Committee against Torture
24 November 2017
The Committee against Torture this afternoon completed its consideration of the second periodic report of Rwanda on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Presenting the report, Johnston Busingye, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, said that since its last review in 2012 Rwanda had made notable progress in delivering on its obligations under the Convention. The Government had revised its Constitution in 2015, providing a more comprehensive bill of rights, with a specific mention of the prohibition of torture. In 2012, it had adopted a new Penal Code, which included actions by non-State actors, such as private security operators, as potential perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment. In 2013, the Government had also adopted a new Code of Criminal Procedure which reaffirmed the principle of due process in criminal processes, as recognized by the Constitution. Considerable progress had been made with respect to prison conditions, with the construction of new prison units and the upgrade of living standards. Finally, in order to prevent the recurrence of human rights violations that had led to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the Constitution explicitly recognized the right of every Rwandan to defy orders by superiors if they constituted a serious violation of human rights and freedoms.
In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts expressed hope that the complex process of national reconciliation in Rwanda would be successful, and that perpetrators of past crimes would be held responsible. They welcomed the adoption of the national plan of action for human rights 2017-2020, as well as the draft law on the National Preventive Mechanism. Nevertheless, Experts raised concerns about the appropriateness of prison sentences for crimes of torture, the length of police custody, juveniles in custody, the power of arrest, non-official places of detention, the right to legal counsel and independent medical examination, harassment of lawyers working on politically sensitive cases, the security operation in Musanze and Rubavu in 2014, pre-trial detention, prison conditions, transit centres, cooperation between the Government and the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, secret detention centres, arbitrary detention of members of political opposition, and enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings. Other issues that were discussed included non-refoulement of refugees from Burundi, trafficking in human beings, the powers and activities of the National Commission of Human Rights, links between the international human rights instruments and domestic law, pressure exercised on the judicial branch, training for law enforcement officers, prison staff, prosecutors and judges, reparations for victims of torture, freedom of expression of journalists and human rights defenders, dissemination of the Committee’s recommendations, and cooperation with civil society.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Busingye thanked Committee Experts for their time. The Government of Rwanda believed that the session had enormous potential to help it to improve its legal system and the implementation of the Convention. Mr. Busingye assured that the Committee’s recommendations would be taken very seriously.
Jens Modvig, Committee Chairperson, reminded the delegation of the 48-hour deadline for the submission of additional written information. The Committee’s concluding observations would contain three or four urgent recommendations to which the State party should submit a follow-up report within a year.
The delegation of Rwanda consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 28 November, at 3 p.m. to discuss follow-up to articles 19 and 22, and reprisals.
The second periodic report of Rwanda can be read here: CAT/C/RWA/2.
Presentation of the Report
JOHNSTON BUSINGYE, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, reaffirmed Rwanda’s commitment to upholding international human rights standards and principles, including through the full implementation of its treaty obligations. He noted that the State party’s report had been prepared through a broad consultative process coordinated by the cross-institutional national treaty body reporting taskforce. The taskforce was headed by the Ministry of Justice and it was composed of representatives from all branches of the Government, as well as civil society organizations. Since its last review in 2012, Rwanda had made notable progress in delivering on its obligations under the Convention, including in the adoption of legal and procedural safeguards. With respect to the prohibition of torture, Rwanda had revised its Constitution in 2015 and the current Constitution provided for a more comprehensive bill of rights, with a specific mention of the prohibition of torture. The Constitution stipulated that everyone had the right to physical and mental integrity and that no one would be subjected to torture or physical abuse, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Reaffirming its commitment to fight against torture, Rwanda had ratified in 2015 the Optional Protocol to the Convention. In 2012, the Government had adopted a new Penal Code, which included actions by non-State actors, such as private security operators, as potential perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment. In 2013, the Government had also adopted a new Code of Criminal Procedure which reaffirmed the principle of due process in criminal processes, as recognized by the Constitution. In addition, specific presidential and ministerial orders had been adopted to regulate the conduct of the military, police and prison officers in their work.
With respect to prevention, the Government had put in place a number of legal and procedural safeguards for the prevention of torture. Those included the notification of detainees of their rights, access to legal representation, and medical attention. Regular training and capacity-building sessions were conducted for the judiciary, police officers, prison guards, and prosecutors focused on the Convention and the Mandela Rules. As part of the implementation of the Optional Protocol, Rwanda had hosted the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture in October 2017. Regrettably, the visit had been brought to an early end due to the lack of spirit of cooperation and dialogue. The Government was of the view that mutual respect, trust, dialogue and cooperation should be the hallmark of going forward. In the meantime, the Government had revised the law determining the functioning of the National Human Rights Commission to provide for the establishment and mandate of the National Preventive Mechanism. Rwanda was committed to the wellbeing of all persons in detention. The Law on the Establishment, Functioning and Organization of the Rwanda Correctional Service had been in place since 2010. It stipulated that all incarcerated persons should be treated at all times with respect and dignity, and that they should be protected from any form of torture or ill-treatment. Considerable progress had been made with respect to prison conditions, with the construction of new prison units and an upgrade of living standards.
The Government was committed to establish a strong legal framework to prevent the recurrence of human rights violations that had led to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The Constitution explicitly recognized the right of every Rwandan to defy superiors’ orders if they constituted a serious violation of human rights and freedoms. As for redress, the law provided for established time limits for all investigations to be completed in order to ensure that victims of torture and ill-treatment had access to legal redress in a timely manner. Victims had the right to file a civil action within criminal proceedings seeking compensation resulting from a criminal act.
Questions by Country Co-Rapporteurs
SEBASTIEN TOUZÉ, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Rwanda, expressed hope that the complex process of national reconciliation in Rwanda would be successful, and that perpetrators of past crimes would be held responsible. He noted that without truth, there could be no reconciliation. Mr. Touzé welcomed the adoption of the national plan of action for human rights 2017-2020, as well as the draft law on the National Preventive Mechanism. However, he regretted the recent decision of the Government to withdraw its declaration under article 34 of the Protocol of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights for the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Turning to the definition of torture in the Criminal Code, Mr. Touzé wondered whether the Criminal Code foresaw the criminal responsibility of public officials for acts of torture. It was inappropriate that the crime of torture only carried a prison sentence of six months to two years. Sentences should be made stricter. Why was the duration of imprisonment so short and how could that be remedied? How many sentences had been handed down on the basis of legal provisions for grave consequences of torture and ill-treatment?
Sexual torture was treated as a standalone offence in the Criminal Code. Why did Rwanda separate sex crimes from torture, and how many prosecutions had been carried out under that provision? What were the statistics in that regard?
Turning to police custody, Mr. Touzé inquired about the statement of arrest which was valid for five days and could not be extended. He identified two problems in that respect, namely the lack of a legal framework on the duration of police custody, and the fact that detainees were not physically brought before an independent judge. What were the rules governing the length of police custody? How long could a person be held in custody before being brought before a judge?
As for minors in custody, Mr. Touzé noted that they should not be in the same detention facilities with adults. Why had the Government lowered the age to 12 for being held in custody with adults? How many minors were held in police custody and for how long? How many had been sentenced?
With respect to the power of arrest, who were the authorized persons who could arrest persons on terrorism charges and hold them in detention for 48 hours? On places of detention, Mr. Touzé raised concern that civilians could be held in detention by the military in non-official places of detention. Could the State party ensure that only legal police custody was used?
On the right to legal counsel, was the presence of a lawyer guaranteed since the outset of police custody? It seemed that the Public Prosecutor could question detainees without the presence of a lawyer throughout the whole procedure. Why was there no public office of legal aid?
Mr. Touzé reminded that certain lawyers working on politically sensitive cases had been harassed by the Government and denied access to relevant files. What was the delegation’s response regarding that? What measures had the Government taken to protect lawyers from harassment?
Turning to the security operation in Musanze and Rubavu in 2014, Mr. Touzé inquired about secret detention without access to a lawyer. Could the delegation comment on the fact that the accused persons could not benefit from legal counsel and in some cases could not contact their families?
What rules governed the right of detainees to independent medical examination? What measures had been taken to ensure that persons were not held in pre-trial detention automatically on the basis of vague and broad notions such as “public safety”? What measures had been taken to ensure the right to lawful appeal? Could people held in military camps be included in police arrest registers?
As for prison conditions, what was the status of the strategic plan on the prevention of torture in prisons? After the 1994 genocide there had been a serious problem of prison overcrowding. Since then, thousands of prisoners had been released and there had been rare allegations of torture since the mid-2000s. What was the exact number of prisoners and what was relevant disaggregated data? What was the percentage of the prison population still awaiting charges? Was it true that there were still no separate prisons for minors?
Mr. Touzé drew attention to the problem of transit centres which held homeless persons, sex workers, and street children who were held there without any legal basis. That practice amounted to arbitrary detention. What were the legal rules that led to the deprivation of liberty of these persons? Could they contest the legality of their detention? There was no transparent procedure in governing transit centres, which were very poor, overcrowded and lacked medical services and food. Had the authorities investigated cases of ill-treatment and deaths in transit centres?
There was a clear problem of cooperation between the Government and the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture. What explanations could the delegation provide on that exceptional situation? Was it a sign of a problem or a breakdown of cooperation?
Several non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, International Federation for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch, had denounced flagrant violations of the Convention in Rwanda in secret detention centres. Numerous persons had affirmed that they had been arrested and transferred to the Kami camp where they had been interrogated and held in secret detention. The Government had claimed that Kami was a military barrack and not a place of detention. Who should the Committee believe in that case? Mr. Touzé noted that the identity of persons held and tortured in the Kami camp were, in fact, known. Why had their allegations not been heard by the authorities and followed up?
There had also been allegations that persons had been illegally detained and violently interrogated in the headquarters of the Ministry of Defence. Why had those allegations not been followed-up by the Government? Another concern was the illegal detention and torture at Mukamira, the gendarmerie of Rubavu, Bigowe, Mudende and Tumba. There had been military officials who had been named as perpetrators of torture in the mentioned military sites. Had any investigations been opened?
Turning to arbitrary detention of members of political opposition, Mr. Touzé noted that the Committee was concerned that the allegations of oppression were signs of a deeper crackdown on dissidents. What was the delegation’s response to those allegations?
As for enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, there was a contradiction between the statements made by civil society and the Government. There had been reports that the Rwandan security forces had executed at least 37 persons considered petty delinquents between July 2016 and March 2017 in the north-west of the country. The security forces supposedly encouraged local residents to execute others on at least two occasions. There were also reports that enforced disappearances of members of the political opposition continued. Had there been any investigations into those cases?
Had there been any investigations of the assassinations of members of the Muslim community suspected of being members of international terrorist groups?
With respect to the principle of non-refoulement, what information was available about the implementation of relevant legislation? What procedures had been put in place to ensure that persons could not be extradited to countries where there was a risk of torture? Could persons demanding asylum rapidly access relevant procedures and benefit from the systematic assistance of a lawyer? What was the procedure to appeal orders of expulsion?
Rwanda was the country with the second largest number of refugees from Burundi, namely 85,546 as of March 2017. The majority was accommodated in the Mahama camp, which had the capacity to host 60,000 refugees. What were the latest figures of refugees from Burundi? There were reports of massive expulsions of Burundians from Rwanda. Numerous acts of violence and torture against refugees from Burundi had been recorded. What measures had been taken to punish that violence?
What had been done to prevent and identify cases of trafficking in human beings? Was information available about the alleged involvement of the military in the trafficking of refugees from the Mahama camp, including of children?
On impartiality in the investigation of allegations of torture, how could the delegation explain the incoherent information provided in the State party’s report on the number of investigations? Could consolidated statistics on the number of complaints, investigations and prosecutions of acts of torture be provided?
The National Commission of Human Rights had the responsibility to visit places of detention. Why had there been passivity in investigating the allegations of torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention in the previously mentioned military camps?
ESSADIA BELMIR, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Rwanda, inquired about the procedural rules for the implementation of the Convention. What were the links between international human rights instruments and domestic law? One could be led to believe that the Constitution and organic laws prevailed over international instruments. The State party had failed to adopt the principle accepted by the majority of United Nations Member States, namely that international instruments had to apply to the entire domestic legal system. What was the relationship between international human rights instruments and domestic laws in Rwanda?
Ms. Belmir observed that the military had increased powers; political pressure was also exercised on the judicial branch. The rulings by the judiciary were tarnished by a number of subjective matters which should not have place in the judiciary.
As for access to justice, both public authorities and civil society had to play a role in training and disseminating information. Anyone who faced detention and trial had to be considered vulnerable in view of the possible effects of the proceedings on their lives, which was why due process and fair trial had to be ensured.
On the training of law enforcement officers, Ms. Belmir welcomed the information provided in the State party’s report. Nevertheless, there should be an assessment at the end of each training. What were the assessment methods? How familiar were public officials with the Istanbul Protocol?
Turning to the so-called rehabilitation transit centres, Ms. Belmir drew attention to the lack of a legal framework that governed those centres. There was a plethora of people who lacked economic resources and ended up in those centres. Were those rehabilitation transit centres correctional and support centres or detention centres that should abide by very strict rules normally applied to them?
Ms. Belmir highlighted that between 2012 and 2014, there had been an enormous number of acts of torture committed in illegal places of detention. Another problem was that of enforced disappearances and summary executions. The Committee was still waiting for the number of investigations initiated.
How did the State party apply pre-trial detention for minors in conjunction with alternative detention measures? Children were frequently held together with adults, and children aged 12 to 14 could be incarcerated with adults under the law. Was there a way to deal with children in a different manner? Did the police indeed apply the separation of minors in line with the relevant ministerial order? How long could a child spend in detention with adults?
Isolation could be imposed on minors for 15 days and often corporal punishment was applied before isolation. What were the reasons behind those instructions? Were they recent? What was the legal basis for the application of corporal punishment?
There were difficulties of lodging complaints of torture and there had been very few complaints due to the fear of reprisals, Ms. Belmir stressed.
The State party had stated that there was legislation on reparations for victims of torture. How was the recognition by the perpetrator of the act of torture defined? There had been only two cases of reparation. How many reparation requests had been received since 2012 by tribunals?
Turning to forced confessions, Ms. Belmir reminded that according to Rwanda’s laws, confessions obtained through torture could not be used as evidence. Nevertheless, there were numerous allegations that the security had forced detainees to confess their guilt. The key concern was in how the judiciary considered that kind of evidence. Could there be a review of the decisions made by the gacaca (community justice) court system?
The jurisdiction of military courts should be circumscribed to members of the armed forces, Ms. Belmir emphasised. She reminded that the Human Rights Committee had issued a recommendation in 2016 to curtail the practice of trying civilians in military courts.
As for freedom of expression of journalists and human rights defenders, there were reports of continued harassment, threats and accusations against them, including unlawful detention and torture. It was not appropriate behaviour of the authorities to try to muzzle those who opposed the Government.
The period that refugees subject to expulsion were held in migration detention was not known. How many people were held in such detention, where and how long were they held, and under what charges?
Women in detention were indeed separated, and female detainees with children were given special attention. Was any information available about the ill-treatment of women by the prison staff?
Questions by Experts
Experts noted major efforts towards national reconciliation in Rwanda, as well as the gap between economic and social development, and the situation of human rights.
How were members of the armed forces included in training on human rights and on the Istanbul Protocol? Since Rwanda was one of the largest contributors to the United Nations peacekeeping troops, had the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping ever rejected any Rwandan peacekeepers presented for service?
Experts recalled the police operation in the Mahama refugee camp where dozens of refugees had been arrested on drug trafficking charges. How was the right to non-refoulement ensured? What were the legal safeguards for avoiding the situation of statelessness?
Was there a concrete plan to operationalize the National Preventive Mechanism? Would resources be allocated to the Mechanism so that it could carry out its activities in an autonomous manner? How would its independence be guaranteed? Would it have access to all places of detention, including military facilities?
The burden of proof for torture was on the complainant. Was the judge required to call for an investigation? Had anyone ever requested an investigation of torture?
What was the level of staffing in correctional facilities? What was the ratio of guards and prisoners? What was the capacity of prison staff to address prison violence and to interact with vulnerable groups of prisoners, such as women, juveniles and drug addicts? Had they received any relevant training? What was the number of medical staff in correctional facilities?
What was the opinion of the Government of Rwanda on the Optional Protocol to the Convention? There appeared to be a major gap in the dissemination of information about the implementation of recommendations made by United Nations treaty bodies. What were the reasons for not allowing the submission of individual complaints to the Committee?
Experts welcomed the amendments to the Criminal Code which had allowed abortion under certain circumstances. What was the number of women in prison due to the violation of the law? How could women access abortion? What steps did the State party plan to remove legal and procedural barriers to abortion?
JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, inquired about formal requirements for non-governmental organizations to operate in the field of human rights. How many had been rejected and on which grounds? What measures had the Government taken to ensure that non-governmental organizations could operate without reprisals and to ensure a constructive dialogue with civil society?
Replies by the Delegation
JOHNSTON BUSINGYE, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, noted that the Government of Rwanda strived to provide the highest standards of human rights to its citizens. The Government had no intention of entering into a competition for trust with non-government organizations. The Government had acceded to the Convention and the Optional Protocol voluntarily, and it happily engaged with the Committee to ensure that Rwandan citizens were free from any possibility of torture. The Government did not claim to have reached perfection, which was why it continued to monitor compliance with human rights treaty bodies.
As for the responsibility of public officials for acts of torture, the law treated all perpetrators equally. The Government recognized that the penalties for torture and ill-treatment could be seen as not commensurate. The draft Criminal Code was currently being reviewed by the National Parliament. Sexual torture in the Penal Code was defined as an act that inflicted pain and suffering within the framework of gender-based violence. There had not yet been a court case invoking the Convention, but the Convention and the Optional Protocol were almost entirely domesticated. Victims could file a case directly with the judge, which meant that the prosecutorial powers were not absolute. As for pre-trial detention, the system was under review to ensure that the provisions met the highest standards. The separation of minors from adults was obligatory under law and non-custodial measures applied to minors. Minors had their own centre of rehabilitation.
The power of arrest under the Anti-Terrorism Law stipulated the maximum detention of 48 hours. Civilians could be detained in military facilities. The same Criminal Procedure Code was observed by both the military and civilian prosecution. All places of detention were governed by relevant laws and there were no unofficial places of detention. Interrogations were conducted in line with the law and the Government took all its legal obligations very seriously. The presence of a lawyer was guaranteed, and the Bar Association could provide a lawyer if a person could not afford one. Suspects were given choices for a lawyer or legal aid, and there was a legal aid policy in place.
There were no politically sensitive cases and no political prisoners, and it was not the policy of the Government to carry out harassment against anyone. Turning to the security operation in Musanze and Rubavu in 2014, Mr. Busingye said that the Government could not confirm the allegations of secret detention without access to a lawyer.
As for due process, Mr. Busingye clarified that the Criminal Procedure Code clearly defined the grounds for detention. Habeas corpus was provided by the law, but the Government did not keep statistics on habeas corpus cases.
Transit/rehabilitation centres were not places of detention, but were designed to address specific problems, such as drug abuse and behavioural problems. The National Rehabilitation Service had been created with a mandate to provide social reintegration for any persons exhibiting deviant behaviour.
On the suspension of the visit of the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture, the Government regretted the suspension of the visit, which was inconsistent with the spirit of dialogue and cooperation. There were no secret detention facilities in Rwanda. The Government did not have a policy of silencing and detaining political opponents. Any death or disappearance was investigated in accordance with the law, Mr. Busingye emphasised. The Government was working on a response to the Working Group on enforced disappearances.
Rwanda maintained an open policy towards refugees and migrants from any country. The law was in full compliance with international standards on migrants and asylum seekers. There were currently 88,106 refugees from Burundi. All requests for extradition were reviewed against Rwanda’s international obligations.
Measures to fight human trafficking included training for public officials, awareness raising campaigns, and the investigation of all allegations of trafficking in human beings, including the investigation of allegations in the Mahama refugee camp.
The burden of proof for crimes of torture was on the complainant and it was then upon courts to examine the provided evidence. The judiciary maintained the highest standards of independence and integrity; there was no political pressure whatsoever.
There had been no evaluation of the impact of training for public officials on the prevention and identification of torture.
Disciplinary measures in prisons included solitary confinement, but excluded corporal punishment. As for difficulties in lodging complaints of torture, detainees had the right to lodge them with the prison authorities and judges.
Victims of torture had the right to file civil action within criminal proceedings seeking compensation resulting from a criminal act. There was no harassment of journalists and human rights defenders.
Mr. Busingye that the police had entered the Mahama refugee camp because of allegations of drug trafficking. In general, the camp was very well run. He confirmed that female inmates were always separated from men, and women with children were given special attention.
Gacaca court judgments had already been under review. It was a successful transnational justice mechanism and Mr. Busingye asked the Committee to view the gacaca court system as a useful mechanism that had not harmed anyone.
As for the guarantees of the independence of the National Preventive Mechanism, the draft law would be adopted shortly and it was in full compliance with the Optional Protocol in terms of independence, budget, staffing and access to all places of detention.
Rwanda was the fourth biggest United Nations peacekeeping troop contributor and all its troops were vetted in line with United Nations standards.
All prison staff received induction training on the treatment and rights of detainees. Training sessions to increase skills and enhance communication with vulnerable groups were needed. The ratio of prison staff to prisoners stood at 1:80. Every prison had a medical doctor.
Mr. Busingye said that the Government would work to ensure the broadest dissemination of the Committee’s recommendations. The expansion of civil society in the past 10 years was the biggest one in the country’s history. The engagement of civil society with the Government had never been better, and the Government was fully committed to that dialogue.
Questions by Country Co-Rapporteurs
SEBASTIEN TOUZÉ, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Rwanda, noted that it was questionable whether the Government of Rwanda understood its obligations under the Convention. As soon as there was a contradiction, the Government tried to find a way not to respond to the questions put forth by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The Government had not provided any relevant statistics or concrete responses to the Committee’s factual elements. There was a complete polarization of the debate. The State party could not simply sweep those answers off the table; there should be a discussion to shed light on the allegations presented by civil society. The response provided by the delegation was frustrating, Mr. Touzé said.
Turning to transit/rehabilitation centres, Mr. Touzé reiterated his question about the legality of those centres, the possibility of detainees to contest their detention, and the conditions in those centres.
What was the number of nationals and non-nationals in prisons? Mr. Touzé observed a very close link between pre-trial detention and prison overcrowding in Rwanda. What were the details of the law on legal aid that was being studied?
ESSADIA BELMIR, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for the report of Rwanda, inquired about the status of the Convention in the domestic legal system, noting that international law had to prevail over domestic legislation.
The overwhelming majority of persons who found themselves in conflict with the law belonged to vulnerable groups that needed legal aid. How could they be asked to prove that they were poor when their poverty was manifest?
Ms. Belmir expressed hope that the delegation’s claim that there were no secret places of detention in Rwanda was correct. She reiterated the question about reparations for victims of torture, which was conditioned upon the recognition by the perpetrator of the act of torture.
Questions by Experts
Experts expressed hope that Rwanda would continue cooperation with the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture. There should be amendments to the laws governing the right of victims to reparations, and the Committee’s individual communications.
There was insufficient dissemination of statistics on specific cases. How did the State party plan to make up for that lack of data?
Persons in transit/rehabilitation centres should also have access to guarantees of their rights. It was surprising to hear that those centres were designed for persons of “deviant” behaviour. How would the State party ensure that those centres would not go beyond their noble mission as set under the law?
Could the delegation provide the text of the draft law on the National Preventive Mechanism?
Experts noted that it was not believable when the delegation said that there had been no instances of torture or ill-treatment. The Convention called for prevention and Committee Experts asked questions about steps that had been taken to prevent torture.
Had there been any investigations of coerced testimonies? Had there been any investigations into allegations of torture in secret detention places? The names of victims and alleged perpetrators had been provided by Human Rights Watch. Had any medical evidence about prisoners’ treatment ever been the basis of an investigation of torture?
Experts observed that there seemed to have been political motivations behind the accusations brought against Ms. Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza in 2010. Her case was later examined by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, asked about rejections of requests for the registration of non-governmental organizations, and about the grounds for rejection.
Replies by the Delegation
JOHNSTON BUSINGYE, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, noted that it was not the intention of the delegation to frustrate Committee Experts, but to learn from the Committee. Turning to the judgment recently delivered by the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the case of Ms. Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza, Mr. Busingye said he had not yet read the judgment. Rwanda’s relationship with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights should be understood in its proper context. The court had decided that Rwanda could withdraw from it. The Government wanted to review its adhesion to the court because it had found out that genocide perpetrators who had escaped justice could file cases against Rwanda to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Ms. Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza was someone who had escaped justice for genocide.
Mr. Busingye noted that the Government of Rwanda did not want to escape its responsibilities. The Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture had decided on its own to terminate the visit to Rwanda. That was on record. The Government knew its obligations under the Convention and it wanted to continue to comply. However, the Government did not want Committee Experts to think that it had terminated the visit by the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture. The Government believed in learning and improving. Rwanda was improving its laws and practices, but it was not perfect.
The Government had supplied to the Committee the statistics that it had at its disposal. Turning to the allegations of torture in places of secret detention, Mr. Busingye said that the delegation stood by the responses it had provided and that he could not provide information that did not reflect the situation on the ground. The Government would not hesitate to investigate any violation of the law or the Convention.
On transit/rehabilitation centres, Mr. Busingye explained that they served to “reform” persons who were at a risk of ending up in perpetual conflict with the law. The National Rehabilitation Service used social, psychological and educational measures to provide them with better life prospects, rather than to leave them end up in prisons. Due to some positive results, the Government believed that it should continue investing in the National Rehabilitation Service. It had conducted a study trip to the Netherlands, whose system was an inspiration for the Rwandan National Rehabilitation Service.
The legal aid policy had been approved and Mr. Busingye said he would provide it to Committee Experts in order to gauge their views on it. Anyone who had their vulnerable social status confirmed could apply for legal aid.
On the hierarchy of laws, Mr. Busingye explained that since 2003 the Constitution was the supreme law of Rwanda. It almost entirely domesticated all international treaties ratified by the country.
Ill-treatment in prisons could happen. But if it did happen, it would be punished because it was in violation of national and international laws. The Government would make available the draft law on the National Preventive Mechanism in English, and it would disseminate information about the Convention and the Committee’s conclusions.
JOHNSTON BUSINGYE, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, thanked Committee Experts for their time. The Government of Rwanda believed that the session had enormous potential to help it to improve its legal system and the implementation of the Convention. Mr. Busingye assured that the Committee’s recommendations would be taken very seriously.
JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, reminded the delegation of the 48-hour deadline for the submission of additional written information. The Committee’s concluding observations would contain three or four urgent recommendations to which the State party should submit a follow-up report within a year. The State party was also invited to submit an implementation plan on those recommendations on a voluntary basis.
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