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Copyright (c) 2002 Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University
Stanford Journal of International Law

ARTICLE: Freedom of Expression and Its Limitations: The Case of the Rwandan Genocide

Winter, 2002

38 Stan. J Int'l L. 57


Jean Marie Kamatali*


I. Introduction
It is widely acknowledged that freedom of expression is a fundamental right because it is an aspect of external freedom, an essential element for individual self-realization and democratic self-governance, as well as the best safeguard of the search for truth. Yet it is also accepted that this freedom is not absolute and can be limited where it conflicts with the rights and reputations of others, national security, public order, public health, or morals. In this spirit, Article 18 of the 1991 Constitution of Rwanda provides that "the liberty of expressing one's opinion about any subject is guaranteed ... except for the punishment of infractions committed during the exercise thereof." 1

This statement of expressive freedom brings Rwanda's foundational charter into accord with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 2 and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. 3 It also places the 1991 Rwandan Constitution in the company of most other constitutions in the world, which both guarantee freedom of expression and subject it to certain restrictions. The problem remains, however, of how far the exercise of this freedom can extend without infringing upon the rights of others and the interests of national security and public order.

Of course, this exercise is not easy. 4 Striking the right balance between the freedom of expression and its limits has proven difficult in international law, 5 in well-established democracies, 6 and especially in undemocratic countries. In the latter group, this ...
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