Only way to honour genocide victims is to never let it happen again: UN chief

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In 1996 in Rwanda, wooden crosses mark the graves in a cemetery in the village of Nyanza in a rural area of Kigali, the capital. During the 1994 genocide, over 10,000 people were burned to death in Nyanza as they tried to escape towards Burundi. Photo: UNICEF/Giacomo Pirozzi

The only way to truly honour the memory of those killed in the genocide in Rwanda is to ensure such events never happen again, the UN Secretary-General said in remembrance of the tragic events of 1994.

In a video message, António Guterres praised the "resilience and capacity for reconciliation" of the survivors.

A candle-lighting ceremony and a minute of silence will be observed at UN headquarters in New York to mark the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide.

Matthew Wells reports.

Twenty-three years ago, more than 800,000 people were systematically murdered in the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, during which Hutu and others who opposed the genocide were also killed.

Preventing the "monstrous crime of genocide" is a shared duty and a core responsibility of the UN, the Secretary-General said in his message to commemorate the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.

The world must always be alert to the warning signs of genocide, and act quickly and early against the threat, António Guterres noted while urging people to "learn the lessons of Rwanda".

"History is filled with tragic chapters of hatred, inaction and indifference – a cycle that has led to violence, incarceration and death camps. In the past century alone showed again and again the poison of intolerance still loose in our society. Even today, minority and other groups suffer attacks and exploitation based on who they are."

The Office of the Prosecutor of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) also issued a statement on Friday calling on people to "confront and reject" genocide denial in all its forms and manifestations. 

The UN legal body was established in 2010 by the Security Council to continue the work of the criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. 

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda or ICTR secured 61 convictions, including senior political and military leaders. 

However eight fugitives indicted by the ICTR and MICT still remain at large, while Rwandan authorities are seeking the arrests of hundreds more. 

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1’33″

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