Human Rights Committee
18 March 2016
The Human Rights Committee today concluded its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Rwanda on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The report was presented by Johson Busingye, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, who said that Rwanda took its human rights obligations extremely seriously, not because it was required, but because Rwandans deserved and were entitled to their rights. The broad and comprehensive legal framework in Rwanda to implement the Covenant remained firmly on course. The report presented major developments in the protection and promotion of civil and political rights, including new laws, judicial decisions, policies, and programmes that had expanded protections in various areas and provided more remedies for rights violations where they occurred. The Constitution specifically provided for the right to life and the inviolable nature of the human being, the right to physical and mental integrity, the right to equality before the law, protection from discrimination, the right to marry and found a family, the protection of children, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable people, among others.
In the interactive dialogue Committee Experts raised concerns regarding the conditions in military detention centres, penitentiaries and prisons, and violations by the State authorities therein, as well as the length of pre-trial detention and incommunicado detention. Serious concern was expressed on the thirty cases of enforced disappearances, as well as politically motivated genocide-related offences for political dissidents. Experts inquired further information on the new Bill on Reproductive Health; the provision of legal aid by the State; alleged discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses; the registration of children; the situation of the Batwa, Abunzi and other minorities; and the status and conditions of recent refugees from Burundi. Experts also wanted to hear more about the circumstances surrounding the referendum process on the constitutional amendments of 2015, detention of street children, and the high tendency to criminalise journalists.
Mr. Busingye, in concluding remarks, said that Rwanda was pleased to engage with the Committee, and had taken careful note of all issues raised. Rwanda was proud of its achievements, but conscious that there was more to be done. History did not absolve Rwanda from its obligations; on the contrary it emboldened Rwanda not to be defined by it and served as a constant reminder to ensure that it would never occur again.
Fabian Omar Salvioli, Committee Chairperson, in conclusion, stated that efforts had indeed been made, but it was important to go further. Two issues of concern remained: one was the need for laws to be consistent with the Covenant and another was the enjoyment of freedoms, namely of association and expression, which had to be reviewed by the legislative framework.
The delegation of Rwanda included representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Human Rights Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. today to continue its discussion on General Comment on Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the right to life.
The fourth periodic report of Rwanda can be found here: CCPR/C/RWA/4.
Presentation of the Report
JOHNSTON BUSINGYE, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, said that Rwanda took its human rights obligations extremely seriously, not only because it was required, but also because Rwandans deserved and were entitled to their rights, and because the people of Rwanda were the primary obligation of the Government. The broad and comprehensive legal framework in Rwanda to implement the Covenant remained firmly on course and had changed for the better. The report presented major developments in the protection and promotion of civil and political rights, including new laws, judicial decisions, policies, and programmes which had expanded protection in various areas and provided more remedies for rights violations wherever they occurred. The Constitution specifically provided for the right to life and the inviolable nature of the human being, the right to physical and mental integrity, the right to equality before the law, protection from discrimination, the right to marry and found a family, the protection of children, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable people. Those constitutional aspirations were reflected in Rwanda’s ratification and the country’s continuing adherence to key international and regional instruments.
Mr. Busingye informed that significant changes had been made to fundamental texts such as the Civil Code and the Penal Code. In addition, new laws had been adopted relating to the media, access to information, and registration of political parties and civil society organisations. In 2009, most of the key human rights institutions had been created while others had been significantly overhauled, including the National Commission for Human Rights, whose independence and autonomy was reaffirmed by a 2013 law, as well as the Office of the Ombudsman, which had been also enhanced by law in 2013. Law establishing the National Commission for Children had been adopted in 2011, to coordinate implement oversee and monitor the child protection system. The advancement of rights of persons with disabilities was ensured by the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities had been established in 2011. The Rwanda Governance Board, established in 2011, had a core mission to promote the principles of good governance and decentralization.
The Parliament of Rwanda had two committees in charge of human rights. The representation of women across the Government was 38 percent, 50 percent in the judiciary and 64 percent in the Parliament. One third of Ministers were women, including those in charge of foreign affairs, agriculture and health. The Government had adopted a zero tolerance policy towards domestic violence and other types of gender-based violence, and adopted in 2011 a Gender-Based Violence Policy. In 2009, Isange One Stop Centres had been initiated to provide care for victims of gender-based violence. In addition, Rwanda’s commitment to end gender-based violence had extended to a continental initiative through the Kigali International Conference Declaration on the Role of Security Organs in ending Violence against Women in Africa, and the established of the African Security Organs Centre for Coordinating Action to End Violence against Women and Girls in Kigali by the United Nations Secretary-General and the President of the World Bank.
Mr. Busingye stated that many other initiatives had also been taken up, including on the right to life liberty and security; the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, medical or scientific experimentation; right to a fair trial and independence of the judiciary; and the freedom of expression, association and assembly.
Questions by Experts
An Expert asked the delegation to provide examples of court proceedings in which provisions of the Covenant had been invoked. Which courts handed down those rulings, and what was discussed during such cases? Did the Government intend to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Covenant? Could further information be provided on the training of judges, in terms of the Covenant?
In terms of hierarchy of laws, the Expert wanted to know about the rank of international treaties in the domestic legislation. The Constitution had been reformed in 2015, amending the hierarchy of laws. Why had the 2005 Constitution been changed, and was the current system compatible with Rwanda’s international commitments? The Expert said that the referendum had been held in an atmosphere lacking freedom of expression.
Why had Rwanda had just withdrawn the Declaration recognizing the right of the African Court of Human Peoples and Rights to receive individual complaints?
What measures were in place to ensure the independence of the National Commission for Human Rights, in particular the appointment of its Members and its budget, asked the Expert. Did the appointment of Commissioners really guarantee the independence of the Commission? Civil society members claimed that the Commission did not live up to its standards, and had tried to prevent, the previous year, a debate on a report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council as part of preparations for the 2011 Universal Periodic Review. Allegedly, they had pressured civil rights organisations to publicly denounce their reports.
The State Party had not provided responses to the allegations of war crimes, involving the Rwanda Patriotic front in 1994 in Rwanda and the Rwandan Army attacks in 1996 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the United Nations Mapping Report, recognized by the Rwandan Government, had stated that systematic attacks against the Hutus in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had not played a role in the Rwandan genocide, had been committed by the Rwandan Army. The question was, instead of adopting a policy of silence and not recognizing those crimes, why did the Government not favour objective investigations which would shed light to those events?
Another Expert asked for the updated information on the legislative review process to prevent discrimination in the Civil Code and the Family Code. It appeared that the Draft Family Code had been under discussion for some time and was still not amended. What was the progress on those two codes?
No details were given on parental authority. Would mothers be placed on an equal footing as fathers, particularly regarding children?
A large number of marriages were not registered, which could prevent women from enjoying their rights. What plans and measures did the State Party have to remedy that situation?
On inheritance and land rights of women, the Expert noted that women now had the right to inherit land. However, particularly in rural areas, they continued to have difficulties due to stereotypical behaviours.
Regarding female representation in public administrative posts, did the trend of increase also apply to the provinces and not just the central Government? Did those excellent percentages also refer to the private sector? Could the Government envisage an adoption of a wholesome law that covered all forms of discrimination?
Could a specific response be given on the gender pay gap and had specific measures been undertaken in that regard?
Another Expert was concerned that the penalties for spousal rape were more lenient than others. What was the reason for that?
Medical assistance was provided for victims of sexual violence, but it was unclear whether that assistance was provided to the victims of gender-based violence at home, or spousal abuse. How many prosecutions and cases had taken place? No statistical background was given according to the regions. The Expert acknowledged that Single Stop Centres had been established in twelve regions, but wanted to hear how and to what extent those centres helped respond to violence. According to a report, there were over 2,000 cases investigated, however more than 4,500 victims had approached the centre. What happened with the remaining centres?
Sexual exploitation of children was another problem, and no information had been provided in that respect. The delegation was thus asked to furnish details.
Abortion was now criminalized in Rwanda, except in cases of rape, forced marriage, incest, and when the birth would jeopardize the health of the baby or the woman. Reportedly it was difficult to obtain abortion services even in those cases, and many women were also unaware of such possibilities, said an Expert.
The Expert also raised concerns regarding the Kigali Transit Centre, where conditions seemed to be very harsh, and the Gikondo Transit Centre, where detainees were held without due process for up to several months. What was the State party’s progress towards abolishing the offence of vagrancy from its criminal legislation?
More information was needed on unlawful and incommunicado detention and enforced disappearances. There had been numerous instances of individuals held unlawfully by the police or the army in unofficial places of detention, in particular in Camp Kami, a military camp outside Kigali, and in another camp in Kigali. The Expert was concerned about the specific case of a singer who had survived the genocide and had been arrested and sentenced in 2015 to ten years of prison, including for conspiracy against the Government. The delegation was asked to provide details regarding the unlawful detention by the Rwanda Defence Forces, in detention centres that were not part of the system, without access to lawyers for the detainees.
Experts requested information on the investigations, prosecutions, convictions and punishments relating to reported cases of summary or arbitrary execution or enforced disappearance, including the disappearances of political figures such as Augustin Cyiza, Léonard Hitimana and Jean-Damascène Munyeshyaka, and the executions of André Kagwa Rwisereka and Denis Ntare Semadwinga. The delegation was also asked to comment on reports of assassinations and attempted assassinations of political dissidents abroad, such as the killing of Patrick Karegeya and the attempted killing of Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa, and the killing of Charles Ingabire in Uganda, which had been allegedly committed with the acquiescence of State officials. Had such allegations been investigated, and if so, had the persons responsible been brought to justice?
Could the delegation comment on allegations that cases of unlawful and incommunicado detention and enforced disappearance continued to occur, and indicate the measures taken to end, effectively, arbitrary and secret detentions by the security forces, and to ensure that detainees were afforded all legal safeguards from the outset of their detention?
Limited information on certain detention facilities had been provided. The delegation was asked to comment on the use of torture and ill-treatment during interrogations allegedly carried out by Rwandan military intelligence in the Kami and Kinyinga military camps and by other security personnel in unofficial places of detention. The Committee had received information of the use of beatings, electric shocks, isolation, sensory deprivation and limitation of breathing in those centres, and charges that detainees had been held in degrading conditions and often beaten by the police, and that children accounted for a significant proportion of the detainees in one of them. Could the delegation provide information on those alleged acts? Was the Government aware of the reticence by lawyers to raise such issues because of the judges’ fundamental reluctance to deals with them?
Another Expert asked the delegation to confirm the allegations that the Rwanda Defence Force had been implicated in various human rights abuses by the “Mouvement du 23 mars” armed group (M23), as had been reported in the Report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That support had reportedly included support from the Rwandan territory, including recruitment, troop reinforcement, ammunition deliveries and fire support by soldiers of the Rwanda Defence Force. Apparently, M23 had also forcefully recruited children. The Group of Experts had asked the State Party to provide a list of the members of the M23 and to issue an arrest warrant, as well as to investigate and prosecute individuals who had helped them. Did the State respond to those recommendations? Had the State party initiated any investigations and prosecutions of individuals who had allegedly provided such support? Had there been integration programmes for those recruited to M23, including children?
Did the law prohibit extradition when there was a violation of the right to life? How was the risk of violation of articles 6 and 7 to the Covenant assessed by the State Party?
What was the average length of detention of foreigners and what were the conditions of their detention? Were persons arrested for immigration offences placed together with convicted prisoners?
Another Expert inquired about the legislative status of the reproductive health bill. There was a concern that if it were to pass, it would limit abortion where it would need an approval of three doctors. Had such a bill been proposed by Government?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said that the information on several cases related to free trial would be provided in writing to the Committee.
Discussions were ongoing on the ratification of the Optional Protocol on Individual Complaints.
Regarding the 2015 Constitution, the delegation explained that it had now become an organic law. The aim had not been to curtail the international law, and neither had there been any curtailing of any expression of opinion during the 2015 reform. Months before the referendum, 3.7 million Rwandans had petitioned for it to take place. Thus, the allegations surrounding the referendum, that there had been suppression of freedom of expression by civil society, were untrue, stressed the delegations.
The Government had filed a response to the United Nations Security Council, with which Rwanda rejected both the methodology and the content of the United Nations Mapping Report.
The Selection Committee of the National Human Rights Commission was independent, and other measures also enhanced its independence. The Commission had autonomy in its budget in terms of administering its resources, and was able to solicit funds from other sources. Commissioners had immunity from criminal or other prosecutions. It was independent in terms of recruitment of staff. It was the Parliament and not the Government that reviewed the report of the Commission.
The delegation explained that the amended Family Code had left the Parliament and had been presented for promulgation. Regarding unregistered marriages, the Government had tried to ensure that as many marriages as possible were registered. Inheritance rights by women were sufficiently addressed by the Family Code. In rural areas, that was an issue of education, campaigning and sensitising, which was being done on several levels.
On statistical data on women in decision-making positions, the delegation stated that the numbers continued to grow. The Government had taken a number of measures to address the issue of the gender pay gap. Several institutions were actively ensuring that women played a leading role in the private sector.
In relation to eradicating discrimination more broadly, there was a policy of non-discrimination across the board, including discrimination against individuals from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community. A law against all forms of discrimination was envisioned.
Regarding spousal rape, the Penal Code was under review, and all those issues would be discussed in the Parliament. Medical assistance in such cases was free. Statistics on prosecuted sex offenders would be provided. The intention of the Government was to eradicate rape and gender-based violence in general. Sexual exploitation of children, child abuse and child labour were all areas where the Government was seriously trying to prevent and punish.
The number of legal abortions would be provided to the Committee, but the statistics of death due to illegal abortion was difficult to obtain.
Regarding the report on detentions of young offenders and street children, and the offence of vagrancy in criminal legislation, the delegation informed that they were transferred to transit centres so that they would learn skills and would not end up as criminals. Proper oversight was in place, assured the delegation.
On the issue of unlawful and incommunicado detention, the delegation explained that the prescribed timeframes of 72 hours and seven days were not the true time it took in reality. There was no other place in the world where every 20 minutes someone was immediately at the Prosecutor’s and Judge’s Office after having been arrested. Incommunicado detention was not accepted under the Rwandan law, and where that happened, victims had the right to present the matter even before their cases were heard, so that judges could properly determine.
The specific cases of disappearances mentioned by an Expert were also of concern to the Government, said the delegation, and the Government was working on resolving them.
Questions by Experts
An Expert asked whether there was any guidance on the punishment of street children or so-called vagrants in order to avoid excesses. To what extent was compulsory work of children as a punishment in line with State obligations under the Covenant?
What were the plans to improve conditions in military detention centres, penitentiaries and prisons, asked the Expert. It seemed that, in spite of the separation, interaction between pre-trial detainees and prisoners still occurred. Was that because of the overcrowding? Monitoring of detention centres was still problematic. Could results be provided on the success and efficiency in terms of visits by the Ombudsman? How many detainees had filed complaints and how many of those had been successfully investigated? There was a general lack of information on complaints mechanisms, and concerns that complaints were not made by detainees because of the fear of reprisals. Had the Government tried to investigate alleged unofficial secret detention centres, or allow international investigators to visit them, even though it denied that those existed?
The length of pre-trial detention was of high concern to Experts. When a person was arrested, the police had 72 hours to instruct the Public Prosecutor’s Office who, in turn, had seven days to send the detainee to a tribunal. Thus, it could be up to 10 days that a person was held without a judicial order. How was that in line with the Covenant, which stated that the maximum duration of detention without a judicial order was 48 hours?
Although freedom of assembly was guaranteed, political opposition, citizens and members of civil society were sometimes not allowed to organise demonstrations and assemblies. The law required that a request be submitted 30 days beforehand, which then had to be granted permission. Failure to obtain a permission was punishable by two months of imprisonment, and allegedly the authorities routinely denied assembly.
Regarding human rights organisations, an Expert inquired why there was a need for the annual registration requirement for foreign non-governmental organisations.
On harassment of journalists and human rights defenders, the Expert stated that leaders of the League for Human Rights, who operated in the Great Lakes region, had been detained and prevented from travel freely in the country. Could the delegation provide information on that? Reportedly only organisations who were not promoting human rights and which were pro-government were allowed to operate. The delegation was asked to provide information on the detainment of other journalists, including Stanley Gaterra, who had been detained for six hours and then forced to leave the country, as well as the editor of the Christian Radio Organisation, and the death of the Transparency International employee?
Another Expert was highly concerned regarding approximately 30 cases of enforced disappearances, all persons who had allegedly been arrested and released just before the trial. It was, thus, not a question of due process after, but rather before the trial.
In spite of the policy of zero tolerance, there were reports of use of torture during interrogation by State officials. Could information be provided?
Regarding safeguards on the independence of the judiciary, and mechanisms to prevent interference of the administration of justice, there was a concern for due process, especially before military courts. In addition, there had been cases in which prominent members of the opposition party had been identified by high-level government officials as culpable, and were unable to receive presumption of innocence by the judiciary. What were the guarantees, procedures and mechanisms in preventing and sanctioning interference of government officials? What was the role of the High Council for the Judiciary? Were there only judges appointed in this Council or were also political members of government and opposition in this Council?
Statistics was requested on the dismissal of officials involved in criminal cases.
The delegation was asked to provide details on the forms and programmes in which training of judges took place and to inform whether human rights standards were applied. What was the impact of the Gacaca Community Court, which heard important genocide-related cases, with the opportunity for survivors to tell their stories. Allegations on the inability of the accused to defend themselves in those courts, as well as implications of judges, had been received. Could the delegation provide more information?
Legal assistance at the state expense for those who did not have the means to pay for it, despite efforts, was insufficient. Lawyers needed to provide legal representation and not simply legal advice. How many professionals were offering legal aid to indigenous peoples, and what resources were dedicated to legal aid? What was the State Party’s assessment of the effectiveness of legal aid?
Question was asked on measures taken to combat stigmatisation of children with disabilities, children with HIV/AIDS, or children born as a result of rape, aside from the measures to fight malnutrition. What measures were taken to reduce or eventually eliminate child labour and what types of control were available to identify cases of labour?
Another Expert asked for statistics of victims, and proceedings of alleged perpetrators of trafficking in persons. What were the numbers of actual convictions, as well as penalties and prison sentences handed down and were victims entitled to compensation or reparation?
What was the number of unregistered children? In 2010, 63 percent of children’s births had been recorded as soon as they were born, but could more recent figures be provided? The children of migrants or minors were not registered, or when done, not within the prescribed period of time. The Expert asked for further details in that regard.
Minorities and indigenous peoples in Rwanda were not sufficiently recognized, and in particularly the Batwa community. The United Nations Independent Expert on Minorities Issues, Gay McDougall, had visited Rwanda in 2011 and issued a report in which she raised the issue of persons who were marginalised. What minorities and indigenous peoples were considered marginalized and what measures were in place to return the lands of those peoples, which had been taken away from them in the 1970s? According to the information received, the Batwa enjoyed no special measures. Was the Government adopting a specific policy to protect that population, by integrating that category fully in Rwandan society?
Another Expert said that interception of communications, according to the law, was allowed when all other measures were exhausted. Could the delegation confirm that there was no requirement for judicial authorisation for interception of communications?
Regarding genocide-related offences, such as incitement to commit genocide, there was a concern that offences enumerated in it, such as genocide ideology, might have chilling effects on the freedom of expression. Vagueness still remained in the wording of those offences. Such provisions were susceptible of abuse. Could the State party comment on the information that those offences continued to be applied to political dissidents, such as Victoire Ingabire, Bernard Ntaganda, and the journalists Agnès Nkusi Uwimana and Saidati Mukakibibi?
The Expert asked the delegation to provide an update on plans for decriminalisation of defamation, and the crime of insult in the Penal Code. What was the current status of consultations in the national dialogue on media?
On freedom of the press, question was asked if there were any safeguards for journalists. How were journalistic sources protected in the State Party? Were journalists’ sources protected under the current media legislation?
Turning to the freedom of religious belief, an Expert noted that Jehovah’s Witnesses had reported discrimination against them for the refusal to sing the national anthem, participate in religious ceremonies in school or other actions. What measures could be taken to prevent such discriminatory acts in the future? What could be done to address their conscientious objection to military service?
Another Expert asked about the exact number of asylum seekers and migrants who had recently come in from Burundi. What was their status? Did they get documents that regularised their stay and what were their rights? Were they entitled to social services and education? What measures were in place to respect the principle of non-refoulement? Had the Refugee Status Determination Order been passed? Did the State recognize gender persecution as a grounds for refugee status and what improvements had been achieved on conditions in refugee camps?
Another Expert asked for examples of amendments to the domestic legal system that had enhanced and promoted human rights in Rwanda. Regarding the Abunzi Community, was there an equal representations of all tribal and ethnic groups in Rwanda, in order to ensure a fair trial and equal protection of law for all people?
Another Expert reiterated the concern of the Committee on the circumstances under which the referendum on the constitutional amendments in 2015 had been held. Why had the referendum been held only one week after it had been announced, and why had the exact text of the referendum question been published only one day before the vote? Had there been monitoring, and, if so, where and how had it been conducted?
The new 2015 Constitution, with its amendments, now provided that a former President could not be prosecuted for treason or a serious violations of the Constitution, when no offence was brought against him when he was in Office. That would effectively ensure impunity for President Kagame and future Presidents. The delegation was asked to explain the reason for that amendment and how accountability for heads of state could be ensured for any violations of the Covenant.
Another Expert asked for a clarification on the purpose of the new Bill on Reproductive Health and its provisions.
The State Party had withdrawn from the Optional Protocol on the right of individual petition to the organs of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Further explanations were requested.
Why had no information been provided on the two cases where the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the Human Rights Council had found the State Party in violation of Article 20 of the Covenant?
Concrete information was needed on the genocide legislation and why it was necessary.
Replies by the Delegation
Speaking about violence against women, the delegation said that Isange One Stop Centres provided protective measures for the victims of gender-based violence. In addition, services would be scaled up. There were safe houses for other victims, one run by the police and another by the National Prosecution Authority.
Corporal punishment of children, as well as child labour, were outlawed, and there was continuous vigilance in that regard, the delegation assured.
There was admittedly overcrowding in prisons, but marked improvement had been made. Food supplies and the quantity and quality of portions had been improved. Conditions in prisons were regularly monitored. The intention and practice on the ground was that people were detained for 72 hours in compliance with the Covenant. There was no interaction between persons arrested for immigration offences and convicted prisoners. Prisons had health centres with three permanent medical staff, and additional visits by doctors were provided as needed. Regular campaigns for the prevention of non-communicable diseases were also made. Children whose mothers were imprisoned were given special care and education. There was an electronic system in place which counted the amount of time individuals spent in prison and when they were due to be set free, ensuring that no violations occurred in that regard. The law provided for independent and international inquiries in prisons.
On the independence of the judiciary, the delegation explained that the High Council of the Judiciary was the apex organ of the judiciary and did not report to anyone. It was composed by 70 percent of judges, as well as representatives from the Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman, the Bar Association and other organs.
On the provision of legal aid, a defence counsel was provided as soon as needed, and no one, including children, had been refused. A law on a legal aid fund was being currently drafted and would provide funds directly to the Bar Association from where lawyers signed up to provide state legal aid.
The State Party was working on coordination with many other countries, including the United States, to combat human trafficking.
Regarding discrimination against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the delegation stated that there were civic duties that had to be accepted by all peoples. That problem had arisen because of improper communication. The State party had negotiated other issues, such as opening a bank account for social security, having identity cards, immunisation of children, and schools, and the delegation believed that the problem could be addressed through dialogue.
The Genocide Ideology Law had been amended with the help of international experts. Thanks to the increased civic education, the law was slowly receding in the shadows rather than being used on a daily basis. The assertion that the offences enumerated by the law were applied to political activists against the Government was not entirely correct. The cases that the Committee had referred to were all cases prosecuted in open court with due process and a fair trial, and for, one of them, information had been received from the Netherlands where the convicted lived. There were no plans to review those judgements.
The Penal Code was under review, and discussions were ongoing on the decriminalisation of defamation. Cases of defamation had already been drastically reduced.
The law required non-governmental organistaions, political and other associations to inform the authorities before holding demonstrations, for the purposes of maintaining public order and informing the rest of the citizens. The law also specifically provided for the protection of journalists, and they were not required to reveal their sources unless in very specific cases. Currently, there were a total of 1,600 registered civil society organisations, with 83 additional organisations in the process of registration and about 50 religious organisations in the registration process. Registration would soon be made electronic, a delegate said.
Regarding international non-governmental organisations, unless a specific cause of delay, there was no problem with their registration. They were required to show evidence of strategic plan and budget funds for the projects they were executing, which directed the length of the time accorded. There were 164 registered international non-governmental organisations in Rwanda, while ten were still in the registration process.
On the case of the Transparency International employee, two policemen had been accused, had pleaded guilty and had been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The registration of children was difficult for children who had not been registered until now. The law required that children be registered, and if they did not register, a time frame was provided. The penalty for non-registration was aimed to encourage, not repel, registration. New measures were being put in place to strengthen the registration process.
The Social Integration Programme provided for the integration of the Batwa, said the delegation.
A total of 77,555 refugees from Burundi had been recorded as of the previous day. It was an emergency situation, but the Government was doing its best, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Prima facie refugee status had been granted to them. The conditions in the camps continued to be watched closely.
The delegation stated that the referendum process on the constitutional amendments had started long before 2015 and it had been a citizen-driven process. Three quarters of the voters or 3.5 million persons had voted. Consultations had been done before and the monitoring reports for the referendum would be provided subsequently.
An Expert wanted to determine the accuracy of the assertion that military courts had the competence to try civilians who were accomplices of soldiers accused of military crimes. Could the delegation provide figures about the number of civilians tried by military courts and for what type of crimes?
Another Expert asked the delegation to confirm the number of juveniles in prisons. Were there street children and could details be provided on those?
The Expert was still concerned that there was a high tendency to criminalise journalists, as well as over the annual requirement to register international non-governmental organisations.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation responded that individuals tried at military courts had the right to council, visits, and all other rights that existed in civilian courts.
Juveniles were persons of school age who had committed a crime, and were not put in prisons, but to one specific facility where all juveniles were sent in order to ensure their education and reintegration into society.
Freedom of assembly, registration of non-governmental organizations and the oppression of journalists were all issues where a dialogue was needed. Non-governmental organisations were not run by saints but by human beings, and they also had to be regulated, stated the delegation.
JOHNSTON BUSINGYE, Minister of Justice, confirmed that much more precise information would be supplied to the Committee in writing. Rwanda was pleased to engage with the Committee, and had taken careful note of all the issues raised. Rwanda was proud of its achievements, but also conscious that there was more to be done, and benefited from opportunities such as the current dialogue. The true measure of progress of rights and fundamental freedoms was about the real impact on the rights of people. The history of genocide did not absolve Rwanda from its obligations, on the contrary, it emboldened it not to be defined by the genocide and served as a constant reminder to ensure that it would never occur again. That had led to a culture that valued diversity, consensus of views, and the equal participation of men and women. There was no choice between development and progress on one hand, and protection of human rights on the other - those were mutually reinforcing. Rwanda was committed to the further advancement of the rights under the Covenant and would continue to cooperate with all stakeholders to that end.
FABIAN OMAR SALVIOLI, Committee Chairperson, said that efforts had clearly been made, but it was important to go further. Two issues of concern remained. One was the need for laws to be consistent with the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and not to generate any level of impunity for those who had committed human rights violations. Another issue was the enjoyment of freedoms, namely of association and expression which had to be reviewed by the legislative framework. Mr. Salvioli suggested that the long jurisprudence of the Committee could assist the State Party in that respect. There was also a concern on the lack of information on enforced disappearance. Finally, the Committee would be interested on the progress made in relation to joining the Optional Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Optional Protocol of the Covenant.
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