Senate tasks govt to decongest prisons

Inmates at Nyarugenge Prison. Senators have called for a speedy decongestion of the country’s correctional centres. File.

The Senate Thursday resolved to push the government to decongest correctional centres and Rwanda Investigation Bureaus (RIB) detention facilities in line with the government’s plan to promote human rights within the country.

While presenting the analysis of the 2017-18 annual report of the National Human Rights Commission, the Chairperson of the senatorial Standing Committee on Social Affairs and Human Rights, Gallican Niyongana, said that over the years, there has been significant progress in the government’s quest to deliver on human rights though some gaps still exist.

“While there has been tremendous improvement on all levels, there are some issues that we feel should be paid more attention to. One of them is overcrowding in correctional facilities and RIB which we think should be fixed permanently,” he said.

However, Senator Marie Claire Mukasine had reservations about the use of the word ‘permanently’, saying that fixing such issues is a work in progress.

“When you look at some crimes and their respective punishments, especially those concerning sexual violence, corruption and drugs for instance, these are heavy crimes that attract heavy sentences and never expire. I had an issue with the “permanently” because realistically, it is a continuous journey and the crimes are increasing,” she said.

The issue regarding overcrowding was also recently addressed by the Minister of Justice; Johnston Busingye who told members of parliament that a long term plan to decongest its correctional facilities by focusing more on rehabilitation.

“We don’t run prisons, we run correctional facilities. As part of our plan to fight the congestion issue, we are working on reducing the time people spend in jail. The law stipulates that depending on the crime and sentence, someone can be released either after they serve half their sentence or three quarters of it,” he said.

Other issues

Beside congestion, Senator Niyongana also touched on the issue of a right to employment pointing out there are some people especially in the informal sector who continue to break the laws that guide their professions.

“In the informal sector, you will find issues like firing employees with no regard to the labor law and failure to remit their social security funds,” he said.

Niyongana also discussed the issue of transit centers saying that some effort was being put in capacity building.

“There are issues of people who are held in the transit unnecessarily and others who are held for long periods of time. We were told that during the justice week, the issue was discussed and it was agreed that the employees of these centers would get more training,” he said.