RWANDA: Tier 2
Rwanda is a source and, to a lesser extent, transit and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Rwandan girls and some boys are exploited in domestic service through extended family networks; some of these children experience nonpayment of wages and physical or sexual abuse. In previous years there have been reports of older females forcing younger girls into prostitution to pay for their expenses after offering them room and board. Brothel owners supply girls in prostitution to clients staying at hotels. Some refugee girls residing in Rwanda’s refugee camps experience sex trafficking with men from neighboring communities. Some Rwandan men, women, and children are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking in the agricultural and industrial sectors and domestic work in East Africa, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Malaysia, China, the United States, and Europe; however, the Rwandan government reported the number of Rwandans subjected to trafficking abroad decreased in 2014. Women and children from neighboring countries and Somalia are subjected to prostitution and forced labor in Rwanda. A limited number of foreign nationals transit Rwanda before experiencing exploitation in third countries; in 2013, an unknown number of potential African victims transited Kigali airport en route to destinations in the Middle East. Kampala- and Nairobi-based labor recruiters and brokers recruit workers through fraudulent offers of employment or excessive fees; they coach potential victims on evading law enforcement authorities at Rwanda’s land border crossings or hire smugglers to assist in illegal, unregulated crossings. In 2013, Rwandan government officials reportedly provided material and logistical support to the armed group M23, which operated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and forcibly and fraudulently recruited children and men; however, after its defeat in November 2013, there were no reports the government facilitated the recruitment of children to serve in the M23 after that date.
The Government of Rwanda does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government increased its efforts to prevent trafficking, including passing and implementing a new national anti-trafficking action plan. The government continued to investigate and prosecute traffickers in 2014, yet the government did not provide the details of these cases. It also convicted an increased number of traffickers compared with the previous reporting period, though some offenders were reportedly acquitted. The government continued to identify trafficking victims, and it provided them with protective services, including counseling, medical, and legal services. The government did not offer, nor did it provide resources to offer, long-term shelter to victims but worked with NGOs to develop a potential long-term shelter. The government also created a social assistance program to train local community groups to identify potential child trafficking victims.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RWANDA:
Enforce the trafficking-specific penal code amendments through increased investigations and prosecutions of trafficking offenses, including any officials allegedly complicit in trafficking; continue to build capacity to systematically identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, including women and girls in prostitution and persons placed in detention and transit centers; continue to systematically implement policies to ensure victims are not arrested, detained, or punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; allocate appropriate resources for the provision of adequate long-term protection services, including shelter, for all trafficking victims; continue cooperation with NGOs and international organizations to proactively identify and refer victims to appropriate protection services; continue to provide training to law enforcement, judicial officials, labor inspectors, and social workers on the implementation of trafficking laws and victim identification procedures; continue to implement the national action plan; and institute a system to collect trafficking case data for use by all stakeholders.
The government maintained overall efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict some trafficking offenders. Authorities did not have adequate resources or skills to follow through with some investigations and some offenders were acquitted due to poor investigative skills. Rwanda’s penal code, promulgated in June 2012, criminalizes human trafficking under a variety of articles, mostly in Chapter 8. This chapter, in combination with forced labor articles and other provisions of law, covers almost all forms of trafficking. Chapter 8 prescribes penalties of seven to 10 years’ imprisonment or fines ranging from 5,444,600 to 10,958,120 Rwandan francs ($7,900 to $15,900) for internal trafficking, and up to 15 years’ imprisonment for transnational trafficking, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes. Child trafficking convictions are subject to a minimum five-year prison term, while slavery convictions carry three- to 12-year prison terms. The Law Relating to the Rights and Protection of the Child outlaws child trafficking, prostitution, and slavery under Article 51.
The National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) reported from June 2014 to February 2015, authorities arrested and investigated 24 suspected trafficking offenders, prosecuted six alleged offenders, convicted four traffickers under Articles 250 to 263 of the 2012 penal code, and acquitted two defendants. The government did not provide additional details of these law enforcement efforts. The number of convictions increased to four in 2014 from zero in 2013, yet the number of prosecutions declined to six in 2014 from 11 in 2013. The government investigated and arrested three officers in the Rwanda Defense Forces and one other government official for involvement in trafficking; their cases were still being investigated at the end of the reporting period. NGOs reported officials’ handling of trafficking investigations was at times inadequate and complex cases were often dismissed due to lack of skills by investigators or reluctance of witnesses or victims to testify. In 2014, Rwandan officials reported the government was training additional investigators to increase capacity to investigate reports of forced labor, sex trafficking, and sexual exploitation of child domestic workers.
The Rwandan National Police (RNP) continued to operate a 15-officer anti-trafficking unit within its INTERPOL directorate, which reported all major land border crossings were equipped with technology to identify suspected trafficking offenders attempting to cross the borders. All immigration officers received mandatory training on passenger profiling, document verification and regulations, and intercepted cross-border trafficking victims. In this reporting period, the RNP directorate for anti-gender-based violence (GBV) designated three officers in each of the country’s 78 police stations to serve as a point of contact for domestic trafficking victims; six judicial police officers specialized in victim identification were also placed in each of Rwanda’s police stations. The government provided a variety of anti-trafficking trainings to officials, including police, immigration officers, and labor inspectors, throughout the reporting period, including standard mandatory trainings and a train-the-trainers program for 15,000 community mediators. In November 2014, the RNP hosted an INTERPOL conference in Kigali for senior police officers from 39 African countries on international coordination and information-sharing for anti-trafficking law enforcement operations. During the reporting period, the RNP and NPPA sought to develop a regional East African Community taskforce comprised of police and prosecutors to counter human trafficking.
The government continued to identify trafficking victims. The government continued to provide victim identification guidelines based on international standards to law enforcement officials and social workers in victim centers, including provisions on offering counseling, medical treatment, and follow-up investigations. Some authorities applied identification procedures unevenly and did not proactively identify victims among vulnerable populations, particularly women and children in prostitution. The government reported identifying 24 Rwandan trafficking victims from June 2014 to February 2015, including Rwandan victims exploited abroad. Diplomatic personnel repatriated three Rwandan trafficking victims, including a victim of sex trafficking in Zambia and two victims of domestic servitude in the UAE; the government provided assistance and counseling to these victims upon their return to Rwanda. The government continued to encounter difficulty in receiving assistance requested repeatedly from Chinese authorities to repatriate approximately 100 Rwandan women exploited in various cities in China. In November 2014, the government launched a social assistance program to support child welfare and counter human trafficking and child labor; non-governmental volunteers for this program were trained to identify children at risk of human trafficking. The government did not report if any child trafficking victims were identified and referred for protection services through this newly-initiated program. The government did not have adequate resources to provide long-term protection, including shelters, for trafficking victims requiring assistance for more than one month, nor did it have resources to provide protection services exclusively to trafficking victims distinct from GBV victims. The government continued to operate a network of 15 “One-Stop” centers that provided short-term assistance, including free medical exams, counseling, legal assistance, and short-term shelter, to GBV victims and an unknown number of trafficking victims. The NPPA operated four safe houses for witnesses in criminal cases, which could include trafficking victims during prosecution of their trafficker, but they did not assist any trafficking victims in 2014. The government continued to operate institutions for vulnerable children—some of whom are vulnerable to trafficking—including a rehabilitation center for street children that provided psycho-social support, education and vocational trainings, and reintegration services; however, it did not report identifying or assisting any child trafficking victims in these facilities in 2014. The government partnered with 34 childcare institutions across the country that provided shelter, basic needs, and rehabilitation for approximately 3,300 orphans and vulnerable children; however, these institutions did not provide care specifically for child trafficking victims.
Authorities regularly detained persons in prostitution at detention facilities in Kigali. Authorities screened some underage detainees for trafficking only after they were arrested and detained and subsequently referred them to child welfare facilities run by NGOs or the government-run Youth Rehabilitation Center; these facilities, however, did not provide trafficking specific services. The government did not report if authorities identified and referred to protection any trafficking victims among those detained in 2014. Although Rwandan law does not provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to their removal to a country where they may face hardship or retribution, in practice—were there any such cases—the government would exercise discretion on a case-by-case basis to provide such alternatives. The government encouraged victims to participate in the investigation and prosecution of their perpetrators. It reported that an unspecified number of victims testified against their traffickers in this reporting period, while other victims chose not to do so. The NPPA reported victims’ choice not to cooperate during the criminal process led to the acquittal of some trafficking offenders in 2014.
The government sustained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government’s interagency anti-trafficking working group met monthly throughout the reporting period. In August 2014, President Kagame publicly urged the government, civil society organizations, and Rwandan citizens to work together to end human trafficking; officials reported the president’s declaration resulted in renewed policy attention and resource-allocation to combating the crime. Likewise, in October 2014, First Lady Jeanette Kagame chaired the first annual inter-ministerial national consultative forum on human trafficking, drug abuse, and GBV in Parliament; this forum adopted a national action plan to combat trafficking that was launched that month and is effective until 2016. The government also launched two national anti-trafficking awareness campaigns in 2014. The RNP continued to operate a national GBV hotline, which was staffed by social workers trained to identify and refer trafficking cases, yet it did not report how many victims the hotline identified in 2014. The government required immigration officials to question and verify necessary documents of all adults crossing the border with children; through these procedures dozens of girls were not permitted to exit Rwanda after officials determined they would be victimized in commercial sexual exploitation in Uganda. The government made some efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. In January 2015, police arrested a Kenyan and a Rwandan citizen for attempting to hire Rwandan girls to work in the Gulf; the government initiated the prosecution of these two individuals on trafficking charges under Articles 250 and 256 of the penal code. The government trained all Rwandan troops and police officers on gender sensitivity, human rights, and trafficking prior to their deployment to UN peacekeeping missions abroad. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for all its diplomatic personnel. Diplomats were also required to identify and assist the repatriation of Rwandan trafficking victims abroad.