January 28, 2021

UK, Rwanda Clash at UN Human Rights Review Panel

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Julian Braithwaite, UK Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva

As the UK, which is Rwanda’s biggest donor, demanded action on a number of issues concerning Kigali’s human rights record, the authorities in Rwanda were having none of it.

At the UN’s Universal Period Review in Geneva on Monday, Rwanda’s delegation led by Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye virtually read a lengthy statement dismissing all long-standing concerns by rights groups and its donors.

He denied existence of illegal detention facilities, dismissed allegations that political opposition and critical media were being deliberately targeted. Government also pushed back on accusations it was making people disappear without trace. The whole statement read more like: ‘you say this is what’s happening, wrong, this is what is actually happening’.

Following the Government of Rwanda statement, the UK, plus nearly all Rwanda’s donors, and other countries, made response statements. The harshest criticism, however, came from the UK and US – both top backers of President Paul Kagame’s government financially and diplomatically.

For the UK, it’s statement was more crucial as Rwanda prepares to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit (CHOGM) this June. Below is full statement by the UK and also the response from Rwanda.

FULL STATEMENT BY Julian Braithwaite, Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva.

The United Kingdom welcomes Rwanda’s strong record on economic and social rights, and promotion of gender equality. We remain concerned, however, by continued restrictions to civil and political rights and media freedom. As a member of the Commonwealth, and future Chair-in-Office, we urge Rwanda to model Commonwealth values of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.

We recommend that Rwanda:

Conduct transparent, credible and independent investigations into allegations of extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture, and bring perpetrators to justice.

Protect and enable journalists to work freely, without fear of retribution, and ensure that state authorities comply with the Access to Information law.

Screen, identify and provide support to trafficking victims, including those held in Government transit centres.

Thank you.

Immediately after, Rwanda’s embassy in Geneva also issued response below:

The Government of Rwanda regrets the unfounded recommendations put forward by the UK Mission in Geneva which have no basis in reality and go against established UPR peer protocol.

Rwanda, which is on its third participation in the UPR exercise, would like to reiterate its commitment to the UPR process as it represents a unique mechanism that treats all UN member States on an equal basis and more importantly, seeks, among other things, to improve the human rights situation on the ground.

In the context of the UK’s silence regarding blatant violations of human rights elsewhere in the region, this baseless attack on a partner country is deeply unfortunate.

You can read the full statement submitted by the Government of Rwanda here: https://t.co/L4sG04FvB9?amp=1

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