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Title:  Rwanda Human Rights Practices, 1995   
Author:  U.S. Department of State    
Date:  March 1996    
 
 
 
 
                                  RWANDA 
 
 
The broad-based Government of National Unity of Rwanda was reorganized 
in August, with the replacement of the Prime Minister and the Ministers 
of Justice, Interior, and Transport and Communication.  The largely 
Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which came to power in 1994, is the 
principal Rwandan political force.  President Pasteur Bizimungu, an 
ethnic Hutu, and Vice President and Minister of Defense, Paul Kagame, an 
ethnic Tutsi, both belong to the RPF.  The reorganized Government 
follows the ethnic and party lines of its predecessor.  The mainly Hutu 
Republican Democratic Movement (MDR) retains the post of Prime Minister.  
Prime Minister Pierre Rwigema, a Hutu, runs the Government on a daily 
basis and is responsible for relations with the National Assembly.  
There is no functioning judicial system. 
 
The national constitution known as the Fundamental Law is comprised of 
four texts:  the Constitution of 1991; the Arusha Accords of 1993; the 
RPF Declaration of August 1994; and the Interparty Accords of 1994.  
These texts apply in a complicated legal precedence based loosely on 
their dates of execution. 
 
The 1993 Arusha Accord, signed by both the RPF and the former government 
headed by then President Juvenal Habyarimana, was intended to promote 
powersharing, ensure integration of the rebel and government armies, 
ease ethnic tensions, and lead to democratic elections.  This effort 
ended in April 1994 with the crash of President Habyarimana's aircraft.  
Hutu extremists massacred hundreds of thousands of people, mostly 
Tutsis, but also murdered Hutu members of the political opposition.  
Both the military and civilian militias carried out the massacres. 
 
The RPF responded with a military offensive that routed the Hutu army in 
July 1994, causing the wholesale flight of Hutu  
civilians who feared reprisals.  Two-thirds of the population was 
uprooted.  More than 1.7 million people fled to bordering countries; 
another 2 million were displaced within Rwanda.  Most of the internally 
displaced have now returned to their homes; nearly 2 million refugees 
remain outside Rwanda.  Members of the former Hutu extremist Government 
and the former army (FAR), based just across the border in Zaire, 
threatened to rearm and renew the civil war; cross-border incidents 
continued to exacerbate the troubled security situation. 
 
Vice President Kagame is responsible for security and military defense; 
the Minister of Interior is responsible for civilian security matters.  
The Ministry of Defense is responsible for overall internal security.  
Its security apparatus consists of the Government Patriotic Army (RPA) 
and the Gendarmerie, largely made up of RPA soldiers.  These units 
committed human rights abuses.  Unarmed civilian police with limited 
arrest powers work in some rural communues.  They report to the 
Borgemestre, or local mayor. 
 
On December 8 the presence of the U.N. Military Operation in Rwanda 
(UNAMIR) was renewed for a final 3-month period.  Its mandate is limited 
to protection of the International War Crimes Tribunal (see Section 4). 
 
The economic situation remains difficult.  The interethnic violence from 
1990 onward and especially in 1994 resulted in the neglect and massive 
destruction of much of the country's economic infrastructure, including 
utilities, roads and hospitals.  Most Rwandans are subsistence farmers, 
and food production even before the war had barely kept pace with 
population growth.  Dislocation led to disruption of the crop cycle and 
widespread food shortages. 
 
Although the security situation is improving, human rights abuses 
continue.  These include revenge killings by the military and other 
killings which appear to be political in nature.  In April the military 
fired into a panicked crowd at the internally displaced persons camp at 
Kibeho, killing hundreds.  The Government convened an international 
commission to investigate the tragedy.  Prison conditions are 
horrendous, the judicial system does not function, and due process 
rights are not assured.  Authorities hold more than 63,000 prisoners in 
overcrowded jails.  Most are accused of participating in the genocide, 
but the justice system has yet to conduct a trial.  Citizens do not have 
the right to change their government.  Dissatisfaction with movement 
toward reconciliation, repatriation, and failure of efforts to restart 
the justice system and relieve prison overcrowding led to a cabinet 
shuffle in August.  Discrimination and violence against women are 
problems. 
 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
From: 
 
   a.    Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
 
There were credible allegations that the military committed killings 
both for political reasons and in revenge for earlier violence. 
 
In March near Bugarama an RPA unit summarily executed 17 civilians after 
being ambushed by suspected Hutu militiamen.  Military authorities 
arrested all the members of the RPA unit, who now await court martial. 
 
Suspicious deaths include the killings in August of two former sub-
prefects in Gitarama and Gikongoro.  Both had been members of the 
largely Hutu MDR.  Authorities have not established a motive in either 
case, nor arrested anyone.   When a judge was killed in Butare in 
September, the security forces quickly arrested one civilian and two 
soldiers, including the chief of security for that sector. 
 
In those killings where military forces have been implicated, the RPA 
has acted swiftly.  More than 700 RPA soldiers are awaiting court 
martial on various charges.  The case of 14 soldiers accused of the 
killing Hutus in May had not reached final disposition by year's end. 
 
On September 11, members of the RPA killed more than 110 civilians in 
Kanama after an ambush of an RPA vehicle.  The Government admitted that 
this was the result of excessive force, and has investigated, but has 
produced no results by year's end. 
 
In April 13 prisoners died from asphyxiation in an overcrowded holding 
cell in a Kigali gendarme station.  The Government condemned the 
"criminal negligence" of the officer in charge and placed him under 
arrest. 
 
   b.   Disappearance 
 
There were no credible reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Degrading, or Inhuman Treatment or 
Punishment 
 
Torture is contrary to the Constitution and the Arusha Peace Accord, and 
there were no reports of systematic torture.  Various observers have 
accused local authorities of using excessive force in arrests and 
interrogation, but there have been no documented cases and the 
Government does not condone this practice. 
 
With serious problems of overcrowding and sanitation, prison conditions 
are horrendous.  Authorities estimate that there are approximately 
63,000 persons held in some 250 prisons and jails having a design 
capacity of 7,000.  At Gitarama, the worst of the large prisons, 
prisoners are housed as tightly as four per square meter.  In April, 13 
prisoners suffocated in an overcrowded Kigali gendarme holding cell (see 
Section 1.a.).  The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), 
human rights organizations, diplomats, and journalists have regular 
access to the prisons.  The ICRC feeds some 42,000 detainees in the 14 
main prisons, and also provides additional expertise and logistical and 
material support to improve conditions for detainees.  New detention 
centers are being built. 
 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, and Exile 
 
Rwanda's justice system is not functioning.  Never a model of free and 
fair justice, the system essentially collapsed during the genocide of 
1994, when the overwhelming majority of jurists either fled the country 
or were killed.  Since that time there have been no genocide trials, and 
only a few trials of petty criminals.  It is generally believed that 
false accusations of involvement in acts of genocide have resulted in 
the arrests of thousands of innocent people.  The Government does not 
have the capacity to investigate the vast majority of these cases.  
Under these circumstances any arrest can be seen to be arbitrary.  The 
Government, on the other hand, sees its duty to be to bring to justice 
those accused of the 1994 genocide.  It often makes arrests based on 
oral complaints, and the necessary legal paperwork to proceed to trial 
is missing in many cases.  63,000 prisoners now await trial. 
 
Exile is not practiced.  Indeed, the RPF's primary goal is to end the 
forced exile of Rwanda's Tutsi population.  This was the leading cause 
of the RPF invasion from Uganda in 1990. 
 
   e.    Denial of Fair Public Trial 
 
The courts are not functioning.  The Government, with the help of the 
international community, is attempting to rebuild the judiciary and 
appoint lower court officials.  By year's end,  no trials were being 
held, and the Supreme Court was not in place.  The law provides for 
public trials with the right to an attorney. 
 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
 
The Fundamental Law prohibits such practices.  Authorities generally 
respect these prohibitions, and prosecute violations. 
 
   g.   Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in 
Internal Conflicts 
 
The most serious violence occurred in April, in connection with the 
Government's effort to close the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp 
at Kibeho.  Most of the 120,000 residents were Hutu.  Armed camp 
internees and the RPA engaged in brutally violent clashes over a 4-day 
period, resulting in deaths estimated at 338 by the Government and as 
high as 8,000 by some nongovernmental organizations (NGO's). 
 
Apparently encouraged by some of the humanitarian workers inside the 
camp not to leave, hundreds of residents fled to a UNAMIR position at 
the camp's center, creating a humanitarian crisis.  Residents threw 
stones at the military forces, which responded with gunfire that killed 
some 10 people the first day.  By the third day of the operation there 
were reliable reports of gunfire directed at the military from inside 
the camp; there were several stampedes of panicked camp residents 
apparently precipitated by armed Hutu extremist elements in the  
camp.  On April 22, in the dusk and rain, a mass of about 5,000 camp 
residents stampeded in an attempt to escape an RPA cordon designed to 
direct the residents toward registration points for their onward 
journeys.  RPA sections were not able readily to communicate with one 
another; soldiers fired into the crowd and killed many people.  Many of 
the deaths resulted from machete blows, suggesting that camp residents 
were under attack from extremist elements within the camp.  The vast 
majority of camp residents departed Kibeho for their home communes 
immediately after this violence, although an estimated several hundred 
militant holdouts retreated into a hospital and refused to leave for 
about a week.  Some of these holdouts were killed by armed elements 
among them, apparently to discourage others from leaving.  After 
extensive negotiations involving the U.N., the ICRC, and NGO's, these 
holdouts too eventually left the camp. 
 
The Government responded to criticism of its actions at Kibeho by 
forming an international commission of inquiry.  Belgium, France, Great 
Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, the Organization 
for African Unity (OAU), and the United Nations each nominated an 
independent expert to serve on the commission along with a 
representative of the Government.  After 2 weeks of investigation which 
included visits to the site and interviews with witnesses and officials, 
the Commission concluded that the tragedy at Kibeho "neither resulted 
from a planned action by Rwandan authorities to kill a certain group of 
people, nor was it an accident that could not have been prevented."  The 
Commission went on to voice its regret "that U.N. agencies and NGO's 
were not able to contribute more efficiently to the speedy evacuation of 
IDP's from the camp."  The Commission further concluded that "unarmed 
IDP's were subjected to arbitrary deprivation and serious bodily harm" 
committed by both the RPA and by armed elements among the IDP's 
themselves.  The Commission did not address the death toll. 
 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
 
   a.    Freedom of Speech and the Press 
 
The Fundamental Law provides for freedom of the press, and the 
Government generally respects this right in practice.  There are several 
privately owned newspapers, the government-owned Radio Rwanda, and the 
U.N.-operated Radio UNAMIR. 
 
The university has reopened, and academic freedom is respected. 
 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
 
The Fundamental Law provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, but 
authorities may require advance notice for outdoor rallies, 
demonstrations, and meetings.  Citizens are legally free to join and 
form political parties, though the National  
 
Revolutionary Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), and the 
Coalition for Defense of the Republic (CDR), implicated in planning and 
executing the 1994 genocide, have been banned by law.  Hutus, however, 
demonstrated against foreign support of what they termed the "illegal 
regime" in Kigali. 
 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
 
The 1991 Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the 
Government respects this right in practice. 
 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
 
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government respects 
them in practice.  In August Zaire expelled 13,000 refugees to Rwanda, 
who were received without incident.  The Government, aided by 
international humanitarian organizations, received and processed these 
refugees, and returned them to their homes, largely without incident. 
 
Nearly all the 2 million Rwandans who fled in July 1994 remain outside 
the country.  Voluntary repatriation has been slow.  Refugees from the 
1959 massacres continue to return in increasing numbers.  Their arrival 
put strains on the housing stock in some areas.  The law provides that 
owners may not reclaim a house abandoned more than 10 years earlier if 
it is now occupied. 
 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
 
Citizens did not have the right to change their government through 
democratic means.  The 1992 powersharing agreement crafted in the Arusha 
negotiations and ratified by the 1993 Peace Accord was not fully 
implemented prior to Habyarimana's death in April 1994, but remains the 
basis of planning.  Despite the events of 1994, the RPF brought 
representatives of four other opposition parties into the Government 
after the RPF military victory, but none of these officials were 
elected.  An appointed multiparty National Assembly is now functioning, 
with nine political parties represented, including the RPF.   
 
There are no legal restrictions on the participation of women in 
political life, but women remain poorly represented in politics and 
government, including both the Cabinet and the National Assembly.  The 
Batwa are also underrepresented. 
 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
 
A wide variety of local and international human rights groups operate 
without government restriction, investigating and publishing their 
findings on human rights violations.  They include the U.N. High 
Commissioner for Refugees and Journalists sans Frontieres.  Government 
officials are generally cooperative and responsive to their views. 
 
On December 13 the International War Crimes Tribunal announced eight 
secret indictments of genocide suspects.  The Government criticized the 
Tribunal for indicting only eight persons in the genocide of what it 
said was more than 1 million victims.  It also expressed dismay that the 
names of those indicted were kept secret. 
 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
 
The Constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law, 
without discrimination on the basis of race, color, origin, ethnicity, 
clan, sex, opinion, religion, or social standing.  The Government 
provides only limited enforcement of these provisions, however. 
 
   Women 
 
Violence against women continues.  Wife beating and domestic violence 
are normally handled within the context of the extended family and 
rarely come before the courts. 
 
Despite constitutional provisions, women continue to face serious 
discrimination.  Women traditionally perform most of the subsistence 
farming and play a limited role in the modern sector.  They have only 
limited opportunities for education, employment, and promotion.  The 
Family Code of 1992 has generally improved the legal position of women 
in matters relating to marriage, divorce, and child custody, but still 
does not meet Rwanda's international and constitutional commitments to 
gender equality.  For example, it formally designates men as heads of 
households.  Also, the absence of succession laws limits a woman's right 
to property, thus jeopardizing her status and ability to provide for her 
family should she survive her husband. 
 
   Children 
 
The Government is attempting to provide an education and to guarantee 
health care to every child. 
 
More than 50,000 children separated from their parents during the 1994 
genocide and national upheaval remain in the care of strangers or 
international organizations.  Although the Penal Code prohibits the 
imprisonment of children with adults, the Government indicates hundreds 
of children are in fact incarcerated with adults throughout the prison 
system.  A new detention center for children which was funded by the 
U.N. Children's Fund opened in October; it houses about 150 boys. 
 
   People with Disabilities 
 
Although there are no laws restricting people with disabilities from 
employment, education, or other state services, in practice few disabled 
persons have access to education or employment.  There are no laws or 
provisions that mandate access to public facilities. 
 
   Indigenous People 
 
Less than 1 percent of the population comes from the Batwa ethnic group.  
These indigenous people, survivors of the Pygmy (Twa) tribes of the 
mountainous forest areas bordering Zaire, exist on the margins of 
society and continue to be treated as second-class citizens by both 
Hutus and Tutsis.  The Batwa have not been able to protect their 
interests, which center on access to land and housing.  Few Batwa have 
gained access to the educational system, resulting in minimal 
representation in government institutions. 
 
There is no reliable information on specific human rights abuses 
perpetrated against the Batwa population during the 1994 upheaval.  A 
group of several hundred Batwa refugees were discovered in 1994 living 
in a forested area outside Goma, Zaire, deeply traumatized by the events 
they had witnessed.  They did not clarify, however, that they or other 
Batwa had been caught up in either side of the massacre. 
 
   National/Ethnic/Racial Minorities 
 
Before April 1994, an estimated 85 percent of citizens were Hutu, 14 
percent were Tutsi, and 1 percent Batwa.  The subsequent mass killings 
and migrations probably affected the ethnic composition of the 
population, but the extent of the changes is unknown. 
 
The Government has called for ethnic reconciliation and committed itself 
to abolishing policies of the former government that had created and 
deepened ethnic cleavages.  It promised to eliminate references to 
ethnic origin from the national identity card, a provision of the 1993 
Peace Accord.  The Government has not statutorily addressed the issue of 
ethnic quotas in education, training, and government employment.  It has 
partially integrated more than 2,000 former government soldiers into RPF 
forces, although not by the formula prescribed by the 1993 Arusha 
Accord.  Tutsi clergy and businessman, who were well represented in 
these sectors of society, were killed in great numbers in the genocide.  
Following the 1994 victory by the RPF, Tutsis returning from exile took 
over many of the business and professional positions formerly held by 
Hutus and Tutsis. 
 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
 
   a.   The Right of Association 
 
In practice Rwanda does not currently have a functioning labor movement.  
Although preconflict labor law technically remains in effect, the 
Government is unable to implement its provisions. 
 
The Constitution provides for the right to create professional 
associations and labor unions.  Union membership is voluntary and open 
to all salaried workers, including public sector employees.  There are 
no restrictions on the right of association, but all unions must 
register with the Ministry of Justice for official recognition.  There 
are no known cases in which the Government has denied such recognition.  
Unions are prohibited by law from having political affiliations, but in 
practice this is not always respected. 
 
Organized labor represents only a small part of the work force.  Over 90 
percent are engaged in small-scale subsistence farming.  About 7 percent 
work in the modern (wage) sector, including both public and private 
industrial production, and about 75 percent of those active in the 
modern sector are members of labor unions. 
 
Before 1991 the Central Union of Rwandan Workers (CESTRAR) was the only 
authorized trade union organization.  With the political reforms 
introduced in the Constitution, CESTRAR officially became independent of 
the Government and the MRND. 
 
The Constitution provides for the right to strike, except for public 
service workers.  A union's executive committee must approve a strike, 
and a union must first try to resolve its differences with management 
according to steps prescribed by the Ministry of Labor and Social 
Affairs.  The Government never enforced laws prohibiting retribution 
against strikers.  Labor organizations may affiliate with international 
labor bodies.  CESTRAR is affiliated with the Organization of African 
Trade Union Unity and the International Confederation of Free Trade 
Unions. 
 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
 
The Constitution provides for collective bargaining, although only 
CESTRAR had an established collective bargaining agreement with the 
Government.  In practice, since most workers are in the public sector, 
the Government is intimately involved in the process (see Section 6.e.). 
 
The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, and it has not occurred in 
practice.  There are no formal mechanisms to resolve complaints 
involving discrimination against unions. 
 
There are no export processing zones. 
 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
 
The law prohibits forced labor, and there are no reports that it occurs 
in practice. 
 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
 
Except in subsistence agriculture, the law prohibits children under age 
18 from working without their parents' or guardians' authorization, and 
they generally may not work at night.  The minimum age for full 
employment is 18 years, and for apprenticeships 14 years, providing the 
child has completed primary school.  The Ministry of Labor has not 
enforced child labor laws effectively. 
 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
 
The Ministry of Labor sets minimum wages in the small modern sector.  
The minimum wage is $1.08 (310 Rwandan francs) for an 8-hour workday.  
The Government, the main employer, effectively sets most other wage 
rates as well.  The minimum wage was inadequate to provide a decent 
standard of living for urban families.  Often families supplement their 
incomes by work in small business or subsistence agriculture.  In 
practice, however, workers will work for less than the minimum wage. 
 
Officially, government offices have a 40-hour workweek.  Negotiations in 
1993 between the unions, government, and management were held to reduce 
the workweek from 45 to 40 hours in the private sector as well, but by 
the end of 1995 no such reduction had occurred.  Hours of work and 
occupational health and safety standards in the modern wage sector are 
controlled by law, but labor inspectors from the Ministry of Labor 
enforce them only loosely.  Workers do not have the right to remove 
themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing their 
jobs. 
 
(###)

[end of document]

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