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UN expert praises strides in Rwanda, urges protection of assembly rights

UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, on Monday praised [statement] Rwandan authorities' accomplishments in developing infrastructure and ensuring stability and security since the nation's 1994 genocide [UN backgrounder]. The independent expert recently traveled to Rwanda to meet with government officials and to contribute to efforts taken toward democratization, better human rights protections, and more effective implementation of international human rights standards. While Kiai noted important strides, he urged the government to better support and protect the autonomy of non-government organizations (NGOs). Rwanda law currently requires prior authorization for assemblies "in open air, on public roads or in a public space" in the interests of "public safety, tranquillity or health." Kiai asserted that the law creates an "inherent contradiction" in that it allows authorities broad discretion to prescreen and prohibit certain public assemblies. Kiai worries the law paves the way toward "arbitrary decisions," which curtail the right to freely assemble. The expert urged Rwandan authorities to eliminate authorization requirements and to recognize "spontaneous assembly" as within the ambit of the right to freely assemble.

In the wake of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, which resulted in 800,000 deaths, international and domestic entities have responded. In January a special UN event warned [JURIST report] that the world must learn from the consequences of failing to respond to the events in Rwanda that preceded the genocide there 20 years ago in order to prevent such things from happening in the future. In November a French appeals court in Paris approved the extradition [JURIST report] of Claude Muhayimana and Innocent Musabyimana, two suspects wanted in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In September a court in France rejected [JURIST report] Rwanda's request for the extradition of a Hutu ex-colonel wanted in connection with the country's 1994 genocide and ordered his release.

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