Rwanda: Govt Goes Digital on Rights Review

The Ministry of Justice is working on developing an information technology system that will allow civil society to easily provide feedback in regard to the implementation process of the human rights recommendations assigned to Rwanda during the latest version of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process that involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. The UPR is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council which is based on equal treatment for all countries.

The countries are reviewed every four or five years.

In January this year, Rwanda was reviewed for the third time, and it received 284 recommendations from the council. Of these, the government accepted to implement 160 and took note of 75.

The ministry of justice is currently undertaking the preparatory steps for the implementation of the recommendations.

Here, one of the things that the ministry is currently working on is developing an I.T system that will enable civil society organisations to regularly share information with the government concerning how the process is going, the challenges being faced, and so on.

"We have been doing this (reporting) in a bit traditional way. But now, we want to focus now on I.T based reporting," William Ndengeyinka, Senior State Attorney in Charge of International Justice and Judicial Cooperation told The New Times.

In the past, the Ministry of Justice used to do a mid-term review, where its officials would organise retreats with civil society institutions after two years, hear from them and include the information in a mid-term report.

However, this system, according to Ndengeyinka had some challenges, for example, it involved the risk of forgetting some information by the civil society.

"We have started developing the I.T system, and once it is operational, we think it will assist us to do the regular monitoring," he said.

"It will allow the individuals from various institutions who are part of this process to do regular entry of information into the system. It will assist us that at the end of the implementation period we have like less work to do because we have more information already recorded," he added.

In an interview with this newspaper, Fred Musiime, the Executive director of Citizens Rights and Development (CRD), a civil society organisation lauded the idea of coming up with such a system, saying it is going to be a tremendous step taken, and it will assist more civil society organisations to participate in the process.

"It will ease the process of monitoring and reporting done by civil society organisations on issues of human rights. As we feed in information, the ministry of justice will also be able to know what is taking place at the grassroots level," he said.

He also emphasized the importance of civil society participation in the UPR process.

"Civil society organisations need to really understand the UPR mechanism, actively participate in it, and effectively collaborate with government to ensure effective implementation of these recommendations in the favour of citizens," he said.

Last month, the Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye appealed for cooperation from local civil society players in the implementation of the Universal Peer Review (UPR) recommendations calling its participation 'not one of the many but the only one'.

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