The authorities increasingly prosecuted individuals for criticizing government policies and there was a rise in unlawful detentions. Restrictions on freedom of expression persisted despite plans to reform laws. Opposition politicians and journalists arrested during the 2010 elections were unfairly convicted on politically motivated charges.
Rwanda‘s human rights record was assessed under the UN Universal Periodic Review in January. The government accepted the majority of the recommendations, including those to revise existing legislation to protect freedom of expression. The government rejected recommendations to investigate cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, including those which may constitute enforced disappearances, arguing that irregular arrests were few and that officials responsible had been held accountable.
Security concerns intensified in 2011 following events including grenade attacks in 2010, divisions in the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party, and disaffected supporters of Laurent Nkunda, the former leader of the National Congress for the Defence of the People.
The government co-organized a meeting in the capital Kigali to encourage other countries in Africa to follow Rwanda’s example in abolishing the death penalty.
Donors remained supportive of the government, citing economic development, but privately voiced concerns about human rights violations.Top of page
Freedom of expression remained severely restricted despite pending legislative changes. A growing number of people were convicted for perceived threats to national security, such as criticizing government policies.
Commitments to revise the “genocide ideology” law ran counter to the government’s continued misuse of broad and ill-defined laws on “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism”, more commonly known as “divisionism”. The laws prohibit hate speech, but also criminalize criticism of the government. At the end of the year the government had not discussed the promised revisions to the “genocide ideology” law, first announced in April 2010.
A raft of legislation to enhance media freedom was before parliament at the end of the year. Human rights organizations hoped that proposed revisions to the media law, the Media High Council law and a new access to information bill would reduce state control of the media. Defamation was set to remain a criminal offence; the law against defamation had been used in previous years to silence journalists and close media outlets.
Private media outlets, shut down in 2010, remained closed and their editors and other independent journalists remained exiled.
Human rights defenders continued to be intimidated and harassed by officials, including through detention, threats, administrative obstacles and allegations of financial misconduct.
Opposition politicians were convicted for attempting to plan or participate in “unauthorized” demonstrations. Some lower-ranking opposition party members were detained. Rwandan authorities threatened and intimidated opposition politicians in neighbouring countries, as well as in South Africa and some countries in Europe.
Charles Ntakiruntinka, a former government minister, continued to serve a 10-year prison sentence in Kigali Central Prison. After an unfair trial, he was convicted of inciting civil disobedience and association with criminal elements.Top of page
As part of continued attempts to secure transfers and extraditions of people suspected of genocide, the government amended legislation to ensure that those convicted would not be sentenced to “life imprisonment with special provisions”. This sentence could constitute prolonged solitary confinement for those whose family members were unwilling or unable to visit. Such prisoners would only have the right to communicate with a lawyer in the presence of a prison guard, violating defence rights during appeal hearings. The sentence was not applied due to a lack of individual cells.
Despite requests, no independent NGO was granted access to monitor prison conditions or interview detainees in private.
Gacaca trials of genocide cases – which did not meet international fair trial standards – were set to close in late 2011 following several delays. At the end of the year, some applications for review remained pending. A new law determining how further allegations of involvement in the 1994 genocide would be investigated and prosecuted before ordinary courts was yet to be brought to parliament.Top of page
Scores of young men arrested in 2010 and 2011 were unlawfully held in military detention facilities, including Camp Kami, and in illegal detention facilities including Chez Gacinya and Gikondo, often for several months. They were denied access to lawyers, medical care and the opportunity to challenge their cases before a court. In some cases, family members officially requested information from the police which was not forthcoming. Some detainees were transferred to ordinary prisons after being charged with threatening national security. Others were released on condition that they remained silent.
The authorities failed to shed light on the enforced disappearance of Robert Ndengeye Urayeneza. Last seen in March 2010, he was believed to be in military custody.Top of page
Numerous judgements were handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) during the year, although nine indictees remained at large. The ICTR was due to close in 2012.
In December, the ICTR Appeals Chamber upheld the decision to transfer the case of Jean Uwinkindi to Rwanda. The ruling cited Rwanda’s expressed intention to introduce legislation that would allow foreign judges to sit on transferred cases. It would be the first genocide case to be transferred or extradited to Rwanda.
Judicial proceedings against genocide suspects took place in Finland, Germany and Spain. The extradition requested by France and Spain of Kayumba Nyamwasa, a Rwandese national allegedly responsible for crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda, was still pending in South Africa, where he was granted asylum in 2010. Rwanda’s request for extradition was turned down by the South African authorities.
There were no investigations or prosecutions for allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Army in 1994 in Rwanda, and gross human rights violations by Rwandan armed forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as documented in the UN mapping report.Top of page
A cessation clause for Rwandan refugees was invoked on 31 December by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, meaning that refugees would lose their status. By the end of the year, Rwandan refugees in various countries had no access to exemption interviews to demonstrate individual grounds for continued fear of persecution. The clause was due to take effect on 1 July 2012.Top of page