Human Rights Commission given more responsibilities


Minister for Justice Johnston Busingye speaks during the post cabinet meeting press briefing yesterday. / Timothy Kisambira

The National Human Rights Commission has been given more responsibilities and power to access any place where torture against a person is assumed, under the draft law approved by cabinet on Friday. Such suspected places include prisons, psychiatric hospitals, courts, among others.

Speaking during a post cabinet press conference yesterday, Johnston Busingye, the Minister for Justice and Attorney General said the decision by the cabinet means that the Commission has particular rights, responsibilities and power to prevent, fight torture, protect, defend strive for people’s rights and ensuring that anyone involved gets punished.

Athough the National Human Rights Commission is responsible for protecting, striving for and sensitization about human rights in general, Busingye observed that there had been discussions at international level that torture should be given particular attention, and a special mechanism to deal with it should be established.

Such proposal, he said, stems from the convention against torture which Rwanda signed.

According to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, adopted by the United Nations’ General Assembly resolution, “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed.

The convention provides for particular ways of torture prevention, that countries should put in place and monitor based on the laws that they enacted themselves, according to the Minister.

A homegrown solution mechanism

“We are harmonising the international instruments that we signed, and our national legislation, so that as a country, we do not wait for another party to carry out duties which we should be doing,” Busingye pointed out that sometimes reports from external entities are meant for external audiences and motivated by their interests more than human rights concerns.

He said that the Commission should verify claims, and act promptly.

“Our Commission, with its many years of experience  in human rights work should be at a level where Rwandans listen to the information from external entities and say, ok, but what does our Human Rights Commission say about it? That is really what we want.”

The Chairperson and Spokesperson of Rwanda Civil Society Platform (RCSP), Jean Léonard Sekanyange told Sunday Times that having some torture cases or death cases reported by international entities represent weakness of local entities, or false reports based on individuals’ interest.

He said that the Human Rights Commission should not work alone, rather with the civil society which alongside the community to understand their concerns, so as to give information on probable torture incidences for prevention purposes.

In line with putting people off committing torture, Sekanyange said that the culprit should be punished accordingly, and communication should be made for the general public to know such bad acts and sanctions that comes with them.