Rwanda Overview

While the rules governing civic space in Rwanda are relatively progressive, in practice civil society organisations and human rights defenders must operate within seriously confined boundaries if they are to avoid harassment or censure. Organisations focussed on monitoring human rights or promoting a more open society are particularly targeted, while the public rarely takes to the streets in protest to express grievances out of a fear of arrest. Freedom of speech is also gravely undermined in a country where political dissent is rarely tolerated, as journalists and media houses face pressure and harassment. The decision in a referendum to allow the incumbent president to remain in power beyond 2017 has raised fears that full enjoyment of basic rights will continue to be denied in the foreseeable future. Rwanda’s withdrawal of its Article 34 (6) declaration, which had allowed its citizens to take human rights cases to the African Court, adds to concerns about the country’s commitment to fundamental freedoms.