Is Genocide Different? Dealing with Hate Speech in a Post-Genocide Society

By Allen, Jennifer M.; Norris, George H. | Journal of International Law & International Relations, Fall 2011 | Go to article overview

Is Genocide Different? Dealing with Hate Speech in a Post-Genocide Society


Allen, Jennifer M., Norris, George H., Journal of International Law & International Relations


I. INTRODUCTION                                                146  II. RWANDA, GENOCIDE, AND SPEECH                               148    1. A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE RWANDAN GENOCIDE                   148    2. THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA AND THE    150      MEDIA CASE    3. MERE HATE SPEECH? NAHIMANA'S CONVICTION FOR PERSECUTION   152    4. RWANDA AFTER THE GENOCIDE                                 154    5. SPEECH IN RWANDA: GENOCIDE IDEOLOGY AND DIVISIONISM       156  III. APPROACHES TO HATE SPEECH                                 158    1. GERMANY                                                   159    2. ISRAEL                                                    161    3. THE EUROPEAN UNION                                        163    4. THE UNITED STATES                                         165  IV. FINDING THE RIGHT WAY FOR RWANDA                           168    1. RWANDA'S APPROACH: VAGUE AND OVERBROAD                    168    2. WHY THE UNITED STATES' APPROACH WON'T WORK                169    3. FINDING A MIDDLE GROUND                                   171  V. CONCLUSION                                                  174 

I. Introduction

In January 2010, Victoire Ingabire returned to Rwanda after sixteen years of exile in the Netherlands to campaign for the presidency at the head of the United Democratic Force Party) Her presence was immediately met with controversy, as her campaign touched on the ethnic tensions that sparked Rwanda's 1994 genocide where the country's majority Hutu population killed approximately 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu. (2) Ingabire has called for prosecuting Tutsi for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Hutu during the 1994 conflict and for commemorating Hutu victims. (3) In April 2010, she was arrested on charges of denying the genocide, spreading genocide ideology, divisionism, and collaborating with Rwandan rebels based in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). (4)

Peter Erlinder, an American lawyer and law professor, traveled to Rwanda to assist in Ingabire's defense. (5) After Erlinder arrived, he was also arrested on charges of denying the genocide. (6) Ingabire and Erlinder both adamantly deny the charges against them. Ingabire has consistently maintained that advocating for recognizing and prosecuting crimes against humanity that Tutsi committed against Hutu during the genocide does not constitute a denial that the genocide happened. (7) The government disagrees and finds her talk of Tutsi massacres to be both a violation of Rwandan law and dangerous revisionism that could reignite conflict. (8)

The legal underpinning for the charges against Ingabire and Erlinder originated in 2002, when Rwanda passed a broadly worded law criminalizing "sectarianism." (9) The government later began to charge individuals with crimes associated with "genocide ideology," defined in a 2008 law as dehumanizing a person or group by such vague actions as "propounding wickedness," "laughing at one's misfortunes," and "stirring up ill feelings." (10) Ingabire and Erlinder's cases serve as examples of the Rwandan government using these laws to crackdown on opposition voices.

Every nation, in crafting and interpreting its speech laws, must balance the tension between allowing citizens to express themselves and deciding when that expression crosses the line into dangerous threats to others or to the country as a whole. The stakes for getting that balance right, however, are exponentially higher in post-conflict nations such as Rwanda. Rwanda may have erred in overzealously prosecuting Ingabire, Erlinder, and others like them, but the government has a valid concern that failing to identify and act on a legitimate threat has the potential to rekindle a conflict that has already taken hundreds of thousands of lives. So should a country have greater latitude to restrict speech in the aftermath of genocide? Which considerations should it take into account in deciding whether and how to limit speech? …

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