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European Law Monitor newsEuropean Commission welcomes abolition of the death penalty in Rwanda

European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, and Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, today welcomed the formal abolition of the death penalty in Rwanda.

Commissioner Michel congratulated the Rwandan government and the Rwandan people on this important decision: "It is with great satisfaction that I have learnt that Rwanda has formally adopted the law abolishing the death penalty. This important decision confirms the political and democratic commitment of the country towards national reconciliation. This significant step sends an important signal to the international community, showing Rwanda's commitment and respect for human rights. I hope that this decision will encourage other countries in Africa to follow".

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: "I warmly welcome Rwanda´s decision to join the ever-increasing number of abolitionist countries in the world. Rwanda´s remarkable decision makes a significant contribution towards the abolition of the death penalty on the African continent and in the world at large. When a country like Rwanda, with the terrible violence it has known in its recent past, has chosen to break the cycle of violence that the death penalty represents, it should be a compelling example to other countries around the world."

The European Union campaigns across the world for abolition of the death penalty. This stance is rooted in the belief in the inherent dignity of all human beings and the inviolability of the human person, regardless of the crime committed. The European Commission is an active advocate for abolition through all instruments at its disposal. Initiatives at the political level include formal demarches and declarations. In addition, the EU also provides support on a more practical level through projects funded under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights.

Rwanda, a country marked by the legacy of genocide, has made impressive progress since 1994. National and local elections were held in 2003 and 2006 respectively. Basic human rights and fundamental freedoms are formally protected by the 2003 constitution, which also provides for institutions to monitor and protect these rights. Unity and reconciliation activities have increased with the nationwide roll-out of the Gacaca process in 2006 and the acceleration of the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Both are scheduled for completion in 2008. Rwanda's improving governance environment is reflected in its recent African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) report, endorsed by African Heads of State in 2006.

EC co-operation with Rwanda has evolved significantly over the past 15 years in order to adapt to the country´s circumstances. In the pre-genocide period, the focus was on projects in the areas of rural development and transport. In the aftermath of the genocide and civil war, EC Cooperation took the form of humanitarian aid, emergency aid and physical rehabilitation, along with some support to the judicial system. The emphasis was on mobilising resources for discrete projects rather than building a coherent and structured programme.

Since 2000, Rwanda has been a partner in the European Development Fund (EDF). This has served as a transition between post-conflict relief/reconstruction and long term development aid focused on poverty reduction. Over the last 5 years, a total of over €215 million has been provided through the EDF, in close alignment with the Rwandan Government´s Poverty Reduction Strategy. In coordination with other donors, EC co-operation has focused on macroeconomic support linked with social sectors (health, education), rural development (including infrastructure) as well as some support to governance initiatives and regional integration. The EC will continue its co-operation with Rwanda under the 10th EDF for the period 2008-2013.

For more information:
Abolition of the Death Penalty:

Reproduced with the permission of the European Commission REF IP/07/1183