UN anti-torture team cancels Rwanda visit, again

Monday July 16 2018

Detainees at the Gikondo transit centre in Kigali on September 24, 2015. The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture has accused Rwanda of lack of cooperation. PHOTO | AFP


The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has cancelled its mission to Rwanda after suspending the visit last October.

The UN body accuses Kigali of lack of cooperation.

"In 11 years of exercising its mandate and more than 60 visits, it is the first time the SPT is terminating a visit before its completion. There was no realistic prospect of the visit being successfully resumed and concluded within a reasonable timeframe," the agency said in a statement on July 4.

The decision has irked Kigali which accuses the body of acting in bad faith.

“The allegations of lack of cooperation are untrue, unfounded and in bad faith and the Government of Rwanda rejects them now as it has rejected them previously,” the administration said in a statement last Tuesday.

The UN body regularly visits countries that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture to investigate torture allegations and assess implementation of measures aimed at preventing torture and other forms of ill-treatment.


The mission was first suspended in October last year, when members of the subcommittee cut short their visit in Kigali citing a “series of obstructions imposed by authorities”.

The team also said it was denied confidentiality to certain interviewees who it argued could face reprisals.

“The Government of Rwanda acceded to and fully facilitated the visit of the SPT, including granting full and unimpeded access to places of detention and to detainees,” the government responded.

Termination of the mission now undermines UN’s recognition of Rwanda’s Human Rights Commission, which was granted the mandate by Parliament in February to serve as the national preventive mechanism against torture.

In a report by the Human Rights Watch last year, the watchdog alleged that the military routinely tortures detainees with beatings, asphyxiations, mock executions and electric shocks.

HRW said it had confirmed hundreds of people who were illegally detained and tortured in army detention centres between 2010 and 2016.

But Kigali dismissed the report as fake, arguing that the watchdog was “desperate for attention”.