Respect for human rights remains positive, says rights commission

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The chairperson of the National Commission for Human Rights, Madeleine Nirere, briefs Parliament on the state of human rights in Rwanda for the 2013-2014 period yesterday as the Deputy Speaker, Abbas Mukama, looks on. (T Kisambira)

Respect for human rights in Rwanda remains positive and the country has registered notable improvement in governance, legal frameworks, access to justice, economic empowerment and protection of vulnerable members of society, the country’s rights commission has said.

The chairperson of the National Commission for Human Rights, Madeleine Nirere, revealed the country’s rights situation, yesterday, while presenting the agency’s report for the period 2014-2015 to a joint session of Parliament.

“The general picture of what is happening in Rwanda shows that there have been greater protection and promotion of human rights with regard to the country’s policies, laws and instructions. There have been improvements in the promotion of human rights, especially in the areas of good governance, the right to life, the freedom of the media and access to information, the right to human security, access to justice, economic empowerment, social justice, labour rights, as well as the rights of vulnerable members of society,” Nirere said.

She lauded Rwanda’s achievements in the different sectors.

Nirere highlighted policies of universal access to basic education, improvements in the health sector, the economic empowerment of women through funds like the Business Development Fund (BDF), civil rights such as the freedom of worship, as well as respect of rights for vulnerable members of society such as special education for children living with disabilities in Rwanda.

“We would like to appreciate that there has been a big step in improving people’s rights and living conditions. It is also clear that the Commission’s recommendations over the years have been implemented by different institutions. One example is where 80 per cent of our recommendations for improving conditions in prisons have been implemented,” she said.

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Local and international journalists cover the 20th Genocide Commemoration at the Amahoro Stadium last year. Media freedom and access to information in the country have improved greatly. (Timothy Kisambira)

The rights commission said that among the areas that need further improvement were the justice sector where access to justice has to be further improved, the fight against gender-based violence where defilement remains a problem, and protection of vulnerable children who end up on streets.

“What we are asking Rwandans to understand is that respect for human rights is everyone’s obligation,” the chairperson of the commission said.

Among the commission’s activities for the current fiscal year 2015-2016 include training of local officials on human rights issues, raising awareness about human rights through radio shows, and investigating the human rights situation among elderly Rwandans, factory workers, and immigrants.

The commission will also continue to receive petitions on human rights violations from all Rwandans, supervise the respect of human rights in prisons and transit centres, and further train the commission’s staff and commissioners about human rights issues.

Members of Parliament unanimously adopted the commission’s report, which means that its analysis by the legislators will proceed at the parliamentary committee levels in both the Lower Chamber and the Senate.