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Friday, 24 April, 1998, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Rwanda executions raise international concern
The Pope was saddened by the Rwanda executions
The Pope was saddened by the Rwanda executions
The public execution of 22 people for involvement in the 1994 genocide followed last-minute appeals for clemency to the Rwandan government.

After the executions, the Rwandan authorities said that the executions were a lesson that mass killings cannot be carried out with impunity.

In a statement to the UN Commission on Human Rights, Rwanda likened the effect of the executions to that of the Nuremberg trials of Nazis charged with crimes against humanity during the Second World War.

Vatican: saddened

The Pope sent a telegram to Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu on Thursday urging him to halt the executions.

In a statement from the Vatican on Friday, he said was left saddened when the executions took place.

"I can tell you of the sadness of the Pope over the executions in the United States and Rwanda, for which the Pope had asked for acts of clemency for humanitarian reasons," chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said in a statement.

US: no chance of appeal

In Washington, State Department spokesman James Rubin said on Thursday the United States was concerned the defendants had not been able to mount a proper defense or appeal.

He urged Rwandan judicial authorities to thoroughly review all cases before proceeding.

Human rights group Amnesty International on Friday condemned the executions.

"We are very sad that these executions were carried out, this is revenge not justice," an Amnesty spokesman said.

"These people were unfairly tried and we do not even know their names."

The organisation said the executions would not favour the process of reconciliation in the country.

"It is time that the international community puts enough pressure on the Rwandan government to stop this pretence of justice," the spokesman said.

UN: killings promote revenge

Before the executions the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, expressed concern. Also the UNHuman Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson, urged the Rwandan government to reconsider.

Mrs Robinson said the executions could have a brutalising effect on a population already traumatised by genocide.

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

Rwanda's Minister of State Patrick Mazimhaka bluntly dismissed the criticism. "We did not hear the Pope asking for forgiveness in 1994," he said.

Mr Mazimhaka was was seen trying to lessen the public relations impact in the face of stiff criticism from abroad, announced the ban on filming or photography.

Most Western governments have supported Rwanda's current leaders since they came to power in July 1994 after the genocide.

US President Bill Clinton visited Rwanda in March and Mr Annan is due in the country in May.

BBC News
Gerard Fisher, head of UN Human Rights Commission in Rwanda: "The method of implementing justice under scrutiny" (0'26")
BBC News
Emma Bonino, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs: "Revenge is not a food step towards reconciliation" (0'52")
See also:

24 Apr 98 | Despatches
Remembering the victims of Nyamata
24 Apr 98 | Africa
Rwanda executes genocide convicts
24 Apr 98 | Despatches
'This is what they wanted to see'
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