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Rwanda to release 8,000 genocide prisoners despite retribution fears

[JURIST] Rwanda [JURIST news archive] plans to release 8,000 prisoners implicated in the country's 1994 genocide [BBC backgrounder; HRW backgrounder], despite warnings from human rights groups that their liberation could produce violence against genocide survivors. Chief prosecutor Martin Ngoga told Reuters that the releases will "exclude key masterminds of the genocide" and that those released will undergo a month-long program of "sensitization." Overcrowded prisons and the need for reconciliation have been cited as motivating the release of these and over 50,000 other prisoners since 2003. An estimated 80 percent of those released in the past were accused of involvement in the genocide, in which 800,000 members of the country's Tutsi minority group were killed.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] and genocide survivors' group Ibuka [advocacy website] have criticized the releases, warning that in the past, those released from prison have killed genocide survivors in order to destroy evidence. Earlier this week, HRW urged Rwandan authorities to investigate [press release; JURIST report] attacks on witnesses who have testified in local tribunals known as Gacaca courts [official website, Wikipedia backgrounder]. According to a recent HRW report, 13 genocide survivors were killed in November, ostensibly by released prisoners. Reuters has more.

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