On April 7, 2014, Bukeni Waruzi from WITNESS led a session on Citizen Action to Prevent Genocide as part of the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law’s 20th Anniversary Commemoration for the Rwandan Genocide.
Mr. Waruzi began by reflecting on living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo when Rwandan refugees were fleeing the genocide in 1994. He explained that thousands of refugees poured over the border daily while he was unable to help.
WITNESS works to empower activists and demands accountability for human rights abuses through visual documentation. Individuals can take action by filming events and taking photographs, which the international community relies on for information about the situation. The organization uses this documentation not only to inform the international community but also to inspire and demand action and intervention.
Mr. Waruzi discussed the importance of documenting human rights abuses to advocate for the cause, to use as evidence in later trials, and to preserve history for future generations; additionally, he noted how important the videos and photographs from the Rwandan genocide are for commemorations today. Mr. Waruzi highlighted some common problems related to citizen action, including restricted access to technology, lack of political action from key decision-makers, and protecting the safety and security of activists and survivors. Despite these hindrances, Mr. Waruzi inspired the audience to take individual action to help document and prevent human rights abuses.