Rwanda not complying with human trafficking laws-Report

Rwanda's First Lady Janet Kagame has urged Rwandans to join forces against the scourge of human trafficking

Rwanda’s First Lady Janet Kagame has urged Rwandans to join forces against the scourge of human trafficking

Rwanda has been listed among countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA’s) minimum standards, despite national efforts to fight human trafficking.

The report shows that Rwanda is among the 89 countries making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

It puts Rwanda in second level of Tier2, but didn’t place Rwanda on the tier2 watch list which has cases of 44 countries with increased forms of trafficking, failure to provide evidence and determination to compliance efforts.

TVPA minimum standards require that the governments prohibit severe forms of trafficking in persons and punish acts of such trafficking, prescribe punishment that is sufficiently stringent to deter and that adequately reflects the heinous nature of the offense among the amended requirements.

The reality of the existence of crimes of human trafficking is relatively a new phenomenon which has now come to light among Rwandans, but government initiatives to curb the crime are now paying off after the government woke up to this reality in 2014.

In 2014, President Paul Kagame and the first lady took the first step to task local leaders to put an end to these crimes with collective effort.

Paul Kagame said that human trafficking is one of the things that should be stopped immediately saying that this is a disgrace to see Rwandans being sold like goods and said that the victims, culprits and leaders involved should take the first step.

At a National consultative meeting on trafficking in humans, and drug abuse at the Rwanda Parliamentary Building in Kigali on October 10 2014 Rwanda’s First Lady Jeannette Kagame called upon Rwandans to join efforts against human trafficking, gender based violence, drug and alcohol abuse, which pose danger to the youth and the country’s transition.

“We must understand this issue, its consequences and establish our role as parents in fighting it,” the First Lady said then adding “there is need to work together to build a generation this country desires to continue the transformation process”

Police Spokesman CSP Celestin Twahirwa recently underscored that human trafficking in Rwanda is a real threat and not a myth –but says that timely information has enabled Rwanda police to burst human trafficking rackets.

At least 153 cases of human trafficking were registered in Rwanda since 2009, 90 per cent of them females and 82 per cent of them aged between 18 and 35, according to Police statistics

Last year, 19 cases of human trafficking involving 25 victims, including foreigners were registered in Rwanda, and some victims intercepted in Rwanda en route to Europe and Asia.

Twenty-three of the victims were female and about 26 suspected traffickers were also apprehended in partnership with other regional police forces.

The national dialogue on human trafficking highlighted the lack of evidence for the prosecution of human trafficking, GBV and drug abuse crimes are also listed among key challenges in pursuing the criminals, and lenient laws in the penal code which permit more victim abuse.

On legal perspective, human trafficking is punished by the Organic Law No 01/2012/OL of 02/05/2012 instituting the penal code, with a sentence of imprisonment ranging between six months and 15 years, combined with a fine ranging from Rwf 500,000 to Rwf 20 million depending on how the crime was committed.

Between 2011 and 2014, 24 cases were registered by the prosecution, among which 10 were filed. So far, nine cases have been tried; 4 of these resulted in convictions and the rest in acquittals.

Rwanda’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye has pushed for changes in the penal code saying that if the law does not adequately prevent, punish or protect the public, it can be amended to respond to the magnitude of the matter.

Busingye said there is need to initiate deterrent measures including revising laws, conduct awareness on the scope and prevention of the problem and training on investigation and evidence collection to ensure that justice is served.

He observed that the existing laws are weak in relation to the human trafficking and drug abuse gravity.