Latest Human Rights Watch report slammed for 'irresponsible activism'

Justice minister Johnston Busingye has castigated the latest report by Human Rights Watch, saying its contents, just like previous ones, are representative of “irresponsible human rights activism.”
Students of Iwawa centre get opportunities to learn hands-on skills. / File.
Students of Iwawa centre get opportunities to learn hands-on skills. / File.

Justice minister Johnston Busingye has castigated the latest report by Human Rights Watch, saying its contents, just like previous ones, are representative of “irresponsible human rights activism.”

The report that was released yesterday – Rwanda: Locking up the Poor – quoted anonymous sources and makes accusations that government maintains illegal detention facilities, in which economically disadvantaged Rwandans are hidden from public view.

 

Previous reports by the organisation have also quoted anonymous sources in their entirety.

 

Speaking to The New Times, yesterday, Minister Busingye said, just like the other reports by the US-based organisation, this report is more about scoring “cheap political points” than promoting human rights.

 

“No one in Rwanda is or can be an undesirable person. Poverty in Rwanda is tracked with targeted programmes that involve poor citizens in activities aimed at pulling them out of it. Hiding them from view is a HRW malicious invention,” Busingye said.

The report claims that those targeted for arbitrary arrests are street vendors, idlers and homeless people, claiming that they are tortured and subjected to harsh conditions with no access to basics like water, food and sanitation.

Specifically, the report cited cases of inhuman conditions at three transit centres of Muhanga (Muhanga District), Mbazi (Huye District), and Mudende in Rubavu District.

The other centre cited in the report, for the second time, is the one in Gikondo in Kicukuro District.

“Torture is prohibited under Rwandan law. Anyone, including members of the Police, who engages in it would be doing so as an individual and would be investigated, prosecuted and, on conviction, severely punished. To suggest that the Police tortures people, anywhere, is to lie and peddling the usual innuendo,” he said. 

The Government has set up rehabilitation centres in the country to reform people in various forms of delinquency, and from these centres, people are assessed and a befitting prescription devised.

Through such programmes, thousands of youths formerly on the street trapped in delinquency have benefited in terms of acquiring vocational skills while others were facilitated back into formal education.

Available statistics indicate that over 3,000 youths have already graduated from Iwawa Rehabilitation and Skills Development Centre

More than 4,000 are currently at different levels of training.

“Human Rights Watch has not, as usual, provided any evidence of torture in any rehab centre beyond what we find to be incredible and unsubstantiated allegations founded on their trademark ‘credible sources’,” Busingye said.

Despite the serious allegations, the report does not name a single victim or suspect.

“We don’t find it useful spending time investigating crime on the basis of wild speculation,” the minister added.

Heavy investment has been made in Rwanda to ensure youths and children who fall through family and other societal cracks, and end up as petty criminals, drug peddlers/users, street children and alcohol delinquents are offered another chance to give meaning to their lives.

“Rehabilitation centres are subject to known management instructions and oversight, meant to ensure that rights are observed and that each person’s case is handled individually and the most appropriate course of action prescribed and implemented,” Busingye said.

Human Rights Watch has over the years authored reports that have largely been seen as a political campaign against the Government of Rwanda other than promoting human rights.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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