No one has the right to threaten you

Article 13 of the Constitution of Rwanda says, “A human being is sacred and inviolable.” One of the ways in which a person can be violated is through issuing a threat. By definition, a threat is the act of creating the fear of harm or loss.

The Penal Code of Rwanda provides categories of threats and their respective punishments.

Article 170 paragraph one of the Penal Code of Rwanda outlaws verbal threats and says, “If the threat accompanied by an order or condition is verbal, the offender shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of at least two (2) months but less than six (6) months and a fine of five hundred thousand (500,000) to one million (1,000,000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties.”

Even if a person who makes a verbal threat does provide an order or condition, according to Article 170 paragraph two, they are still liable to a term of imprisonment not less than two months and a fine not less than one hundred thousand Rwandan francs.

Orders or conditions are the instructions that usually follow threats. For example, “I will kill you if you don’t give me Rwf200,000 within two hours.” is a condition.

Another way to threaten someone is by using gestures, signs, images or a symbol. This is according to Article 171 of the Penal Code. For this kind of threat, the offender is liable to “a term of imprisonment of six (6) months to two (2) years and a fine of five hundred thousand (500,000) to two million (2,000,000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties.”

An example of a threatening gesture is sliding the forefinger across one’s throat to imply murder.

Written threats are also unlawful as par Article 172 of the Penal Code of Rwanda. The punishment for a person who makes a written threat about endangering someone’s life or depriving them of property and puts a condition or order is “a term of imprisonment of one (1) year to three (3) years and a fine of one million (1,000,000) to three million (3,000,000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties.”

If the written threat does not have an order or condition, the penalty is a term of imprisonment of six (6) months to one (1) year and a fine of five hundred thousand (500,000) to one million (1, 000,000) Rwandan francs or one of these penalties.   

Blackmail is another type of threat which is prohibited by law. Article 173 defines blackmail as “the threat of reporting and attributing to someone facts that could damage their honour or reputation as a means to obtain from them signature, commitment, waiver of obligations, disclosure of secret, remittance of funds, securities or any property whatsoever.”

The minimum penalty for blackmail, according to Article 174 paragraph one of the Penal Code, is a term of imprisonment of six months and a fine of one hundred thousand Rwandan francs.

If a person who has committed blackmail goes ahead with the threats, the minimum punishment increases to a term of imprisonment of one year and/or a fine of five hundred thousand Rwandan francs.