Supporting Rwanda’s new NPM to monitor police custody and safeguards

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The APT recently led a face-to-face workshop with staff of Rwanda’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to strengthen their work on monitoring police custody and detention safeguards.

During the four-day workshop, held from 9-12 November 2020, the APT team of Alexis Comninos and Ben Buckland worked with members of newly-designated National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), established within the NHRC.

The training included two visits to police stations in Kigali, where NPM staff focused on monitoring the implementation of safeguards during police custody.

Ben Buckland, APT/Rwanda

“This included monitoring whether people were informed about their rights, whether their families were notified, and whether they had access to a lawyer and to a doctor during the first hours of custody,” said Mr Comninos, APT Legal Adviser.

Workshop discussions also touched on the challenges of monitoring custody during COVID-19.

“It is such an important issue for all monitoring teams. We were able to provide practical guidance we developed this year, as well as share experiences from other independent oversight bodies,” Mr Comninos said.

Ben Buckland, APT/Rwanda

Prior to the workshop, the APT held three virtual training sessions with the NHRC, which included exchanges of best practices from other NPMs around the world. An additional online session will be organised to identify future priorities.

“This visit to Kigali also provided us with the opportunity to meet in person with Madam Marie-Claire Mukasine, the newly-appointed Chairperson of the Commission,” said Mr Buckland, APT Senior Adviser Oversight and Learning Development. “Our strong relationship with the Commission goes back to before 2015, when we first began   supporting national efforts to implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) in Rwanda.

Ben Buckland, APT/Rwanda

“We were also able to meet with representatives from civil society and the diplomatic community to discuss areas for ongoing and future collaboration.”

From the outset, the APT has supported the NHRC to prepare the ground and strengthen its capacity to be effective in its new mission to prevent torture and ill-treatment in places of detention. This included training sessions in 2018 and 2019 on organisational and planning issues, as well as detention monitoring practice.

In July 2020, a revised organizational structure for the Rwandan NHRC was published in the official gazette, which included the establishment of a six-person NPM department within the Commission.

More information on the APT’s work to support torture prevention in Rwanda is available here.