UN secretary general: ‘Hate speech is an alarm bell’ on anniversary of Rwanda genocide News
I, Inisheer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UN secretary general: ‘Hate speech is an alarm bell’ on anniversary of Rwanda genocide

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres Friday called for increased digital accountability to combat hate speech on the internet. Guterres made a statement in remembrance of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. He noted that there are currently few or no controls in place to stop the spread of hateful and violent messages online.

In marking 29 years since the genocide, Guterres commented:

We pay tribute to the resilience of the survivors [and] recognize the journey of the Rwandan people towards healing, restoration, and reconciliation. And we remember – with shame – the failure of the international community. The failure to listen and the failure to act.

Ethnic clashes erupted in Rwanda in April 1994, after Hutu leaders launched a wave of ethnic cleansing against Tutsi. These clashes culminated in a mass genocide of over one million people in just 100 days. This was despite Rwanda’s ratification of the Geneva Convention, which makes genocide a crime under international law, and the presence of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda.

Csaba Kőrösi, President of the General Assembly’s 77th session, stated that the genocide was an intentional and planned out act carried out in broad daylight without global intervention. He also praised Rwandans for their efforts to rebuild their country and provide justice through the establishment of Gacaca courts in 2001. The Gacaca courts made use of the principles of restorative justice to foster reconciliation among the people and rebuild broken relationships.

Antonio Guterres urged United Nations members to uphold the responsibility to protect, ensure accountability, and facilitate justice in their respective countries. Furthermore, he urged states to ratify the Genocide Convention and follow through on their commitments. This would ensure that states honor the memory of the Rwandans who died by opposing hate speech and violence.