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Wednesday, April 22, 1998 Published at 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK

World: Africa

Rwanda public executions attacked
image: [ Up to  a million civilians died in the 1994 massacres ]
Up to a million civilians died in the 1994 massacres

The UN Commission on Human Rights has strongly opposed the Rwandan Government's intention to execute publicly on Friday 24 people convicted of involvement in the 1994 genocide.

A spokesman for the UN in Kigali, Jose Luis Herrero, said those condemned to die had not been given proper trials.

"There has to be crystal-clear evidence of the guilt of the person, and, taking into account the way the trials developed in Rwanda, there is no such certainty, " he said.

Roger Clark, of Amnesty International: "the cycle of violence will continue."
The human rights organisation Amnesty International said that executing people, particularly in public, would not serve the interests of justice and would further brutalise Rwandan society.

The executions will be the first of their kind inside Rwanda, where more than 100 people have been formally sentenced to death for genocide-related crimes.

They will take place at the main stadium in the capital, Kigali, and at several other locations around the country. The method of execution is expected to be by firing squad.

Radio Rwanda: "The public is invited to come and see" (15")
Rwandan radio called on the people to "come and see the punishment with their own eyes."

It said the executions would serve as a lesson to those who did not respect the lives of others.

Death sentences

Those condemned have all been convicted of direct involvement in the genocide of 1994 in which supporters of the Hutu-led government are accused of killing up to one million Rwandans.

More than 125,000 people, mainly Hutus, have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the genocide and are awaiting trial in Rwanda's crowded prisons .

Hutu rebels, many driven out of refugee camps in the former Zaire in 1997 and marched back home, are now waging an insurgency against the mainly-Tutsi army in northern Rwanda.

[ image: More than 100,000 genocide suspects are crammed into Rwanda's jails]
More than 100,000 genocide suspects are crammed into Rwanda's jails
A BBC correspondent in Kigali says the Rwandan Government has consistently made clear its commitment to carrying out the executions whatever pressure comes from outside for the death sentences to be commuted to terms of imprisonment.

The Rwandan Justice Minister, Faustin Ntezilyayo, said he hoped the executions would stem what he said were the "beginnings of revenge attacks" carried out by some genocide survivors.

Survivor organisations have complained bitterly of a lack of justice and have warned that until perpetrators are duly punished, any attempts at reconciliation among Rwanda's divided people cannot succeed.

Dozens of genocide trials have been taking place inside Rwanda.

The no-nonsense process at these hearings, which are often over in a day, contrasts sharply with the slow pace at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a UN court set up in Arusha, Tanzania, where no convictions have yet been secured.

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