Rwanda has once again declined to officially join the International Criminal Court, as it continues to press other African countries on the creation of a continental body to prosecute terrorism, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
But the government agreed to protect journalists from harassment and attacks and to ensure that all allegations of violence and intimidation of journalists are promptly investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.
A Rwandan delegation, led by Minister of Justice and Attorney General Johnston Busingye appeared before the Geneva-based watchdog, the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and stated that Rwanda did not “see added value” in joining the Rome statute. Instead, the delegation proposed the establishment of a continental judiciary – an idea that many African leaders have promoted.
In its report of the second Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda, the United Nations Human Rights Council had asked Rwanda to consider ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but this consideration lies among 26 other recommendations that were rejected by the government.
The UPR, which was set up in 2008, examines each UN member’s human-rights record. Countries are reviewed every four and a half years. Rwanda was reviewed for the first time in January 2011.
Previously, Justice Busingye argued that Rwanda’s human rights record was reviewed by UN human Rights Committee Thursday, where Rwanda accepted to implement 50 recommendations and rejected 26.
“Seven recommendations did not enjoy the support of Rwanda as they are not compatible with our domestic law and constitution,” he said.
Key recommendations that Rwanda supported include acceding to the International Convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearance, taking steps to ratify the International Labour Organisation Domestic Workers Convention, as well as easing the registration for national and international NGOs.
Key recommendations not supported by Rwanda include investigating reports that Burundian refugees were recruited from camps in Rwanda into armed groups.
When asked not to use the genocide ideology law to impede the activities of opposition parties, opposition and civil society, Rwanda said that national laws already protected activities of opposition parties.
“Rwanda accepts only those recommendations for which implementation is possible within the next four years and those where we support both the spirit and principle behind the recommendation,” Mr Busingye said.
“Those that do not enjoy the support of Rwanda are generally those where we are not able to commit to implementation at this stage, whether we agree with the principles behind the recommendation, or where we have recently reviewed our position on the issue in question; or where we reject the assertions being made.”
Human Rights Watch welcomed Rwanda’s stance on the recommendations, particularly its approval to eliminate legal provisions that undermine freedom of expression and pledge to ensure freedom of opinion and expression.
The body, however, noted that additional measures to protect journalists were still needed in Rwanda, and also urged government to reinstate BBC Kinyarwanda services, after the programme was suspended indefinitely over a controversial BBC television documentary broadcast in October 2014.
The body also criticised Rwanda’s recent move to withdraw its declaration allowing individuals and non-governmental organisations direct access to the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Criminal Paul Kagame