Although the law covers some acts that can constitute hate speech, it requires no link to any genocidal act and is extremely vague. For example, it penalizes people with a 10- to 25-year prison term for "dehumanizing" a group of people by "laughing at one's misfortune" or "stirring up ill feelings". It penalizes young children with sentences of up to 12 months at a rehabilitation centre, and those aged 12 to 18 with prison sentences of between five and twelve and a half years.
Human rights defenders
Human rights defenders continued to self-censor their work to avoid confrontations with the authorities. There were reports that some NGOs continued to be infiltrated by members of the ruling RPF party.
Freedom of association
The government actively impeded the registration of nascent opposition political parties. The Social Party Imberakuri was registered in August after several delays, but the Green Party still awaited its registration in late 2009 and had difficulty securing police clearance for meetings. Prisoners of conscience Charles Ntakirutinka, a former government minister, remained in Kigali Central Prison, serving a 10-year sentence due to end in 2012. He was convicted, in an unfair trial, of inciting civil disobedience and associating with criminal elements. His co-accused, former President Pasteur Bizimungu, was released by presidential pardon in 2007. Justice system Rwanda sought to address some of the failings within its criminal justice system, which were impugned by the ICTR when it refused to transfer cases to Rwanda in 2008. In May, Rwanda amended the 2007 transfer law, allowing witnesses residing abroad to testify by video link, deposition or before a judge sitting in a foreign jurisdiction. The amendment also provided for legal aid to indigent defendants transferred or extradited.
A special witness protection service for such cases was housed within the Supreme Court to respond to concerns that some defence witnesses would be averse to approaching the Witness and Victim Support Unit within the Prosecutor's Office.
A draft law clarifying the nature of "special provisions" attached to life sentences was pending approval at year's end. Abolition of the death penalty in 2007 led to the introduction of two types of life sentence: life imprisonment and life imprisonment with special provisions, which would be served in isolation. The draft law requires prisoners to be kept in individual cells for 20 years, raising concerns that some prisoners would be subjected to prolonged solitary confinement. Rwanda does not have the capacity to keep prisoners in individual cells. The draft law would allow prisoners to exercise and receive visits only from members of their immediate family. It violates the right to health in medical emergencies, as a convicted prisoner could not access medical treatment outside prison without the approval of three prison doctors.
As of October, there were 62,821 people in prison.
Prison overcrowding continued to be a problem, despite a significant reduction in the prison population due to community service and annual prisoner releases.
Gacaca trials, whose procedures fail to meet international fair trial standards, were expedited with the objective of completing all outstanding cases by December. The 31 July deadline for new accusations before gacaca was extended in some areas. Some gacaca trials were reportedly marred by false accusations, corruption, and difficulties in calling defence witnesses. In December, with several appeals and revisions pending, the deadline to end gacaca was extended to the end of February 2010. After the closure of gacaca, new accusations were to be presented before conventional courts.
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
The ICTR's mandate to finish all first-instance trials was extended to end of June 2010, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1901. The apprehension of two suspects indicted by the ICTR, Grégoire Ndahimana and Idelphonse Nizeyimana, and their transfer to Arusha from the DRC and Uganda respectively, marked growing regional co-operation between countries to support justice for the genocide.