This article is written by Heba Ali, a 2nd year BBA LLB Student at Symbiosis Law School, Noida. This article talks about Ethnic Cleansing and Human Rights Violation around the world and discusses, in brief, the Rwandan Genocide.


Ethnic Cleansing a famous word which basically means killing or removal of a particular minority or ethnic group from a country or from any particular region or part of the world. To carry on with this activity there are mass and brutal killings of people and a lot of bloodsheds to remove that specific minority group. This activity of removal of people belonging to a particular group is mostly carried on by a powerful group of people. Attacks which are mostly carried on are against women, men and children in which women are raped are sexually exploited, tortured physically and mentally, and are killed by the people belonging to dominant groups. A lot of widespread destruction to the public as well as private properties causes displacement of people from their families and homes. This type of inequality and brutality has been prevalent in our society for many centuries.

What is Inequality?

The important provision which our Indian Constitution has granted to us as under Article 14 says: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law, or equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”  It is an unfair situation in society when some people have access to more opportunities provided like wealth, education, employment, health, political power, housing, social security etc. Inequality has been in our society for the past hundreds of years and poor people of a particular minority group bear the greatest burden of environmental degradation and changes taking place in society. Inequality carries a burden of social and moral costs. The fundamental human rights guarantee us the equality to all and no discrimination and this is legally binding obligation and it does not need further any justification for to be followed. Social inequality is very much diverse in nature and it is magnified by different kinds of discrimination present in our countries. Discrimination causes poverty and disturbance in the alleviation of poverty among different minority communities.  Discrimination and inequality of a particular ethnic group is a common characteristic of many rich and developing countries. Ethnic inequality creates both political and economic disadvantages which are felt by all the ethnic minority groups spread across the world.
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Inequality effects communities which are long-term settled communities and communities which roam around frequently in the same country. Long term settled communities often cross the boundaries of the nation by many centuries and are commonly found in African countries and in Asian countries. For example, the Dalits or untouchables and tribal people spread across the Indian States. All these groups suffer discrimination and policymakers around the world are not doing enough to counter it so as to solve the problems. India is a developing nation but in India, there is a constant ethnic inequality among Adivasis, Dalits and Muslims. Across the world, there are jobs which are viewed as low in status but also paid less in terms of remuneration and this thing can be viewed in the Indian system and it is mostly associated to minority groups and untouchability which was banned in the 1950s. Like Dalits more likely are seen as to clean toilets, removing dead animals, sweeping the roads etc. which are mostly considered as undignified work. Dalits are among the poorest of the Indian population and they are at many times victims of violence including murders, rapes etc. They even suffer discrimination in terms of jobs and remuneration as they are paid less and are made to suffer. Right to exercise their right to vote, discrimination of Dalit children studying in schools as they are many times made to sit separately in classrooms and colleges, drop-outs as a result of discrimination and illiteracy among the community.

Reasons for Inequality

There can be many reasons behind the inequality which is faced by the people belonging to a particular ethnic group, race, caste, colour, sex or place of birth. Some of the reasons are as follows:

  1.  Lack of Participation by The Minority Community: People who belong to a minority community often do not participate in different types of activities related to society or any such practice carried out. This lacks them behind and then people lack a voice in decision-making related to policies, programmes which often impact their livelihood and their well-being. They are not wholly responsible for their lack in participation but also the society in which they live is equally responsible because they are the ones who do not motivate them to come forward and speak what they think is wrong or right, to take steps to come forward
  2. Lack of Basic Education And Healthcare– Mostly people belonging to the minority group are not financially strong so they are unable to provide their children with good education and basic healthcare facilities which in turn makes their health poor.
  3. Lack of Basic Education And Healthcare– Mostly people belonging to the minority group are not financially strong so they are unable to provide their children with good education and basic healthcare facilities which in turn makes their health poor.
  4.  The problem of Employment– There is an uneven balance in the employment sector because people who belong to such a minority community are paid low compensation and are exploited by the employees and by the employers as well.
  5. Ethnic inequality At Workplace People who belong to certain minority groups face discrimination at the workplace despite having the knowledge of their work and skills pertaining to their fields in which they are employed. The job has been very difficult for many groups like the African-American people because they have seen the downfall in the employment rates than their counterparts.
  6. Lack of Policy And Government Support– Funds which are given to support and to provide development aid are often misused for their personal gains rather than investing in the development of social and economic rights of those groups in particular. The legal framework must be made strong enough to cater to the needs of people. States should not refrain from discrimination but need to take appropriate steps to end discrimination by people and support equality among all the groups.
  7. The Atrocities by The Government– The case of Rwandan Genocide also known as the ‘Genocide Against the Tutsi’ in the 1990s a small country dependent on agriculture has the highest density in Africa. About 85% of the population belonged to the HUTU community and the rest were the people of TUTSI community and other groups who were also the inhabitants of Rwanda. The mass killing was started by the Hutu group and then it slowly spread across the country and ordinary people of the region were incited to kill the neighbours by the locals and the Hutu government who were then in power. Many people were killed and many were displaced from their homes and separated from their family.

What Are Human Rights?

Human Rights are the rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of our nationality, place of residence, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status. All human beings have been granted these rights and are inalienable in nature and are given to us without any racial or gender discrimination. Universal Human Rights are largely given to us in the form of international laws, treaties, principles and other various sources. The Universality of Human Rights is the important feature of international law, it was first emphasized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Human Rights are granted to all and cannot be taken away by any individual or state, except in certain situations when there is a question of infringement of others rights. According to UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS (ARTICLE 1): All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Reasons Behind Ethnic Cleansing And Human Rights Violation

 As we know that ethnic cleansing has been carried out all over the world and it was the atrocities which people faced, who belonged to a particular minority community and it has happened not only in this century but also could be read in the history. Ethnic Cleansing has also been mentioned in our history in the past and many books, journals, articles, debates have also been written down by jurist, philosophers and scholars. The genocide which happened in Rwandan commonly known as RWANDAN GENOCIDE on 7th April and it continued till 15th July 1994 it was basically a mass murder of people belonging to a particular Tutsi community by the dominant Hutu community. Tutsi was the minority community which was overpowered by the Hutu-led government. The revolt began as a revenge for the Rwandan Civil War which started around in 1990 and was between the Hutus and the Tutsis and as a result of that many people belonging to Tutsi community had fled to Uganda after the Hutu revolted against them. At the time of revolt Tutsis were issued ID cards so that they could be recognized and killed. To carry on this activity they had blocked the roads and killed many Tutsi people. Women were taken away for sex slavery, tortured and abused sexually.

During the Rwandan genocide which happened in the year of 1994, people who belonged to the Hutu ethnic majority inside the eastern part of the African country of Rwanda murdered nearly 8 lakh people and the majority of them belonged to the Tutsi minority. It was started by using Hutu nationalists in the state capital of Kigali and then the genocide spread throughout the country with so much brutality. Brutal acts were carried on by inciting normal citizens which were done by the locally deployed officials and the Hutu Power government took part in it too and played a major role. By the time Tutsi-led Rwandese Patriotic Front which had suddenly gained dominance in the country through military power in the early July. This led to death in masses of Rwandans and a couple of million refugees, particularly who were Hutus instantly left Rwanda. As a result of people leaving Rwanda, it worsened the situation which had already become a humanitarian crisis.

Initially, in the case of  Prosecutor v. Theoneste Bagosora, this was also the incident which happened in Rwanda. This started with accused Colonel Bagosora and General Gratien Kabiligi, who was the head of the operation and was involved with other high officials like Aloys Ntabakuze the commander of the elite Para Commando Battalion and even the commander of the Gisenyi operational sector. They were charged with conspiracy to commit genocide and other crimes against humanity like murder, exterminations, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts as well as war crimes with an aim to outrage the dignity of persons and to commit crimes in Rwanda in the year 1994. The people against whom the crime was committed included to a large extent the Tutsis, and even the PM Uwilingiyimana and other Belgian peacekeepers.  Bagosora, in the end, was found guilty by the chamber and for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Of all people, many were convicted of the crimes which were carried out and was against humanity. After this, the chamber took all the aspects and gave the punishment and sentenced them for life imprisonment.

As per the evidence and events which came into light later says that RPF(Rwandese Patriotic Fund) which had killed the President including other factors. Circumstantial evidence shows that the accused played a major role in the planning of this heinous act which involved arming as well as training of civilian militia along with other things which opposed the rules. Experts said that Bagosora was the main authority in Rwanda in the three days which followed the execution of the President and this act showed that it was planned and done by all to remove the Tutsi population.

Ethnic Cleansing And Violation Of Article 21

Article 21 given in the constitution guarantees the ‘Protection of Life and Personal Liberty’ and it is one of the most important fundamental rights, that no person should be deprived of his life and personal liberty by anyone except according to the procedure established by law. Right to life includes right to live with dignity, health, pollution free environment etc. In case of  MANEKA GANDHI V. UNION OF INDIA a seven-judge bench observed that ‘personal liberty’ under article 21 comprises of various rights such as it must be as per the procedure established by law and it must be according to Article 14 which is equality before law and equal protection before the law and within the territory of India it even says that no person is above law and it should not be arbitrary. Also in the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India the Supreme Court of India held that it is the fundamental right of everyone to live with dignity and Article 21 is derived from Article 39, 41 and 42. So, it must include protection for the health of workers, men, women and children against any abuse. Article 21 consist of the right to go abroad, right to privacy, right to shelter etc. There are many statutory bodies established by the Government of India like autonomous public body National Human Rights Commission of India and under this, there is an act known as Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 and it is responsible for the protection and for giving a recommendation of human rights.

But the contradictory thing is that ethnic violence contradicts this right given under article 21 because ethnic cleansing is the removal of the particular minority community from a particular geographical area. There may be different types of forces which are applied on people like they are forced to leave the place(deported), mass killing, women are raped, men are brutally killed and bloodshed all around which directly violates the fundamental right under article 21. This is what happened in the case of Rwandan Genocide people’s basic right to life and personal liberty was violated by the government and by the residence. They were killed on no basis and this is not the only case, such cases are in abundance like the killing of Jews by Hitler on the basis of racial discrimination.


The act which was carried on in Rwanda was an inhumane and was extreme violation of Article 3 Geneva Convention, 1949. Violence like rape, persecution and crimes towards humanity and the warfare crimes of violence to life and things that outrage personal dignity. To curtail it, it is important that community worldwide take immediately any motion that relieves the sufferings of the humans who have suffered deeply. This is possible only by comforting them, proactively assisting people who have suffered and giving quick relief. Collective moves are needed to surmount political barriers and discover avenues to uphold the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to make sure that justice, fairness and equality are clearly for all. Beside doing hostile acts towards the community they were also subjected to arson, mob killing, torture, rape of the female members of Tutsi group. All these were the tactics that were adopted by which they would be compelled to leave the country and settle somewhere else. In my opinion, no person as well as the law has supported or should support ethnic cleansing which in turn violates human rights. In India and around the world amendments should be made regarding such inhuman acts, so that we can move towards a healthy society where everyone is treated equally.

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