May 28, 2019

Parliament Dismisses Petition Alleging Homosexuality, Torture In Prisons

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On December 24, in Musanze district prison, mothers in the final months of the jail term were hosted to a Christmas party

A parliamentary committee has told the full House that the issues raised by a so called “concerned citizen” in a letter alleging serious problems in Rwandan jails have been found to be baseless after an investigation they conducted.

The Lower Chamber’s Foreign Affairs and Security committee, which also oversees correctional facilities, says they visited ten prisons in 10 districts to verify the concerns of that individual.

In a session this Tuesday afternoon, the committee presented their report, which also contained details of a meeting they had with State Minister in charge of Constitutional Affairs Evode Uwizeyimana.

The genesis of this case arose on November 29 last year, when parliament received a long letter from Nzabahimana Clement. The letter put across several serious allegations and was asking that Parliament conducts review of the country’s jails.

Nzabahimana himself has never been an inmate, but apparently said he has family members in prison. He is said to have informed the committee that some issues came to his attention from media reports particularly British broadcaster BBC.

Nzabahimana alleged that in jails there was widespread homosexuality, inmates being shot and killed, as well as unchecked torture of inmates. He also said cases of inmates escaping were common.

The exact identity of Nzabahimana was not detailed in the House session today.

After Parliament receiving the petition, it was forwarded to this particular committee to investigate and report back to the House. Committee chair Fidele Rwigamba said today that they met the petitioner in person on December 3 and 5 to get more details about his claims.

On February 20 this year, the committee met State Minister Uwizeyimana who was accompanied by senior officials from the Rwanda Correctional Services (RCS).

It was after this that the committee conducted on-site visits of jails in Rubavu, Musanze, Gicumbi, Nyanza, Muhanga, Huye, Nyamagabe, Ngoma, Rwamagana and Nyarugenge districts.

In the report today, committee chair Rwigamba said homosexuality may be in jails but at negligible levels as mechanisms are in place to prevent it.

The lawmakers say lights are kept on all night in Rwanda’s jails as a security measure to ensure prison guards are able to monitor the facilities.

All inmates stay and sleep together in common halls with no hidden areas where inmates could engage in homosexuality, said the committee report.

“There is regular sensitization of inmates on good morals that takes place in prisons to prevent things like homosexuality and other bad vices,” said Rwigamba.

The committee report dismissed all the concerns raised in the petition as insignificant and that there was no cause for alarm.

The lawmakers said from their engagement with Government and prison officials, they found that there were stringent legal protections for inmates to safeguard their rights against any form of abuse or torture.

When it came to comments from other members of the House, there was unanimous chorus that the petition did not merit even coming to Parliament.

In what she described as advice to MPs, House Speaker Donatile Mukabalisa said lawmakers need to critically review issues before they bring them to the floor of Parliament.

RFP party member Safari Bigumisa Theoneste said: “We cannot accept such unsubstantiated petitions being brought to our plenary….imagine we are considering issues from a petition based on information got from foreign media which we know are liars.”

The committee recommendation, which was adopted by the House, said that a letter be sent to petitioner Nzabahimana Clement urging him not to worry about anything concerning prisons as they are well managed.

There are slightly over 65,000 inmates in Rwanda’s jails. About 28,000 of them are genocide convicts.

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