The UN cultural body says sites commemorating human suffering can play a key role in peacebuilding.
The resting place of more than 800,000 people killed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide is among sites on three continents added to UNESCO’s world heritage list, as the United Nations cultural body ends a moratorium on examining sites commemorating human suffering.
The sites of Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi and Bisesero in Rwanda commemorating the massacres of mainly Tutsi victims “have just been inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list”, the organization published on social networks on Wednesday.
The four sites in Rwanda commemorate the genocide which largely targeted the Tutsi minority but also moderate Hutus who were shot, beaten or bludgeoned to death by Hutu rebels between April and July 1994.
“This historic decision will help safeguard memory, counter denial and strengthen genocide prevention efforts globally. #NeverAgain,” Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
This decision by UNESCO was also welcomed by Naphthali Ahishakiye, executive secretary of Ibuka, the association representing genocide survivors.
“This will raise awareness throughout the world of the genocide committed in Rwanda against the Tutsi,” he told the AFP news agency in Kigali.
Also included in the list are World War I cemeteries in Belgium and France, as well as a former torture center in Argentina.
So far, the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan are the only memorial sites included on the world heritage list, closely monitored by the country’s cultural agency. UN.
At a meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday, UNESCO member states agreed to add the Rwanda genocide and World War I sites to the list , after adding the torture memorial in Argentina on Tuesday.
A UNESCO meeting in 2018 delayed adding memorial sites to the list as the agency debated whether the heritage list was a relevant tool for memorial sites associated with atrocities and conflict .
The agency said member states agreed in early 2023 that these sites can play a key role in peacebuilding, which is UNESCO’s main goal, and that the committee would review nominations for the three sites.