The government increased law enforcement efforts to combat cross-border trafficking crimes but continued to make inadequate efforts to address internal trafficking crimes. Rwanda’s penal code did not criminalize all forms of sex and labor trafficking because it required movement to constitute a trafficking offense. Chapter 8 prescribed penalties of seven to 10 years imprisonment and a fine of 5 million to 10 million Rwandan francs ($5,850 to $11,700) for internal trafficking, and 10 to 15 years imprisonment and a fine of 10 million to 20 million Rwandan francs ($11,700 to $23,400) for transnational trafficking. Child trafficking convictions were subject to a minimum five-year prison term. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the reporting period, parliament passed a revised penal code and, following partnership with a foreign donor to draft the provisions, a standalone anti-trafficking law, the Law on the Prevention, Suppression, and Punishment of Trafficking-in-Persons and Exploitation of Others. However, as the president had not yet signed the legislation into law, it remained pending enactment at the close of the reporting period.
The National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) reported increased efforts compared to the government’s previously reported timeframe, initiating 65 trafficking investigations and prosecuting at least 25 alleged traffickers in 25 cases of suspected trafficking between October 2016 and September 2017—a timeframe that does not entirely correspond to the one previously used (July 2015-October 2016). Of the 25 prosecutions of alleged traffickers, five involved internal trafficking. The NPPA reported obtaining convictions for at least 12 traffickers in 12 cases during the specified timeframe, but it did not report the sentences or the laws under which these offenders were convicted. During the previous timeframe, the government reported investigating 44 cases, prosecuting 16 cases, and convicting seven traffickers. In 2017, the government did not adequately prosecute and did not convict any perpetrators of internal sex trafficking or forced labor, despite the presence of trafficking within the country. 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. Unlike previous years, the government held a complicit official accountable for trafficking offenses, sentencing a former Rwandan National Police (RNP) officer to five years imprisonment for participating in the trafficking of women to Oman. During the reporting period, there were no reports that government officials were complicit in trafficking from refugee camps; however, there were reports that refugee whistleblowers from 2015 experienced reprisal from the government for reporting protection concerns in camps. Following previous years’ concerns with complicit officials at the refugee camps, an NGO, in partnership with the government, trained all Ministry of Refugee Affairs and Disaster Management (MIDIMAR) officials on anti-trafficking.
As in the previous reporting period, the RNP continued to operate a 15-officer anti-trafficking unit in its Criminal Investigations Division. The RNP directorate for anti-gender-based violence (GBV) had three officers in each of the country’s 78 police stations who served as points of contact for domestic trafficking victims. 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 RNP continued to convene quarterly meetings of provincial and district police, investigators, prosecutors, and immigration officials to provide ongoing training on Rwanda’s regional anti-trafficking laws, trafficking recognition and investigation techniques, which reached an additional 39 investigators. The government did not report provision of training to law enforcement personnel on a victim-centered approach and victim-witness support mechanisms. The government also held joint exercises with Ugandan and Tanzanian officials for the purpose of bolstering cross-border security, including cooperation to combat trafficking.