Paris-Geneva, December 16, 2009. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), denounces the submission of draft amendments to the Rwanda Penal Code that would, if approved, criminalise homosexuality as well as the activities of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transexual (LGBT) human rights defenders and NGOs in Rwanda, by punishing the promotion of - and awareness-raising on - homosexuality with imprisonment.
In November 2009, draft amendments to the Rwanda Penal Code were submitted to Parliament, with a view to, for the first time, criminalise homosexuality as well as any activity of promotion and sensitisation on the issue.
In its current form, the draft Article 217 of the Penal Code reads as follows: “Any person who practices, encourages or sensitises people of the same sex, to sexual relation or any sexual practice, shall be liable for a term of imprisonment ranging from five to ten years and fine ranging from 200,000 to one million Rwanda francs” (from about 240 to 1,202 Euros).
“If adopted, this text will make impossible any activity of promotion and protection of the rights of LGBT in Rwanda. This is a blatant violation of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and shall in no way be acceptable”, FIDH President Souhayr Belhassen said today.
The inclusion of this provision in the new Penal Code will also hinder the implementation of the Rwanda National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS by the National Commission of Fight Against AIDS (Commission nationale de lutte contre le SIDA - CNLS), which is currently considering the inclusion of homosexuals in the plan.
“It is feared that the draft Article 217 of the Penal Code was introduced in an attempt to deprive human rights defenders of their right to promote health and sexual rights and to fight discrimination. As such, it violates international basic human rights and is contradictory to the Rwandan Constitution as well as various regional and international conventions. It is all the more worrying as the Ugandan Parliament is currently debating on a similar bill criminalising the ‘promotion of homosexuality’. Accordingly, we urge the Rwandan Parliament to withdraw this article”, said today Eric Sottas, OMCT Secretary General.
Today, the lower house of Rwandan Parliament was to hold its final debate on the issue, and a final vote on the text should occur by the end of the week. If the Chamber of Deputies approves, the draft code will be examined by the Rwandan Senate, most likely in early 2010.
The Observatory recalls that freedoms of association and expression are guaranteed by Articles 5 and 6 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1998. Accordingly, the Observatory calls for the immediate repeal of these draft amendments, and to ensure in all circumstances that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without hindrances, in conformity with national, regional and international human rights obligations of Rwanda.
For further information, please contact :
- FIDH : Gaël Grilhot / Karine Appy : + 33 1 43 55 25 18
- OMCT : Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 52 42