Rwanda under review on human rights policies

Saturday June 25 2016

An overcrowded detention centre in Kigali. Rwanda is making strides in the implementation of human rights recommendations. FILE PHOTO | AFP

The United Nations wants Rwanda to implement at least 50 per cent of the human rights recommendations provided under the Universal Period Review (UPR) by November 2017.

At a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva in March, Rwanda reaffirmed its commitment to protecting and ensuring human rights. However, the speed at which the country is implementing 50 recommendations it accepted has come under scrutiny.

“It is many months since Rwandan adopted these recommendations. By the midterm review in November 2017, Rwanda should at least have achieved a 50 per cent implementation,” Chris Mburu, a senior human-rights advisor to the UN, told The EastAfrican on June 23 on the sidelines of the UPR quarterly stakeholders meeting in Kigali.

“With more focused political intent, they can reach 60 per cent by that time,” he added.

Recommendation Number 4 — on the adoption of a national human rights action plan — has been implemented 75 per cent, according to Rwanda’s Ministry of Justice.

The remaining step is its adoption by Cabinet, which is still pending.


Recommendation Number 1 — eliminating all provisions that undermine freedom of expression — has also gone a long way, after a revised penal code that decriminalises defamation is still in the consultation stage.

“Progress on some recommendations is admirable, but we hope to hear that they have been achieved fully. It will be good news to tick off as many recommendations as possible before the mid-term periodic review. Right now what is needed is political will, because most recommendations are straightforward and easy to achieve,” Mr Mburu said.

The US is keen to see Recommendation Number 12 implemented, which requires Rwanda to ensure that all cases of disappearance of individuals are thoroughly investigated.

“I urge you to publicise the results of investigations conducted when people disappear. It is important for the public to understand what the results are when there have been cases of disappearance,” said Erica J. Barks-Ruggles, the US ambassador to Rwanda, at the meeting with government officials.

Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye said plans are in place to have a special department under the national police investigate and provide answers in the cases of disappearances.

“There are some challenges when people are reported missing. We sometimes search for their names at the national identification agency, but we don’t find them. So it is important to have a function within the police to which we can put all these questions,” he said.

READ: Rwanda govt trashes HRW ‘disappearances’ report

Mr Busingye said that although the process to implement all recommendations is not as fast as some other UN member states expect, there is a plan to implement them.

“We adopted the recommendations and put in place an actionable agenda to achieve them. We haven’t yet reached our goal, but we are on the way,” he said.

The UPR was set up in 2008 to examine every UN member’s human-rights record. Countries are reviewed every four-and-a-half years. Rwanda was reviewed for the first time in January 2011.

Key recommendations that were accepted include acceding to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, ratifying the International Labour Organisation Domestic Workers Convention, and easing the registration of national and international NGOs.

Rwanda rejected 26 recommendations. They include ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.