Rwanda: UN to Review Rwanda's Rights Status in January

19 October 2020

Rwanda will in January appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council where its performance in observing human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights will be assessed.

Briefing the media on Monday, the Head of the Ministry of Justice's International Justice and Judicial Cooperation Department, Providence Umurungi explained that this is the third time Rwanda will participate in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), having first made the trip in 2011 and later in 2015.

Under this mechanism, the human rights situation of all 193 UN Member States is reviewed every four or five years.

The reviews are conducted by the UPR Working Group which consists of the 47 members of the Council, however, any UN Member State can take part in the discussion with the reviewed States. Each State review is assisted by groups of three States who serve as rapporteurs.

The result of each review is reflected in the Final Report of the Working Group, which lists the recommendations the State under Review (SuR) will have to implement before the next review.

She explained that in January, Rwanda will be shedding light on 50 recommendations that were made by the commission in 2015.

"We have spent about five years implementing the 50 recommendations and we will be sending our progress report to Geneva this week. After that, we will be invited to present our report in January. Initially it was scheduled for November but due to Covid-19, it was postponed," she said.

Shedding some light on some of the recommendations, Umurungi said that the commission had requested that defamation is decriminalised, something that was successfully implemented in the new penal code.

"In the last five years, we have delivered on all the recommendations. In fact, some of them were already in place, we only improved them so that they can deliver more and better," she said.

Rejected recommendations

In 2015, Rwanda was given 83 recommendations but seven were rejected on grounds of incompatibility with domestic laws and the Constitution.

Among the recommendations rejected was becoming a signatory of the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court.

At the time, the Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye said that another 26 recommendations would enjoy the support of Rwanda in principle but could not be accepted for implementation at the time because it was difficult to guarantee that the requirements necessary for their implementation would be readily available within the reporting period.

He explained that recommendations that enjoy the support of Rwanda in full are those where we support both the spirit and principle behind the recommendation and are able to implement it in practice.

"Of the 83 recommendations received, 50 have been accepted and the government will endeavour to ensure their implementation before our next review,"

Unlike other thematic treaties which only bind countries that ratify them, the UPR affects all UN member States since it was adopted through a General Assembly resolution.

It is also a sort of peer review mechanism (countries reviewing each other) unlike other treaties that are exclusively handled by committees of experts.

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