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Rwanda: 23 people sentenced to death, including Silas Munyagishali and Froduald Karamira

, رقم الوثيقة: AFR 47/011/1998

Thirty-three people are due to be executed for participation in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda on 24 April 1998. They include Silas Munyagishali, former assistant prosecutor for Kigali who may have been arrested due to his refusal to authorize detention of people against whom there was no evidence. There is also concern that the others due to be executed may include several individuals whose trials were grossly unfair.

PUBLIC AI Index: AFR 47/11/98
UA 126/98 Imminent executions 22 April 1998
RWANDA33 people sentenced to death,
including Silas Munyagishali and Froduald Karamira
Thirty-three people are due to be executed in Rwanda at 10am on 24 April 1998,
according to a Radio Rwanda broadcast on 22 April. If carried out, these will be
the first known judicial executions of people found guilty of participation in the
1994 genocide.
A ministerial order was amended in an extraordinary cabinet meeting on 20 April
in order to allow the executions to take place in public. The 33 people are therefore
due to be executed by firing squad in the stadium at Nyamirambo in the capital Kigali,
and in several other public places in the south and east of Rwanda, “as a lesson
to people who do not respect the life of others”, according to the radio announcement.
The 33 people’s appeals have been turned down by the Court of Appeal and their request
for presidential clemency was rejected in the 20 April cabinet meeting.
The names of those facing execution have not been disclosed, but are believed to
include Silas Munyagishali, former assistant prosecutor of Kigali, and Froduald
Karamira, former vice-president of the Mouvement démocratique républicain,
Democratic Republican Movement (MDR), and a leading figure of its hardline faction
known as MDR-Power.
Silas Munyagishali is one of many defendants sentenced to death in Rwanda after
an unfair trial. During his trial in Gitarama in 1997, several defence witnesses
were threatened and intimidated and effectively prevented from testifying. He was
sentenced to death on 22 August 1997. His appeal against the conviction on the basis
of several irregularities in the trial was rejected by the Court of Appeal, and
his death sentence was confirmed on 20 February 1998. There are concerns that he
may have been arrested due to his complaints about irregularities in judicial
procedures while working as assistant prosecutor, and because he had refused to
authorize the detention of people against whom there was no evidence.
Froduald Karamira is widely believed to have played a leading role in the planning
and implementation of the 1994 genocide and to have actively supported the interahamwe
militia who carried out widespread massacres in 1994. He was sentenced to death
in Kigali in February 1997.
It is feared that the 31 others due to be executed may include several individuals
whose trials were grossly unfair, including some who were tried without access to
a defence lawyer.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
As many as one million people were killed during the genocide and other massacres
in Rwanda between April and July 1994. Amnesty International continues to campaign
for those suspected of participation in the genocide and other grave human rights
violations to be brought to justice, but without recourse to the death penalty.
The organization remains unconditionally opposed to the use of the death penalty,
in all countries and in all circumstances, because it is a cruel, inhuman and degrading
punishment and a state-sanctioned violation of the ultimate right to life. The
application of the death penalty is of particular concern after unfair trial, as
in the case of many defendants in Rwanda. Less than half of those tried in Rwanda
during 1997 had access to a defence lawyer. In many cases, defence witnesses were
not present at the trials. More than 130,000 people are currently detained in prisons
and detention centres in Rwanda, in life-threatening conditions. The majority are
accused of participation in the genocide. While many detainees are thought to be
guilty, a significant proportion are widely believed to be innocent. Many do not
2
even have a case file. Large numbers of arbitrary arrests continue to be reported,
and it is suspected that some people accused of participating in the genocide have
been arrested for other motives, for example due to property disputes, or because
they are perceived as opponents or critics of the government.
Trials of individuals accused of participation in the genocide began in Rwanda in
December 1996, continuing throughout 1997 and 1998. More than 300 people have been
tried and more than 130 sentenced to death. The International Criminal Tribunal
for Rwanda (ICTR), set up by the United Nations to try individuals suspected of
playing a leading role in the genocide, began trials in Arusha, Tanzania, in January
1997. No judgments have been announced to date. The death penalty is excluded from
the punishments which the ICTR can hand down.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in English
or French or your own language:
- expressing grave concern at the announcement that 33 people will be executed in
public in Rwanda on 24 April 1998;
- appealing for these executions not to take place, on the basis that the death
penalty represents a state-sanctioned violation of the ultimate right to life and
an extreme form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and expressing the belief
that executions will only reinforce the cycle of violence in Rwanda;
- expressing particular concern that the executions are due to be carried out in
public, contrary to the specifications of the ministerial order of 19 May 1997,
and that the executions will have a brutalizing effect on the spectators;
- expressing additional concern that many defendants have been sentenced to death
after an unfair trial and citing the example of Silas Munyagishali, who was sentenced
to death despite threats to several of his defence witnesses;
- appealing for the President to grant clemency to other defendants who have been
sentenced to death;
- stressing that those who participated in the genocide should be brought to justice,
but appealing for them to be given sentences which do not violate the right to life.
APPEALS TO:
President Pasteur Bizimungu
Office of the President, BP 15, Kigali, Rwanda
Telegrams: President, Kigali, Rwanda
Fax: + 250 84390
Salutation: Monsieur le Président / Dear President
Dr Faustin Ntezilyayo
Minister of Justice, Ministry of Justice, BP 160, Kigali, Rwanda
Telegrams: Minister Justice, Kigali, Rwanda
Fax: + 250 86590
Salutation: Monsieur le Ministre / Dear Minister
Major General Paul Kagame
Vice-President and Minister of Defence, Ministry of Defence
BP 23, Kigali, Rwanda
Telegrams: Vice-President, Kigali, Rwanda
Fax: + 250 72431 / 76969
Salutation: Monsieur le Vice-Président / Dear Vice-President
COPIES TO:
Pierre-Célestin Rwigema
Prime Minister, BP 1334, Kigali, Rwanda
Fax: + 250 83714
and to diplomatic representatives of Rwanda accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your
section office, if sending appeals after 4 June 1998.

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