Rwanda to take action to improve human rights

GENEVA, Switzerland, June 8 -- The United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday approved 67 out of 73 recommendations for improving human rights in Rwanda.

It was Rwanda's first Universal Periodic Review, which is designed to improve human rights in all of the United Nation's 192 member states.

“Seventeen years ago, we did not think Rwanda would be able to return from its murderous madness,” said Biro Diawara, the Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l'Homme delegate. “Now, Rwanda has abolished the death penalty and makes a significant contribution to the ongoing peacekeeping process.”

The review process was first implemented in 2008. All member states are required to undergo a review of their human rights situations, and are asked to implement recommendations, made by member states and non-governmental organizations, within four years of the review.

Most of the recommendations for Rwanda related to granting more access to information and media, preventing discrimination and preventing unwarranted arrests and holdings.

Tharcisse Karugarama, Rwanda's attorney general and minister of justice, said discrimination is no longer tolerated in his country.

“Genocide was the result of discriminatory politics,” said Karugarama. “Discrimination is outlawed in Rwanda.”

Rwanda now has four years to implement the recommendations, which include guaranteeing access to education to everyone, providing a cow to every poor family, assisting human trafficking victims and other services.

“They have a long way to go in achieving implementation,” said Hamdi Addow, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative representative.

Several non-governmental organizations expressed concern over the fact that none of the recommendations have been drafted into legislation in Rwanda.

Rwanda should publicly announce a time frame for introducing the recommendations as law, said Marianne Lilliebjerg, an Amnesty International delegate.

“Running a country, walking the tight rope to do what is good for a country is not as easy as running an NGO," Karugarama said in response to the criticism. "There must be national consent."

Besides, he said, the country has already signed provisions against human trafficking, and will continue to do so.

"It's almost impossible for human trafficking to take place here," he said.