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UN Human Rights Council adopts outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Rwanda

7 June 2011 – United Nations Human Rights Council.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda

Summary

Tharcisse Karugarma, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, was grateful to the Council for the opportunity to make further clarification on a few issues that remained pending when the report was formerly presented to the Council’s Working Group. Of 73 recommendations made under the Universal Periodic Review, 3 were rejected by Rwanda because they were premised on wrong grounds. Most of the recommendations were accepted by Rwanda and were being implemented or were in the pipeline for implementation. The Rwanda Government benefited from the recommendations and would cooperate with the Human Rights Council in its quest to protect and promote human rights in Rwanda.

In the discussion on Rwanda, speakers commended Rwanda on implementing many of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review and thanked Rwanda for the clarification provided regarding the recommendations. Speakers appreciated the progress Rwanda had made in achieving its Millennium Development Goals and in working towards reconciliation after the genocide in 1994. Several speakers stated that Rwanda should reform the “genocide ideology laws” and raised concern about the Batwa community in Rwanda.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda were Algeria, Cuba, Morocco, Republic of Moldova, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda. Also taking the floor were Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Society for Threatened Peoples, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Recontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, Action international pour la paix et le développment dans la région des Grands Lacs, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

General Debate

THARCISSE KARUGARAMA, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, said Rwanda was grateful to the Council for the opportunity to make further clarification on a few issues that remained pending when the report was formerly presented to the Council’s Working Group. Rwanda accepted most of the recommendations made by the Working Group, but observed that many were made several times and thus were merged and harmonized. That was why, according to Rwanda, the total number of distinct recommendations were 73, although the Working Group’s report referred to 81 recommendations. Of all the recommendations that were made, Rwanda rejected only three because they were based on totally wrong or false premises.

Recommendation number 81.1 asked Rwanda to assure that children under 18 were not recruited into any armed group and that child recruitment into the local defense forces or any armed group was prohibited. The Minister said there were no armed groups in Rwanda, the professional army was made up of adult men and women and the Local Defense Force had undergone tremendous reforms to bring it into harmony with national objectives. Recommendation number 81.2 covered Rwanda’s work to ensure that concrete measures were taken in addressing the problem of human trafficking. Rwanda rejected this recommendation because Rwanda was not known as a place where trafficking took place. Rwanda had signed all international conventions against human trafficking and had put in place a policy of community policing.

Recommendation number 81.3 about measures to improve access of minority groups and indigenous peoples to basic social services was also rejected. While there were marginalized and vulnerable groups in Rwanda, there were no indigenous people in Rwanda. Rwanda also rejected recommendation number 80.4, that it should investigate cases of arbitrary arrests and detentions; recommendation number 80.15, that Rwanda should adopt concrete measures to avoid discrimination and protect the right of people of the Batwa Community; and recommendation number 80.16, that Rwanda should ensure religious minorities were able to freely practice their respective religions.

Mr. Karugarama stated that the Rwandan Government had benefited from the recommendations and would in particular cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council in its quest to protect and promote human rights in Rwanda. Most of the recommendations were accepted by Rwanda and were being implemented or were in the pipeline for implementation. This was except for the three that were rejected outright on 24 January 2011 and a further three that had now been rejected out of the 16 that needed further consultations. There was no doubt that Rwanda had made tremendous progress in its reform portfolio and the Universal Periodic Review process would help Rwanda to identify existing gaps that still needed Rwanda’s attention.

MOHAMED SALIM SAMAR (Algeria) thanked the Minister from Rwanda for the useful information he provided on Rwanda. Rwanda’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process had been shown throughout the process and they had accepted many of the recommendations put before them, including three from Algeria. Rwanda had made significant progress toward the respect for human rights, economic growth and national reconciliation that deserved recognition and Algeria wished them every success in the implementation of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review.

YUMIRKA FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said Cuba welcomed the spirit of great responsibility shown by Rwanda during the Universal Periodic Review process and thanked Rwanda for the additional information provided at the appropriate moment. Cuba fully agreed with the conclusions of the report that Rwanda had made significant progress in the promotion and protection of human rights. Despite the negative impacts and consequences of the 1994 genocide and the challenges, the country had made huge progress. Rwanda intended to achieve a number of Millennium Development Goals even before 2015, including those relating to education, health and the environment. Cuba commended Rwanda for accepting a great majority of recommendations, particularly on socio-economic development and improvement of access to health by women and children. Cuba wished Rwanda and its people great success.

MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said Morocco welcomed the delegation of Rwanda. After listening to the statement, the Council was assured that Rwanda would implement the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. Morocco believed that accepting so many recommendations was an act of good will which underscored Rwanda’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process. Morocco welcomed the steps forward made by Rwanda, especially in assuring the rights of the most vulnerable, particularly women. With regards to the 1994 genocide, Morocco paid tribute to the efforts at national reconciliation, which had set Rwanda on a path to stability and peace. Morocco welcomed the progress toward the Millennium Development Goals made by Rwanda, which would assure that it became a space of peace, economic development and stability.

VLADIMIR CHIRINCIUC (Republic of Moldova) thanked the delegation of Rwanda for its constructive participation in the Universal Periodic Review process and for the additional information they supplied today. The Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda had allowed the Moldovan delegation as well as other interested delegations to have a dialogue with the representatives of the Rwandan Government with respect to the challenges that their country faced in the field of human rights and to formulate appropriate recommendations. The Republic of Moldova noted that Rwanda accepted many of the recommendations put to it, including two recommendations from the Republic of Moldova on women’s rights and domestic violence and speeding up the process of legal reform. This showed Rwanda’s engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process. The Republic of Moldova was encouraged by the determination of the Rwandan Government to pursue efforts to strengthen democratic society and to accept many of the recommendations.

BEATRICE IKEKU-THOMAS (Nigeria) said Nigeria thanked the Government of Rwanda for its commitments and efforts in the promotion and protection of rights of its citizens. Nigeria was encouraged by the acceptance of most of the recommendations by Rwanda, which was reflective of the commitment of the Government to engage with the human rights system, regardless of numerous challenges experienced. Nigeria encouraged Rwanda not to relent in its efforts but to see to the implementation of the recommendations accepted towards the realisation of the human rights of its people and the attainment of its Millennium Development Goals. Nigeria then called on the international community to render all the needed assistance to Rwanda in this regard.

MOUHAMADOU LAMINE THIAW (Senegal) said Senegal appreciated the spirit of openness and dialogue with which the Rwandan delegation engaged in the process of the Universal Periodic Review. It was in that spirit that Rwanda had accepted many of the recommendations, especially as they related to women and children and improving the quality of life of its population. The implementation of the recommendations, along with efforts already accomplished in terms of socio-economic issues, would bring Rwanda closer to achieving its Millennium Development Goals. Senegal noted with interest the clarifications and complementary information provided by Rwanda, including the information related to the fight against all forms of discrimination. The delegation of Senegal wished the Government of Rwanda success in the process of the Universal Periodic Review and in achieving its development goals.

ROSSETTE NYIRINKINDI KATUNGYE (Uganda) congratulated the Government of Rwanda for participating in the Universal Periodic Review process, and Uganda was satisfied with the Rwandan delegation’s consideration of the recommendations made to them, particularly with the clarity given regarding their intended course of action in relation to each recommendation. The Ugandan delegation noted that almost 20 recommendations were already in the process of being implemented and that the Government of Rwanda had accepted almost all of the recommendations given to it. This was indicative of the State’s commitment to the full realization of universal human rights for its citizenry. Uganda also appreciated the reasons given for rejecting three of the recommendations. Uganda was pleased to learn that the Government of Rwanda supported the recommendation to provide basic education for all by 2015. In this regard, Uganda encouraged the Government to continue to give the implementation of this recommendation the priority it deserved.

PHILIPPE DAM, of Human Rights Watch, said that Human Rights Watch welcomed the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda, in particular its recommendations on freedom of expression, legal reforms and the independence of the judiciary. Human Rights Watch remained seriously concerned that freedom of expression was not respected in practice, as evidenced by recent cases of imprisonment and detention of journalists and leaders of opposition parties and lack of progress in the investigation into the murder of the Vice President of Democratic Green Party. Human Rights Watch welcomed the Government’s statement that the Government was reviewing the 2008 “genocide ideology law” and the 2009 media law and encouraged it to amend those laws as soon as possible. The Government should also ensure that the National Human Rights Commission refrained from interfering with the work of independent human rights organizations.

MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, welcomed Rwanda’s support of the vast majority of the recommendations made during the review and urged Rwanda to publicly announce a timeframe for revising the Genocide Ideology Law and the 2009 Media Law. Amnesty International was concerned that authorities continued to use the law to prosecute those engaging in government criticism, including journalists. Amnesty International urged Rwanda to uphold its commitment to undertake credible investigations into reports of harassment of journalists and to prosecute where the evidence warranted. Amnesty International regretted the rejection of the recommendation to investigate cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, and enforced disappearances.

CAROLINE DE BRUIN, of Society of Threatened People, was concerned by Rwanda’s non-ratification of ILO Convention 169 concerning indigenous and tribal communities, linked to the non-recognition of the existence of minorities and indigenous peoples, in particular the Batwa. The refusal of the State to recognize the Batwa as a minority or indigenous group left the Batwa community with no legal status or recognition and, being numerically small, they were prevented from actively engaging in political activities at the national level. The Society of Threatened People called on the State to reconsider its decision not to support the recommendation laid out in the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review to intensify measures to improve access by minority groups and indigenous people to basic social services such as health, education, employment and occupation.

HASSAN SHIRE SHEIKH, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in a joint statement, commended Rwanda for its acceptance of the majority of recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review and encouraged it to go through with their implementation. They also commended Rwanda for accepting the recommendation to ensure the safety of all human rights activists operating in the country and looked forward to seeing the implementation of this commitment. The revision of the Media Law currently under way was also a positive step, particularly if defamation was to be decriminalised. The non-governmental organizations noted with concern the continued use of this and other criminal charges as a means to obstruct freedom of expression in Rwanda. A visit by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression would be welcome. They hoped that the Rwandan Government would continue to seize the opportunity presented by the Universal Periodic Review to engage with civil society to fully implement its recommendations and to make use of their expertise and commitment.

BIRO DIAWARA, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, appreciated the efforts that Rwanda had made in terms of social fabric and the economy, as well as in implementing political and institutional reforms. These had ensured that Rwanda was now a world leader in the representation of women in parliament. Rwanda had abolished the death penalty and made a significant contribution to peace efforts worldwide. All social strata of Rwandan society should be involved in discussions of peace and reform, in order to provide a framework that was beneficial to social and economic dialogue, and contributed to national cohesion. Recontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme encouraged Rwanda to revise the 2009 law, put an end to restrictions imposed on human rights defenders and encouraged Rwanda to pursue cooperation with the Council.

MAURICE KATALA, of Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs (AIPD), said that Rwanda had been formally and repeatedly implicated by the United Nations, the Security Council, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. One of the perpetrators of these crimes, General Nkudabatware, benefited from the protection of President Paul Kagame. The mapping report of the United Nations recently echoed grave violations of human rights committed by Rwanda in the Congo and the Great Lakes region. The adoption of this Universal Periodic Review would be an affront to the memory of the 8 million Congolese victims and taint the credibility of the Human Rights Council. Action Internationale recommended that the Council reject the report of Rwanda from the Universal Periodic Review Working Group as it was a State that was de-stabilizing the Great Lakes region.

The Representative of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, noted the willingness of Rwanda to revise its media laws in accordance with international standards, ensure freedom of expression by protecting journalists and human rights defenders, revise genocide laws to meet international standards and reform the judiciary while ending the gacaca court system. Rwanda had a long way to go in achieving the effective implementation of these recommendations and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative questioned the reality of progress given allegations of brutality and miscarriage of justice in the treatment of dissidents. Looking ahead, the implementation must be the letter and sprit for the four years before the next Universal Periodic Review of this country. Rwanda’s implementation of human rights recommendations would not have their full effect until fundamental freedoms were guaranteed within the country and the Government should ensure that free speech and dissent were permitted, that civil society and human rights defenders had the freedom to associate and that space was available for free political participation.

THARCISSE KARUGARMA, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, said he appreciated the statements from partner States and the comments made by non-governmental organizations. With regards to the non-governmental organizations, Mr. Karugarma said he had invited Special Rapporteurs and non-governmental organizations to visit Rwanda. Comments from several non-governmental organizations were unfortunate, sometimes careless and did not reflect the reality on the ground, but Mr. Karugarma stated he would not dwell in a combative mood. Running a country in a way to help people was difficult, and legislative reforms could not satisfy all parties.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Rwanda.

June 17, 2011   1 Comment