The government maintained law enforcement efforts. It continued to combat cross-border trafficking crimes, but did not investigate internal trafficking crimes nor did it hold criminally accountable government officials who were allegedly complicit in 2015 of sex trafficking and the recruitment of Burundian refugees, including children, into armed groups. Rwanda’s penal code 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.
During the reporting period, the government initiated an unknown number of trafficking investigations of alleged perpetrators from Burundi, Uganda, Germany, and Kenya. The national public prosecution authority (NPPA) reported initiating 44 cases of cross-border trafficking between July 2015 and October 2016—a 15-month timeframe of which only five months are in the reporting period; of these cases, it prosecuted 16, while 16 cases were dismissed and 12 remained pending at the end of this reporting period. The government convicted seven traffickers during the specified timeframe, but it did not report the sentences or the laws under which these offenders were convicted. During the previous 12-month reporting period, the government reported 19 potential cases of human trafficking and three convictions under anti-trafficking provisions. In 2016, the government did not prosecute or convict any perpetrators of internal sex trafficking or forced labor, despite the prevalence of trafficking within the country. For example, in August 2016 the Rwandan national police (RNP) arrested and investigated a hotel owner for allegedly forcing four female employees to provide commercial sex to the hotel’s customers; however, authorities dropped the case due to insufficient corroborating evidence and released the alleged perpetrator in September 2016 despite the four victims proactively pursuing criminal charges. The government admitted difficulty prosecuting and convicting trafficking offenders due to a lack of investigative and prosecutorial anti-trafficking knowledge, extensive trafficking networks, and lack of victim testimony.
The government did not hold complicit officials accountable for alleged trafficking offenses that occurred in 2015, despite credible allegations of such complicity. During the reporting period, the government continued to deny credible allegations that security and military officials were complicit in facilitating the coerced recruitment of Burundian refugees, including children, in 2015. Moreover, the government did not hold criminally accountable RDF soldiers and refugee camp staff for allegedly facilitating the sexual exploitation of Congolese child refugees in 2015; after conducting an internal investigation, the government relieved two RDF soldiers and other camp staff officials of their duties, but did not prosecute or adequately punish any civilian or military officials for these alleged crimes. The government continued the investigation of three RNP officers serving as peacekeepers in Haiti, who were cited in the UN Secretary-General’s 2016 report on sexual exploitation and abuse of civilians by international peacekeepers. All three were paternity cases arising from inappropriate relationships with adult victims. The officers were placed on administrative duty and not allowed to perform police duties while under investigation. The RNP fully cooperated with the UN-led investigation, which was pending confirmation of paternity by the UN at the end of the reporting period.
As in the previous reporting period, the RNP continued to operate a 15-officer anti-trafficking unit within its INTERPOL directorate. The RNP directorate for anti-gender-based violence (GBV) also 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 remained in each of Rwanda’s police stations. The government continued to provide anti-trafficking training as a part of standard training and professional development for immigration officers, police, labor inspectors, judicial officials, and social workers. The NPPA also trained 60 prosecutors and judicial police on investigation and prosecuting trafficking crimes.