Refusing to bow to international pressure, Rwanda to execute 22

NYAMATA, Rwanda (AP) — Rejecting worldwide pleas for clemency, the Rwandan government affirmed Thursday that 22 death sentences for the 1994 genocide will take place today.
Officials and survivors dismissed criticism of the public executions planned for today, including an urgent appeal by Pope John Paul II to grant the condemned clemency.
On Wednesday, the Justice Ministry said 33 people would be executed, but minister of state Patrick Mazimhaka said the number was now fixed at 22 and represented those for whom all avenues of appeal had been exhausted.
All major international human rights organizations have called on the government of President Pasteur Bizimungu to halt the executions handed down for the genocide of more than half a million people, mostly minority Tutsis.
U.N. human rights commissioner Mary Robinson said the executions — the first since the trials began in December 1996 — did not adhere to international standards “in which all guarantees of due process are strictly observed.”
Mazimhaka retorted that the death penalty has been carried out in Rwanda for a century, first by the Belgian colonial authorities, then by the Hutu majority government for crimes “that pale in comparison” to the genocide.
More than 125,000 people crammed into jails and prisons around the country are still awaiting trial.
At least 330 people have been tried on various charges relating to the genocide, and 116 have been convicted and sentenced to death. One-third of those tried have been convicted and sentenced to life in prison, 20 were acquitted and the remainder received sen