Annual Report: Rwanda 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Rwanda 2010

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Head of state Paul Kagame
Head of government Bernard Makuza
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 10 million
Life expectancy 49.7 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 167/143 per 1,000
Adult literacy 64.9 per cent

The authorities tightly controlled political space in advance of the 2010 presidential elections and freedom of expression was unduly restricted by broad laws on genocide ideology. Human rights defenders continued to exercise self-censorship to avoid confrontations with the authorities. Conventional courts still fell short of fair trial standards despite continued improvements to Rwanda's justice system. Rwanda sought to address some failings within its criminal justice system which were cited by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) when it refused to transfer cases in 2008. No country extradited genocide suspects to Rwanda.

Background

International donors, pleased with economic developments and Rwanda's rapprochement with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), rarely raised human rights violations publicly.

Rwanda's relations with the DRC improved following a peace deal early in the year to end the rebellion by the Rwandan-backed National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). In January, Rwanda joined Congolese government forces in a joint military offensive against the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) in North-Kivu province. Military operations against the FDLR were strongly criticized from a human rights perspective (see DRC entry). The Netherlands and Sweden did not reinstate direct budgetary assistance which they had suspended in December 2008 following the release of a UN report demonstrating Rwandan support for the CNDP.

Rwanda joined the Commonwealth of Nations and restored diplomatic relations with France in November.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression remained severely restricted.

Journalists

In August, the government introduced a media law which placed undue restrictions on press freedom, including a requirement that Rwandan journalists possess a degree or certificate in journalism as a precondition to practising. Some journalists who were critical of the government continued to be excluded from government press conferences.

  • On 25 April, the BBC Kinyarwanda service was suspended by the Rwandan government after it aired a trailer for a show discussing forgiveness after the 1994 genocide. The government argued, without basis, that the broadcast constituted genocide denial, which is a criminal offence in Rwanda. The advertisement included Faustin Twagiramungu, a former presidential candidate, opposing attempts to have all Hutus apologize for the genocide as not all had participated in it. The broadcast also contained an excerpt from a man of mixed ethnicity reflecting on why the government had not allowed relatives of those killed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to grieve. The BBC service was reinstated in June following negotiations between the BBC and the government.

Law on genocide ideology

The authorities used broadly defined genocide ideology laws to silence dissent, including criticisms of the ruling RPF party and demands for justice for RPF war crimes. As of August 2009, there were reportedly 912 people in prison (356 awaiting trial; 556 convicted and sentenced) on genocide ideology charges. Some cases resulted in acquittals, often following a period of prolonged pre-trial detention.