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“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda

Apr 7, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressmen James P. McGovern and Joseph R. Pitts, the Co-Chairmen of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, issued the following statement in recognition of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda:

"Today, we join the world in remembering the victims of the Rwandan Genocide.

The Rwanda of 2016 is an emerging democracy that has made great strides in securing opportunity and equality. However, as the country looks toward a brighter future, we must not forget the staggering number of lives that were lost just over twenty years ago.  

On April 6, 1994, unknown forces shot down Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane, killing him and igniting simmering tensions between the majority Hutu population and the minority Tutsi population. The genocide began the next day with brutal efficiency: some 800,000 people were killed in 100 days. Radio stations, using hate-filled, dehumanizing rhetoric, urged people to murder their Tutsi neighbors. The génocidaires used guns and machetes to slaughter men, women, and children. In addition to the massacres, sexual violence was used as a weapon of war.  Fighters raped thousands of women and subjected them to sexual slavery and mutilation. Though some citizens, aid workers, and peacekeepers sought bravely to protect those at risk, much of the world stood by as the atrocities mounted.  In the wake of these horrors, the failures of the Rwandan government and of the international community to prevent the genocide became apparent.

It was in part the Rwandan Genocide that prompted the adoption in 2005 of the UN doctrine on the Responsibility to Protect -- a reminder that States are responsible for keeping their populations safe from genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing; and that the international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling their obligations. If a State fails to protect its population from these atrocities, the international community must be prepared to take collective action. 

As we honor the victims of the Rwandan Genocide, we also recognize that today other communities and peoples are facing a documented risk of genocide. We must continue to ask ourselves what more our government and the international community can do to protect the Yazidi, the Rohingya, Syrian and Iraqi Christians, and any other people caught in the social violence and armed conflict of this century. We must remember, and we must act to protect." 

114th Congress