Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

Rwanda: MPs Question Human Right Commissioners Over Prisoners' Rights

The chamber of deputies' committee on unity, human rights and fight against Genocide hosted commissioners from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to explain issues regarding life-related rights status in the country.

The main issues on the agenda yesterday concerned imprisoned children who lack legal assistance, prisoners sentenced to life whose families don't have rights to their pensions and employers who don't pay the prisoner's dues to the social security board.

"In our field visits, we have come across cases where lawyers for imprisoned youth meet them for the first time in courts," observed Theobald Mpiranya, member of the parliamentary committee, adding that even those who try to help tend to assist children from accessible areas, and mostly ignore the countryside.

Deogratias Kayumba, the vice-president of the National Human Rights Commission, explained that they are trying to find a solution with the bar association and that a draft law has been submitted specifying legal assistants' activities.

On the issue of employees whose social security contribution is not paid, Laurent Nkongoli, a commissioner in the NHRC, said that at first the problem was mainly observed in church-owned institutions, where he cited Byumba and Kabgayi dioceses of the Roman catholic church, and some seventh day Adventists-owned institutions as examples.

Nkongoli therefore requested assistance from the ministry of public service and. "We want them to do a public inquiry on this issue," he said.

Concerning the pensions of prisoners sentenced to life, Nkongoli explained that their commission found the social security board had no legal motive of denying it to their families. Nkongori said the problem is observed in Gikongoro, Butare (Karubanda) and Rubavu prisons.

However, commissioner Deogratias Kayumba pointed out that that number of prisoners concerned is not very big. "But even if it's one individual, his rights must be respected. He is the one who committed the crime, his family didn't play any part, and they shouldn't bear the consequences," he said.

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