Commemorating the anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged the international community to do more to prevent such atrocities and encouraged Member States to expedite the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the atrocities in the African nation.
“The United Nations is strongly committed to learning the lessons of Rwanda and helping the international community to prevent future tragedies,” the Secretary-General said after lighting candles in commemoration of the 19th anniversary of the genocide, observed annually on 7 April.
Mr. Ban urged Governments to uphold their obligations under international law to prevent abuses and protect their populations from genocide and other crimes, and urged individuals to speak out forcefully whenever communities are threatened by mass atrocities, and condemn crimes when they are committed.
“Only by meeting these challenges can we truly honour the memory of those who died so brutally and so senselessly in Rwanda 19 years ago,” Mr. Ban noted.
He added that this year’s special ceremony commemorates the innocent people murdered solely because of their identity, and urged support for the victims.
Among them, Virginie Ingabire, who survived the genocide along with her newborn baby brother and three-year-old sister, and spoke passionately about her personal experiences.
Mr. Ban noted progress made in reconciliation through efforts by the Government of Rwanda and the fight against impunity through the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), as well as domestic courts.
Over the past 18 years, the ICTR, with cooperation of Rwanda and other Member States, indicted 93 persons for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Mr. Ban encouraged the international community to expedite the arrest and prosecution of the remaining fugitives who perpetrated the genocide.
“International criminal justice is a testament to our collective determination to confront the most heinous crimes,” Mr. Ban said.
At least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in 1994 during three months of bloodletting that followed the death of the then-president Juvenal Habyarimana.
In his remarks, Mr. Ban highlighted efforts by the international community to strengthen the ‘responsibility to protect’ and focus on special procedures and human rights mechanisms which play a critical early warning role.
The special ceremony, organized by the Department of Public Information in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the UN, included poetry read by Jessica Gatoni, whose parents are Rwandan, and music by Sabrina Iyadede, who moved to Belgium to escape the genocide.