not be affected.

Article 6 of this bill, which counts 11 articles, specifies that persons sentenced to life in prison, particularly for genocide or crime against humanity, will not be able, in any case, to be eligible for conditional release or rehabilitation.

Also subject to this article are persons convicted for assassination or murder with torture, terrorism, drug trafficking, rape of minors or sexual abuse as well as high treason.

"Rwanda subscribes to the new world order where the death penalty must be perceived as an violation of the fundamental rights of a human being", commented a senator.

"Even if the application of capital punishment is not a dissuasive cause of homicides, it is to be feared that its abolition will increase the crime rate"; stated, for his part, Gatsimbazi, a journalist with the Umusingi periodical.

"The abolition of capital punishment is a good thing, but if it would come from the will of Rwandans and not only from politicians it would be a step towards unity and reconciliation ", stated, Felix, a man sentenced for genocide who is on the verge of achieving the work of general interest, as an alternative sentence to prison time.

Around 600 people have been sentenced to death; soon their sentences will be commuted to life in prison.

© Hirondelle News Agency