Govt dismisses HRW report of 'unofficial detention centre'

Human Rights Watch’s report that government operates an unofficial detention centre in the country is baseless, the government has said.

Human Rights Watch’s report that government operates an unofficial detention centre in the country is baseless, the government has said. 

The US-based organisation said in a report, released yesterday, that Rwandan authorities are unlawfully holding some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens in an unofficial detention centre, naming Gikondo Transit Centre in Kigali as a ‘detention centre.’

But the government clarified that the transit centre has and continues to play an important role in the rehabilitation of those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

In a statement, the Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye, emphasised that all detention facilities in the country are properly legislated and run in accordance with UN standards and national laws that affirm those principles.

Busingye reiterated that the country’s recent history has involved a lot of trauma and family conflict.

“Victims of such situations, even if they end up in crime or delinquency, are better off when offered another chance in life. The Government of Rwanda stands by its policy of rehabilitation rather than incarceration. This policy has worked in the past and will continue to do so into the future,” Busingye said.

Rwanda’s choice

While HRW insists that Rwanda should charge drug addicts and other criminals with serious crimes that carry jail terms, the country has instead chosen to focus on rehabilitating and reintegrating them to offer the chance for a better life, reads part of the statement.

This policy of rehabilitation over incarceration is one example of how Rwanda has found unique solutions to the challenges the country faces, it adds.

“Gikondo is not a detention centre. It is a transit centre and people are held there for a short period before longer term remedial or corrective measures are taken. The latter consists of rehabilitating and reintegrating former drug addicts and city dwellers – through drug rehabilitation and learning a trade to prevent repetition – and supporting them to reunite with their families,” Minister Busingye said.

More than 7,000 Rwandans have completed the transition programme and are now working in carpentry, masonry, welding, tailoring, and bee-keeping cooperatives – improving their wellbeing for a brighter future.

Taking allegations serious

The government says it takes all allegations of human rights abuses seriously, however speculative they may be and, any information related to possible abuses is welcome and will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action taken.

“To facilitate this, Rwanda National Police has a toll free hotline that can be used to report abuses.The Office of the Ombudsman and the National Commission for Human Rights also welcome any information on human rights violations so that they can be fully investigated.

“It is unfortunate that Human Rights Watch has again chosen to deliberately mislead people with false statements that serve only to undermine Rwanda’s efforts to provide a better life for its citizens. HRW has a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Justice through which human rights concerns can be raised and addressed by the institutions responsible,” reads part of the government statement.

“The Government of Rwanda encourages HRW to use this MoU to address any concerns it has in a constructive manner. However, it has become increasingly clear that HRW refuses to engage through the mechanisms established under the MoU and instead seeks to spread falsehood and speculation.”

The statement called on HRW to provide information on the alleged abuses at the centre and any others so that they can be investigated and due process taken.



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