June 3, 2011 / 12:57 PM / in 7 years

Amnesty urges Rwanda to finish genocide law review

KIGALI (Reuters) - Amnesty International wants Rwanda to conclude a review of its genocide ideology laws which were created to silence critics, the human rights group said on Friday.

<p>Rwandan President Paul Kagame answers reporter's questions during a news conference in a Frankfurt hotel, November 11, 2008. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach</p>

In a new report titled “Unsafe to speak out: Restrictions on freedom of expression in Rwanda”, Amnesty said ‘genocide ideology’ and ‘sectarianism’ laws were being used to suppress political dissent and stifle freedom of speech.

Amnesty said it urged supporters to call on the Rwandan authorities “to allow opposition politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and others to express their views, including legitimate criticism of government policies, without fear for their safety.”

It said they should also urge the authorities “to accelerate the review of the ‘genocide ideology’ law and the 2009 media law to bring them in line with Rwanda’s obligations under international human rights law.”

Officials in Kigali rejected the group’s report.

“Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution of Rwanda,” the government said in a statement.

“We have a vibrant and growing media community and varied political discourse but once again, Amnesty International has chosen to misrepresent reality in an inaccurate and highly partisan report.”

President Paul Kagame has won praise for restoring stability after the 1994 genocide and promoting economic growth through reforms encouraging investment. But critics say his government is intolerant of dissent.

Earlier this year another rights group, Human Rights Watch, also said the Rwandan government was using the judicial system to stifle criticism.

Amnesty said in its report that the ‘genocide ideology’ laws contravene Rwanda’s regional and international human rights obligations and commitments.

“Even judges, the professionals charged with applying the law, noted that the law was broad and abstract,” it said.

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