Despite progress made in promoting human rights, there is still need for more efforts from all actors to ensure that no one is left behind and that all people enjoy basic rights.
The call was made by officials during an event to mark the International Human Rights Day, in Kigali.
Organised by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Rwanda and the National Commission for Human Rights, this was also part of joining the rest of the world in marking the 69th celebration of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted on December 10, 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly.
The day was celebrated under the theme “Stand up for someone’s rights today”.
Speaking at the event, Evode Uwizeyimana, the state minister for constitutional and legal affairs, said that while Rwanda is a signatory to almost all major international legal instruments, the country experienced horrible events that violated basic human rights, including the right to life when over one million people were killed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“Just like any other human right instrument, signature, ratification or accession by a State does not in itself have any impact until concrete steps are made and clear actions taken to bring life into the instrument, otherwise it remains mere letters without any impact to the lives of ordinary people, “he said.
“We come from a situation where the single most basic right to life was officially denied to a section of our people, the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 was precisely the implementation of that denial.
“Once that was achieved, all other basic rights were either denied and others, including all civil or political rights, the rights to expression, association, media freedom were massively abused in the name of exercising or enjoying them. So for us, the international Human Rights Day is or should at least be regarded as a constant reminder to every one of the importance of the universal declaration of human rights,” he noted.
He said that the Government of Rwanda and partners has put in more efforts to ensure human rights are promoted and respected.
“This reminds one of us that we have the responsibility to stand up for other persons’ rights to realise them at national and at the global level, let’s all stand up for equality, justice and human dignity,” he said.
He added that Rwanda has ratified almost all core international human rights instruments, domesticated them in the constitution and in other national laws to ensure that citizens fully enjoy those rights.
Rwanda performed well in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2014 and commits to keep doing well as far as the UPR is concerned, he said.
According to Madeleine Nirere, the Chairperson of National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), the day should serve as a reminder that human rights starts with everyone.
“Wherever there is discrimination, we step forward to help safeguard someone’s rights to live free from fear and abuse, we can raise our voices for decent values, we can join others to publically lobby for better laws and greater respect for human dignity,” she said.
She said that, over the years, the National Commission for Human Rights has worked with the government, UN agencies and civil society to advance human rights.
She said it is the responsibility of all actors, including government, civil society, among others, to promote human rights.
“ Many people are still unaware of their basic rights as human beings; we need to make the promotion of human rights our key purpose and guiding principle to empower the population to assert and claim their human rights,” she said.
“We should pay particular attention to the promotion and protection of human rights of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups such as people living with disability, victims of sexual harassment, children, elderly persons, among others,” added Nirere.
Speaking at the event, the UN Resident Coordinator, Dr Fode Ndiaye, hailed Rwanda for its efforts to promote human rights in the country after it endured despicable atrocities just over two decades ago, and had laws violated but now it has since demonstrated remarkable progress over a short period.
“In the domain of human rights, the Government of Rwanda has embarked on many initiatives and programmes aimed at making the attainment of these rights and freedom possible for all the people of Rwanda,” he said, reiterating UN support to ensure that principles of human rights are advanced and respected.