The Minister of Justice and Attorney General Johnston Busingye says Rwanda does not have unknown detention centres where people are jailed and tortured, describing the allegations as politically motivated to stain the image of the government.
Minister Busingye reiterated Rwanda’s position on Monday while presenting the country’s third report to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group at the United Nations Human Rights Council during which he presented Rwanda’s achievements and milestones on the 50 recommendations brought forward in 2015.
The Attorney General said that Rwanda remains committed to the UPR process as it represents a unique mechanism that treats all UN member states on an equal basis and, more importantly, seeks, among other things, to improve the human rights situation on the ground.
Busingye responded to different allegations level against the Government of Rwanda, including alleged arbitrary detentions, disappearances and torture, pointing out that the country doesn’t run any ungazetted detention centres where people are kept and tortured.
“Madam President, to say a word on allegations that arrests and detention of people in unofficial military detention centres, where allegedly, the detainees are tortured, happen in Rwanda,”
“The GoR wishes to note that Rwanda maintains separate prison facilities for civilian and military convicts. All fourteen of them are gazetted, operate in accordance with law, are accessible and conform to by international minimum standards on the treatment of persons deprived of liberty,”
“There are no unofficial detention centres in Rwanda and as such the GoR rejects such unfounded allegations which, we believe, are motivated by the political interest and agenda of those who advance them,” Minister Busingye said during the UPR exercise.
Minister Busingye also addressed concerns on detention facilities, pointing out that the government acknowledges that the prison population remains relatively high because law enforcement organisations like Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) are effectively doing their job.
“This is a result of efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system from the RIB through the Criminal Courts. As a result, Rwanda continues to be relatively crime free, secure and safe 24 hours,”
“That said efforts to expand options for non-custodial sentences and diversion from the typical criminal justice channel are being studied for implementation as soon as possible,” Busingye said.
He said that several short-term measures to depopulate prisons including building a new prison (Nyarugenge prison), renovations of three prisons, were implemented. Between 2015 and 2019, 9 new detention police stations were built while 64 were renovated.
Busingye said that in 2018, the penalty of community service was adopted as an alternative sentence and the use of electronic bracelets to expand bail options for suspects were introduced. At least 9,442 inmates were released on parole and 110 granted Presidential Pardon since 2015, Busingye said.
He said places of deprivation of liberty are regularly inspected for compliance with minimum standards. The Minister informed the session that while the government successfully implemented its plan to separate female inmates from male inmates, and minors from adults in prisons, efforts are still underway to separate minors from adults in police custody.
“In this regard, the government has embarked on the project to progressively rehabilitate the existing police stations while building new ones where needed. Renovated and new facilities have separate rooms for minors,” he said.
Regarding freedom of opinion and expression, Busingye told the UPR session that Rwanda has worked on ensuring that the freedoms which are enshrined in the constitution are advanced and respected.
“Consistent action to more expand media space and freedom of expression characterised the last 5 years. As a result, the number of radio stations are now 34 up from 23 in 2011 while the number of television stations increased from 1 in 2011 to 12 in 2016 and 19 in 2019,”
“Registered print and online media houses increased from 73 in 2016 to 161 in 2020. As mentioned earlier, the new law determining offences and penalties in general repealed all press offences,” Busingye said.
He told the gathering that the satisfaction of citizens with access to information, as measured by the Rwanda Governance Board, has grown from 52% in 2012 to 94% in 2019.
Busingye was accompanied in a virtual session by the Minister of Local Government, Prof. Anastase Shyaka and the CEO of Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), Dr. Usta Kayitesi.