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Friday, April 24, 1998 Published at 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK

World: Africa

Rwanda executes genocide convicts
image: [ A cross in Nyamata is part of the memorial for the genocide victims ]
A cross in Nyamata is part of the memorial for the genocide victims

BBC correspondent Cathy Jenkins describes the execution in Kigali (1'59")
The Rwandan authorites have executed 22 people convicted of involvement in the genocide committed by Hutu extremists in 1994.

Thousands of Rwandans, many of them survivors of the massacres, gathered in the capital, Kigali, to watch four prisoners, three men and one woman, being shot by firing squad. Another 18 convicts were executed in four other towns associated with the genocide.

The BBC East Africa Correspondent, Cathy Jenkins, was present at the execution in Kigali. She says the four prisoners were tied to stakes at the execution site. Black hoods were put over their faces and black target squares placed on their chests.

The preparations lasted 15 minutes before the firing squads moved in. They went from left to right, several bullets fired for each prisoner in turn. When the shots rang out, some shouted: "That is the end!"

"No pity for these people"

A government spokesperson said the executions, the first in connection with the genocide, show it is serious in punishing such crimes.

[ image: Claudette Mukaramanzi, 18, lost her entire family in the genocide]
Claudette Mukaramanzi, 18, lost her entire family in the genocide
Claudette Mukaramanzi, 18, whose face bears a machete scar running from her temple to her cheekbone, said she hoped to see the man who cut her executed.

"If he is killed, then I can be happy."

Standing beside mass graves containing the remains of his wife and eight children, Joseph Buhiciro said the condemned had died in a much more humane way than their victims.

"There is no pity for these people," he said.

Our correspondent says genocide survivors believe they have waited a long time to see justice being done, and it is hard to find anybody who does not believe the executions should go ahead.

International appeals for mercy

The Rwandan government dismissed appeals for clemency from Pope John Paul II and human rights groups who question whether those being executed were fairly convicted.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International has been amongst the most vocal critics of the public death sentences.

The Amnesty Secretary-General, Pierre Sane, said: "We do not believe that more killings in Rwanda will be conducive to the healing process and the reconciliation that needs to take place in the country."

Pope John Paul II sent a telegram to Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu urging him to halt the executions.

He wrote: "I beg your excellency to suspend this judgment with an act of clemency which would favour the process of reconciliation."

UN human rights chief Mary Robinson said it could have a brutalising effect on a population already traumatised by genocide.

The former Irish president said: "Such public killings could promote feelings of revenge rather than contribute to the process of national reconciliation."


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