The agreement on transfer of foreign inmates in Rwanda was among the cooperation agreements endorsed by Senate yesterday, after cutting short its recess to clear pending bills before resumption of the ordinary session in June.
The Minister for Internal Security, Fazil Harerimana, presented the cooperation agreements on transfer of foreign prisoners and on combating terrorism, transnational crimes and violent extremism all signed last year binding the Northern Corridor States of Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan.
The two were given priority for adoption without going through senatorial committees.
Minister Harerimana told The New Times that Rwanda has a number of foreign convicts with different nationalities who might be transferred to their home states should they fulfill all conditions and requirements as stated in the treaty.
According to the minister, the states are naturally bound to serve citizens, inmates included even when they are subject to correctional services.
Such services, he said, allow them to be part of what is going on and to see members of their families through correctional and reintegration programmes.
“If someone is serving a sentence far from their home country, it will be hard for the person to be visited by family, which cannot facilitate correction and social reintegration, these treaties are mostly to help family members to help in the correctional services,” he said.
Minister Fazil further explained that the agreements were equally signed for harmonisation purposes within member states of the Northern Corridor since countries in their national laws allow family members of convicts to regularly visit them until they complete their sentences.
For an inmate to be transferred certain conditions must be met:
the offence must be punishable by both states’ national laws, the prisoner’s remaining sentence must be less than one year, and both states should agree to the transfer.
“The prisoners’ case must have exhausted all legal huddles where a person cannot appeal the judgment, and the inmate should be willing to be repatriated with transfer costs borne by the requesting state,” the minister added.
Rwanda has inmates from Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, and Pakistan.
But the adopted legal framework will only be applicable for prisoners from Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan.
Meanwhile, minister Fazil was also in the Senate to explain the relevance of the agreement between Northern Corridor countries on combating terrorism, transnational crimes and violent extremism.
He told the senators that approval of that treaty signed last year in October would help the countries make helpful intervention in case of terror attacks, share information regarding suspects and crime coordination.
“The agreement is more about assistance in investigation, information sharing and capacity building for institutions and staff, in case of terror attacks on a member state, the rest are requested to provide immediate support,” he said.
Senators commended the relevance of the pacts although, according to Senator Jacqueline Muhongayire, the agreements should not work in conflict with the 2014 mutual peace and security pact signed by Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda.
The mutual security pact between the three countries saw the establishment of committees of intelligence, police, immigration and correctional services, among others, in a drive to spearhead the implementation of the agreed 14-key areas of cooperation.
Areas of cooperation include conflict prevention, management and resolution, prevention of genocide, combating terrorism and suppressing piracy.
Others include peace support operations, disaster risk reduction, management and response, management of refugees, control of proliferation of illicit arms and light weapons, combating financial, and organized and cross-border crimes such as human and drug trafficking, money laundering and cyber crimes. It also covers correctional services, including exchange of prisoners, detention, custody and rehabilitation of offenders.