oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - Hate speech in Rwanda as a test case for international human rights law

Volume 38, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0010-4051



'Hate speech' or 'hate propaganda' played a significant part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. This contribution investigates to what extent the international human rights regime, at the global level under the United Nations (UN) and the regional level under the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), dealt with this aspect of the genocide. As a state party to the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both placing an obligation on states to prohibit 'hate speech', Rwanda initially submitted state reports to the treaty monitoring bodies. Despite indications of its importance, 'hate speech' was not prioritised during the examination of these state reports. In the run-up to and during the genocide, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, state reporting ceased. Special measures adopted by the treaty bodies (such as an 'urgent' procedure or special decisions) were ineffective. The response of the regional system, set up under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, including the establishment of the position of Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, was even less meaningful. In conclusion, the reform of international human rights law - especially the state reporting procedure - is suggested, and the creation of a pro-active fact-finding committee, integrated with and connected to the relevant political organs, with a constant focus on urgent situations, is advocated.

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