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Rwanda set to abolish death penalty: justice minister

[JURIST] The Rwandan cabinet has agreed to abolish capital punishment, the country's justice minister said Friday, clearing the way for the extradition of defendants facing trial for the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC report], during which over 800,000 people were killed. The ban must still be approved by parliament, but since the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) [Wikipedia backgrounder], the party of Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile], controls both houses, the measure is expected to pass easily [JURIST report]. Rwandan Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama said Friday that the majority of Rwandans support scrapping the death penalty. If the ban is passed, the sentences of some 600 inmates already on death row would be commuted.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] and many Western countries have refused to extradite genocide suspects to Rwanda because of the country's use of the death penalty [JURIST news archive]. ICTR spokesman Everard O'Donnell said Thursday that the tribunal would extradite 17 genocide suspects to Rwanda [JURIST news archive] if the measure was approved. AFP has more.

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