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Rwanda’s entry into the Commonwealth: the Human Rights concerns


Since 1996 Rwanda has expressed an interest in joining the Commonwealth and at the Kampala Commonwealth heads of Government meeting in 2007 its application for membership was considered and refused. At the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Port Spain Rwanda’s application for membership is likely to be on the agenda. Rwanda has made several steps towards membership of the Commonwealth and a number of countries including the United Kingdom, Australia and Uganda have expressed support for Rwanda’s membership application.

There have been numerous reports of serious human rights issues in Rwanda. CHRI dispatched a team to Rwanda to investigate the human rights situation. Heading our team was Professor Yash Gahi, a constitutional law expert and a Professor at the University of Hong Kong. The team documented a number of ongoing abuses of civil and political rights including restrictions on freedom of speech, a lack of public accountability and freedom of information and systemic weaknesses in the justice system. A report detailing the team’s findings is available below for download.

A core component of the 1991 Harare Principles is respect for human rights and good government. CHRI believes that the procedure for admission to the Commonwealth must include a full and comprehensive review of the situation of human rights in the applicant country. CHRI stands by its previous submissions to the Secretariat that successful applications must be a “badge of honour”, indicative of the high human rights standards that Commonwealth member states must observe. Admitting a well supported application without due concern for the countries Human Rights record devalues the standards of the Commonwealth and CHRI opposes Rwanda’s application for membership at this time.

CHRI Publications on Rwanda

Rwanda’s entry into the Commonwealth in the news

Other organisations on Rwanda

Rwanda's Application for Membership in the Commonwealth - Report & Recommendations of CHRI

Rwanda defends rights record over Commonwealth bid, Reuters, July 21,2009.

Rwanda’s Commonwealth accession questioned, Afrol News, July 21,2009.

Rwanda's Commonwealth hopes dented by human rights criticism, Guardian, July 19,2009.

Uganda pledges support for Rwanda’s Commonwealth Bid The New Times, 26th February 2007

Anger at France drives Rwanda into the arms of the Commonwealth The Times 16th February 2007 

Human Rights Watch

Law and Reality: Progress to Judicial Reform in Rwanda

“There will be no trial: police Killings of Detainees and Collective Punishments”

Amnesty International

Suspects must not be transferred to Rwandan Courts for trial until it is demonstrated that trials comply with international standards