Rwanda’s Abusive Detention of Children

What is the background to this detention?

In 2017, Rwanda passed a law establishing the National Rehabilitation service. There have been several orders passed since Many transit centers in Rwanda, including the Gikondo transit center, are governed by this law. 

Under this law, anyone exhibiting ‘deviant behaviours’ can be held in a transit center for up to two months.  These ‘deviant behaviours’ include prostitution, drug use, begging, homelessness and informal street vending. This can occur without any legal justification or oversight.

This protocol has, however, not been followed. 

What human rights have been violated?

A report conducted by Human Rights Watch found that there have been many human rights violations against children. These include the violation of the right to a fair trial, the right to an education and the right to water.

The report was based on interviews conducted with 30 formerly detained children. These children were aged 11 to 17. The interviews document human rights violations against children rounded up in the streets of Kigali and held at Gikondo Transit Center.

The protocol states that detention at the center has a duration of up to 2 months. However, the interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch found that detention lasted for periods ranging from several days to six months.

In July 2019, the National Commission for Human Rights visited Gikondo. This commission raised concerns about human rights violations. These concerns included children whose parents were never informed of their arrest, children who should be at school, breastfeeding mothers separated from their babies, and drug-using detainees who should be transferred for medical care.

The conditions in Gikondo Transit Center are far below the international standards. These standards are meant to set a minimum level. They are in violation of Rwandan law. The detention of these children is a violation of their human right to a fair trial. This is because it is ‘arbitrary,’ which means that it is based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

How can this situation be improved?

If any detainee is accused of committing a legitimate criminal offense, they should immediately be brought before a court. This upholds the right to a fair trial. If they are charged with the offence, the detainee should be afforded all due process for a prompt and fair trial or released. 

Children who are to be charged should be afforded full due process in accordance with the standards set for child justice and youth crime. If continued detention is justified, the children should be held in facilities designed for minors. They should be treated with full dignity and humanity.



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