Busingye made the revelation yesterday as he presented Rwanda’s 3rd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to the Human Rights Council.
The previous review was presented in November 2015 where Rwanda accepted to implement 50 human rights recommendations.
During the virtual review held yesterday, Rwanda was represented by the Minister of Justice and State Attorney General, Johnston Busingye; Prof Anastase Shyaka, Minister of Local Government and Dr. Usta KAITESI, Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Governance Board; the three of them attending remotely from Kigali.
Other Rwanda delegates include Marie Chantal Rwakazina, Ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to Switzerland and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Office at Geneva, and Ms. Providence Umurungi, Head of International Justice and Judicial Cooperation Department at the Ministry of Justice, attending from Geneva.
Minister Busingye explained that Rwanda respected human rights principles in terms of freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of press; and freedom of association and of peaceful assembly.
He stated that the country has been efficiently implementing recommendations received in 2015.
No unofficial detention centers
Concerning allegations by human rights activists that Rwanda detains people in unofficial military detention centers where they are tortured, Minister Busingye said they are unfounded because Rwanda’s prisons are known and conform to international standards.
“The Government of Rwanda 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,” he said.
“There are no unofficial detention centers in Rwanda and as such the Government of Rwanda rejects such unfounded allegations which, we believe, are motivated by the political interest and agenda of those who advance them,” added Busingye.
Concerning detention conditions, Busingye explained that the prison population remains relatively high as a result of efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system from Rwanda Investigation Bureau through Criminal Courts.
He said that 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 while short term measures to depopulate prisons including building a new prison (Nyarugenge prison)and renovations of three (3) prisons were implemented.
Between 2015 and 2019, nine new detention police stations were built while 64 were renovated. 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.
“Places of deprivation of liberty are regularly inspected for compliance with minimum standards. Further, the Government of Rwanda wishes to note that while it 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,” said Busingye.
In this regard, the government has embarked on the project to progressively rehabilitate the existing police stations while building new ones where needed.
Some organizations have been accusing Rwanda of harassing opposition figures and journalists.
Minister Busingye has explained that it is untrue because Rwanda’s judiciary is independent and makes fair judgment.
“There are no prosecutions that target persons simply because they are politicians or journalists or human rights defenders, and the so-called political trials do not exist, nor are trials against journalists or human rights defenders just for being journalists or human rights defenders,” he said.
“A person can only be prosecuted based on his/her act which is prohibited and punishable by law. One’s freedom to express his/her opinion is guaranteed by the law and as such is protected and respected. That said Government is always open to frankly engage even on perceptions so that whatever lies at the base of a perception is addressed as appropriate,” added Busingye.
Among others, Busingye presented Rwanda’s achievements in promoting freedom of press and expression.
“Consistent action to more expand media space and freedom of expression characterized 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,” he said.
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 which Busingye attribute to the aforementioned efforts.