Press Releases

UNIS/INF/6
5 April 2004

International Community Mourns Rwanda Massacre of 1994

The United Nations Declares 7 April as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

VIENNA, 5 April (UN Information Service) -- As a sombre reminder of the tenth anniversary of the massacre of 800,000 people in approximately 100 days in the Central African country of Rwanda, the General Assembly of the United Nations has declared 7 April 2004 as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.

Rwanda was witness to one of the worst massacres in the recent history of Africa in 1994 – in one of the most terrible genocides witnessed by humankind, 800,000 men, women and children were massacred systematically and cruelly by armed groups all over the country. 

In an effort to show the world that these people have not been forgotten by history, the international community will be asked to participate in a minute of silence on Wednesday, 7 April, at 12:00 noon local time in each time zone. Kofi Annan, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, intends to announce an Action Plan for the Prevention of Genocide on the same day, before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

The genocide in Rwanda is considered a shameful example of the failure of the international community. Even simple intervention at the political or military level would have drastically limited, if not averted the incident. However, the United Nations withdrew the bulk of its peacekeeping force from the country, as no decision could be reached in the Security Council.

It was the terrible consequences of that decision that forced the international community to examine its attitude. As part of its response, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established, with the goal of bringing the guilty parties to book for their actions.

“We cannot afford to wait until the worst has happened, or is already happening, or end up with little more than futile hand-wringing or callous indifference,” said Mr. Annan. “The world must be better equipped to prevent genocide, and act decisively to stop it when prevention fails.” As part of the preventive efforts by the United Nations, Mr. Annan has suggested the establishment of a Committee for the Prevention of Genocide, aimed at better implementation of the existing international contracts. The Secretary-General also announced that he would soon appoint a United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide. Such an adviser could provide a direct connection to the Security Council and thus offer the international community a chance to react faster.

The fact that 7 April 2004 has been proclaimed the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda by the General Assembly underlines its importance for the United Nations. Various United Nations bodies are already campaigning against the roots of genocide in countries all over the world. The causes for genocide cover a wide range and include intolerance, racism, tyranny and racial discrimination.

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