The General Assembly adopted a decision today designating 7 April as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, recalling also that Hutu and others who opposed it were killed.
Introducing the decision, Valentine Rugwabiza (Rwanda) said it sought to correct inaccuracies in the Assembly’s 2003 resolution establishing the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, particularly its title and operative paragraph one. “To be clear, today’s decision does not modify other parts of resolution 58/234,” she said.
Rather, she said it captured the historical facts of what happened in 1994 — genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda — and left no room for ambiguity. The tactics of genocide denial and revisionism were well known and documented. Some people promoted the theory of double genocide in the futile belief that it might divert their own responsibility. The more than 1 million people who perished in the genocide were killed in the most horrendous conditions because they belonged to a group that was dehumanized and targeted for total extermination, she asserted.
The Day of Reflection offered an opportunity to consider the factors that had led to such mass atrocity, she said, and to renew the collective pledge of “never again”. In today’s worrying times, marked by growing expressions of extremism and hate around the world, it sent a clear message that the United Nations was a platform for promoting and protecting human dignity for all. It was highly regrettable that, despite numerous Assembly resolutions condemning genocide denial or revisionism, such behaviour was widespread.
Speaking after the adoption, Kelley Eckels-Currie (United States) said that, since the 2003 establishment of International Day of Reflection, 7 April had become a solemn occasion to commemorate the 800,000 lives lost in the genocide. The United States had joined consensus to support continuation of the International Day, which offered the opportunity to recall our common humanity, recommit to protecting the vulnerable and to uphold inherent human dignity.
The United States was also committed to preserving the evidence of the genocide, she said, among the strongest measures to take to preserve the histories of what had taken place and capture the scope of acts committed. However, changing the title and the text did not capture the magnitude of the genocide and violence, as Hutu and many others were murdered for their opposition to the atrocities being committed. She expressed concern about revisiting or opening the language used to describe past atrocities. While the United States would not stand in the way of changing the title, she underscored that her country’s understanding of the circumstances of the genocide had not narrowed and that it would continue to commemorate all victims.
“This is the least we can do to honour the memory of the children, women and men brutally murdered 24 years ago, and remember all the victims of this tragic and dark chapter,” said Anatolio Ndong Mba (Equatorial Guinea) on behalf of the African Group. Unless the world remembered the lessons learned, it would never live up to its pledge to ensure that no other country endured the pain and suffering that Rwanda had faced. The African Union had embedded those lessons in the values of solidarity and unity, and the core principle of non-indifference enshrined in its Constitutive Act.
He said it was imperative to reject negation, revisionism and denial of the Rwandan genocide, either through legislation — as some countries had done — or through Assembly resolutions. Perpetrators remained at large in Europe and North America. To eradicate the culture of impunity, and bring about true reconciliation, they must be brought to justice.
Eric Chaboureau, speaking for the European Union delegation, expressed regret that consensus had not been reached on commemorating the Hutus and others who were also killed during the genocide. In his remarks on 7 April 2017, the United Nations Secretary-General said 800,000 people had been murdered in the genocide, who were overwhelmingly Tutsis, but others were killed, as well.
Noa Furman (Israel) said remembrance was a responsibility of the international community. The atrocities were committed with the aim of systematically annihilating the Tutsi. “By remembering the crimes of the past, we express our commitment to prevent them from happening in the future,” she said. As a people who had suffered the atrocities of the Holocaust, Israelis understood the global responsibility to reflect on the darkest chapters of human history.
Against that backdrop, the Assembly also took note of a solemn appeal made by its President, Miroslav Lajčák (Slovakia), for Member States to demonstrate their commitment to the Olympic Truce for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic and Paralympic Games (document A/72/700). He called on all warring parties of armed conflict to “boldly agree to true mutual ceasefires” for the duration of the Olympic Truce, thus providing an opportunity to settle disputes peacefully.
In other business, delegates took note of a letter from the Secretary-General informing them that 14 Member States were in arrears under Article 19 of the Charter of the United Nations.
Article 19 states that a United Nations member in arrears in the payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount equals or exceeds the amount of contributions due from it for the preceding two full years.
The General Assembly will reconvene at a time and date to be announced.