The Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) marks April 7, 2021 as the annual International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, recalling that Hutu and others who opposed the genocide were also killed. The Rwandan Genocide, which began on this day in 1994, was characterized by the systematic murder of over 800,000 Rwandans, most of which were members of the Tutsi community. The atrocities, which continued for a period of three months, destroyed approximately 70% of the Tutsi community in Rwanda, which at the time represented 20% of the country’s total population.
Initially established by the UN General Assembly on December 23, 2004 through A/RES/58/234, a new draft resolution, A/72/L.31, was adopted on January 26, 2018. This resolution recognizes more recent developments, such as the results of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and resolutions made by the Security Council (e.g. Resolution 2150). A/72/L.31 also serves to update the official name of the observance to its current title. An additional resolution, A/RES/74/273, which was adopted in 2020, reconfirmed the potential of the International Day to contribute to the prevention of future genocides by commemorating the victims and taking into the account the lessons learned from the genocide.
In the following video clip, Eugenie Mukeshimana, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, speaks about her experiences during an event at the United Nations in 2014:
In his statement marking the 2021 International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, UN Secretary General António Guterres remarked:
Those days in 1994 remain in our collective conscience as among the most horrific in recent human history. On this Day, we honour those who were murdered, we reflect on the suffering and we recognize the resilience of those who survived. As we join in solidarity with the people of Rwanda, we must take a hard look at today’s world and ensure that we heed the lessons of 27 years ago.
Today, around the globe, people are threatened by extremist groups determined on boosting their ranks through social polarization and political and cultural manipulation. These extremist movements represent the principal security threat in many countries. While the technology and techniques that extremists use are evolving, the vile messages and rhetoric remain the same. The dehumanization of communities, misinformation and hate speech are stoking the fires of violence.
The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the urgency of addressing deepening divides. The global health crisis has profoundly affected the entire spectrum of human rights in every region, further fuelling discrimination, social polarization and inequalities — all of which can lead to violence and conflict. We saw what happened in Rwanda in 1994, and we know the horrific consequences when hate is allowed to prevail.
On this occasion, the Auschwitz Institute remembers and commemorates the victims and survivors of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, as well as their friends, families, and loved ones. AIPG recommits itself to the pursuit of justice for the victims of this terrible crime and other historical atrocities by building a world that prevents future genocides before they occur. With this in mind, AIPG joins Secretary General Guterres in drawing attention to the resurgence of extremist movements that increase risks for genocide and mass atrocities around the globe. The Auschwitz Institute equally and urgently calls attention to the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic facilitates increased social fragmentation and other processes that make societies vulnerable to mass violence and urges all countries to prioritize the implementation of legal and social frameworks for civilian protection during this difficult period.