RWANDA: Tier 2 Watch List
Rwanda is a source, and to a lesser degree, a transit and destination country for a limited number of women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Rwandan girls and boys are exploited in domestic service through extended family networks; some of these children experience physical or sexual abuse and non-payment of wages. In 2012, there were reports of older females exploiting younger girls in sex trafficking to pay for their expenses after offering them room and board. In 2012, brothel owners reportedly supplied child sex trafficking victims to clients at hotels, but there were no reports of such crimes in recent years. Rwandan men, women, and children are subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor in domestic work and agricultural and industrial sectors in destinations around the world; the primary destination for Rwandan victims is Uganda, but they are also exploited in East Africa, South Africa, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Malaysia, China, the United States, and Europe. Some foreign nationals transit Rwanda before experiencing exploitation in third countries. Kampala- and Nairobi-based labor recruiters and brokers recruit workers through fraudulent offers of employment; they coach potential victims on evading law enforcement authorities at Rwanda’s land border crossings or hire smugglers to assist in illegal, unregulated crossings.
Some refugees fleeing instability and political violence in Burundi were exploited in commercial sex, child sex trafficking, and unpaid domestic labor—some of which may be labor trafficking—in Rwanda. Between April and December 2015, approximately 70,000 Burundian refugees fled to Rwanda, which resulted in an increase in child sex trafficking, which is defined as any individual younger than 18 years old who is exploited in commercial sex. Additionally, in 2015, Burundian refugee girls transited through Rwanda and were exploited in sex trafficking in Uganda; some of these girls may also be subjected to domestic servitude in Uganda. Separately, at a Congolese refugee camp, one civilian and three Rwandan Defense Forces soldiers assigned to the camp were accused of facilitating the transport of Congolese child refugees to nearby towns for sex trafficking.
During the reporting period, Burundian men and some children in Rwanda were recruited and used in armed groups; though some recruitment was reportedly voluntary, some were reportedly coerced through physical and verbal threats. Between May and September 2015, Burundian refugees residing in Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda were recruited into non-state armed groups supporting the Burundian opposition; Rwandan security forces charged to protect the camp population reportedly facilitated or tolerated the recruitment activity. Many refugees alleged that recruiters—including both Rwandan officials and other refugees—threatened, intimidated, harassed, and physically assaulted those who refused recruitment attempts. Most recruits were adult males, but in three verified cases, Burundian refugee children were also identified as recruits from Mahama refugee camp. Refugees reported that Burundian recruits, including women and children, were trained in weaponry by Rwandan military personnel at a training camp in southwestern Rwanda.
The Government of Rwanda does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Rwanda is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Some government officials, including military and security personnel, were reportedly complicit in trafficking crimes, including child soldiering and sex trafficking. Though complicity in trafficking crimes reportedly ceased by the end of 2015, the government conducted limited investigations of complicit officials and only administratively disciplined some perpetrators. The government continued programs to combat and prevent trafficking, including through awareness-raising campaigns, social service programs to identify and assist women and children at risk of trafficking, increased law enforcement training, and programs intended to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. Nevertheless, the government did not adequately screen for trafficking victims among individuals held in transit and vocational training centers, which operated without judicial oversight and functioned as de facto detention facilities. The government acknowledged that resource and personnel constraints continued to hinder the full implementation of its anti-trafficking policies and programs, but government expenditure on anti-trafficking programs and implementation of the national anti-trafficking action plan increased. The government also sought assistance for anti-trafficking policy reforms and programs from international donors.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RWANDA:
Investigate, prosecute, and convict perpetrators of forced labor and sex trafficking, including officials and individuals involved in recruitment and use of refugee adults and children into armed groups and sex trafficking; work with UNHCR to strengthen protection for Rwanda’s refugee population, and train Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (MIDIMAR) and security officials to identify and screen for trafficking among refugees; systematically identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, and ensure they are not arrested, detained, or punished for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking; allocate resources for the provision of appropriate long-term protection services, including shelter, for all trafficking victims; continue cooperation with NGOs and international organizations to proactively identify and refer victims to adequate protection services; continue to train law enforcement, judicial officials, labor inspectors, and social workers on the implementation of trafficking laws and victim identification procedures; continue to implement the national anti-trafficking action plan; improve efforts and institute a system to collect trafficking law enforcement and victim identification data; and continue to hold anti-trafficking awareness campaigns.
The government’s law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking continued, though some officials were complicit in sex trafficking and the recruitment of Burundian refugees into armed groups. 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, but also includes crimes that are not defined as trafficking under the UN Palermo Protocol. Chapter 8 prescribes penalties of seven to 10 years’ imprisonment and financial penalties for internal trafficking, and up to 15 years’ imprisonment for transnational trafficking. Child trafficking convictions are subject to a minimum five-year prison term, while slavery convictions carry three- to 12-year prison terms. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Law Relating to the Rights and Protection of the Child outlaws child sex and labor trafficking and slavery under article 51. In 2015, the government initiated a review of the penal code’s trafficking provisions, requesting international assistance in this effort, to ensure they reflect international best practices; the review was not complete at the end of the reporting period.
The government reported 19 potential cases of human trafficking involving 26 alleged perpetrators in 2015, but did not report the details of these cases; these efforts compare to 24 investigations, six prosecutions, and four convictions in the previous reporting period. The Ministry of Justice reported three individuals were convicted under anti-trafficking provisions, but it did not provide additional details of these cases. Authorities reported that numerous identified perpetrators operated from outside of Rwanda, complicating their apprehension and arrest. The government acknowledged that, due to resource constraints, law enforcement officers did not always have adequate resources or investigative skills to follow through with all investigations, leading to the acquittal of some suspected offenders. The government conducted only limited investigations into credible reports of complicity and took limited administrative action against some of these officials; however, it did not prosecute or convict government officials allegedly complicit in trafficking offenses. In particular, the government did not investigate credible allegations that security and military officials were complicit in facilitating the recruitment of Burundian refugees, including adults and children, from Mahama refugee camp into armed groups intended to overthrow the Burundian government. In addition, the government investigated and court martialed RDF soldiers, who allegedly facilitated the transport of refugee girls to nearby towns for sex trafficking; the government did not publically release the result of the judicial proceedings.
The Rwandan National Police (RNP) continued to operate a 15-officer anti-trafficking unit within its INTERPOL directorate. The RNP directorate for anti-gender-based violence (GBV) continued to designate three officers in each of the country’s 78 police stations to serve as points of contact for domestic trafficking victims; six judicial police officers specialized in victim identification were also placed in each of Rwanda’s police stations. During the reporting period, the RNP trained law enforcement and judicial officials on domestic and transnational trafficking issues, including investigative techniques. The government also trained 500 members of the local guard patrol that works with the RNP on indicators of child sex trafficking. Additionally, the government provided anti-trafficking training as a part of standard training and professional development for immigration officers, police, labor inspectors, judicial officials, and social workers.
The government continued to identify sex and labor trafficking victims and provide them comprehensive social services. However, the government failed to adequately protect and prevent adult and child refugees from recruitment and use by armed groups, as well as sexual exploitation, which occurred during the reporting period. While the government increased security and improved registration procedures at Mahama refugee camp in November 2015, the MIDIMAR and staff discouraged Burundian refugees from reporting concerns of coerced recruitment and intimidated an individual working for an international organization in the camp. Additionally, authorities not only failed to protect refugee girls from sexual exploitation, but some officials also facilitated their sex trafficking. The government continued to operate transit and vocational training centers intended to rehabilitate street children, women in prostitution, and individuals detained for crimes committed as a direct result of trafficking. However, advocacy groups reported that the centers operated without judicial oversight and functioned as de facto detention facilities in which individuals held were not adequately screened for trafficking, were held for arbitrary periods of time, and were at times subjected to physical or sexual abuse. Officials reportedly screened some child detainees for trafficking, but the government did not report the number of child trafficking victims identified among detainees in 2015.
The government reported identifying 25 trafficking victims, some of whom were Rwandans exploited abroad, and repatriated 13 victims through cooperation with international law enforcement entities during the reporting period. The government provided repatriated victims with psycho-social counseling, medical care, vocational training, and support in reintegrating into their communities. In 2015, the government took into protective custody two foreign trafficking victims transiting Rwanda from a third country, and provided the victims with shelter, medical care, and legal services. The government continued to provide victim identification guidelines to law enforcement and immigration officials, while social workers in victim centers also used guidelines to identify and assist trafficking victims. The government reported it continued to provide short-term protection services for trafficking victims, including counseling, medical care, reintegration support with family and community, and re-enrollment in school or vocational training, as age appropriate. The government did not provide long-term protection, including shelters, for trafficking victims requiring assistance for more than one month. In 2015, the government expanded its network of “one-stop” centers from 15 to 21; these centers were located in hospitals and district capitals and 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. NGOs and the government’s gender monitoring office, however, acknowledged the extent and quality of services at these centers varied in quality among locations. The national public prosecution authority continued to operate four safe houses for witnesses in criminal cases, which could include trafficking victims during prosecution of their trafficker; however, in 2015 as in the previous reporting period, the government did not place trafficking victims in the safe houses. Through a social assistance program to support child welfare and counter human trafficking and child labor, the government continued to train non-governmental community volunteers to identify and refer to police families and children at risk of trafficking; the government did not report if any child trafficking victims were identified and referred for protection services through this program. The government continued to support a rehabilitation center for former child combatants associated with armed groups in Democratic Republic of the Congo, which provided psycho-social support, education, and reintegration services; child dependents of former combatants were assisted during the reporting period. Rwandan law does not provide foreign trafficking victims with legal alternatives to their removal to a country where they may face hardship or retribution; however, in practice, NGOs reported the government made efforts not to deport those who faced retribution in their home country. The government encouraged victims to testify against perpetrators, and some chose to testify against alleged traffickers during the reporting period.
The government continued to implement domestic policies and programs to prevent trafficking, including the 2014-2017 national anti-trafficking action plan, but some officials perpetrated trafficking crimes against adult and child refugees seeking safe shelter in the country. In December 2015, during Rwanda’s televised national dialogue, the minister of justice publicly acknowledged the government’s anti-trafficking policies, while President Kagame directed the ministry to review Rwanda’s anti-trafficking legal provisions to increase penalties for trafficking offenses. The government’s interagency anti-trafficking working group met four times during the reporting period. The government acknowledged that resource and personnel constraints continued to hinder the government from fully implementing its anti-trafficking policies and programs, and continued to seek international partnerships and assistance. The government also conducted multiple national and local awareness campaigns, primarily focused on child trafficking and GBV issues. RNP continued to operate a national GBV hotline, which was staffed by social workers trained to identify and refer trafficking cases, but it did not collect data on the number of victims assisted by the hotline. The government continued to require immigration officials to question and verify necessary documents of all adults crossing the border with children to prevent the exploitation of Rwandan children abroad; authorities did not report if they identified or investigated any potential trafficking cases through these procedures in 2015. In July 2015, the government released the results of a national survey on domestic workers, which was intended to identify and document instances of child labor and forced child labor. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and child sex tourism. The government continued an awareness campaign to discourage men from paying for commercial sex, and requiring men who were arrested to perform community service and receive education on women’s rights. The government reportedly closed an unspecified number of labor recruitment agencies suspected of potential trafficking crimes in 2015, and reportedly prosecuted two labor recruiters for trafficking crimes during the reporting period. The government trained all Rwandan troops on gender sensitivity, human rights, and trafficking prior to their deployment to UN peacekeeping missions abroad. The government provided anti-trafficking training for all its diplomatic personnel; diplomats were also required to identify and assist the repatriation of Rwandan trafficking victims abroad.