29 November 2011
(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Kigali, 28 November 2011 - In a legal analysis
released today, ARTICLE 19 highlights how the Draft Penal Code for
Rwanda is fundamentally flawed from a freedom of expression perspective.
Both houses of the Rwandan Parliament have already approved the Draft
Penal Code, and it is now awaiting the signature of President Paul
Kagame before it becomes law. Presented with the option of either
accepting or rejecting this law, ARTICLE 19 urges President Kagame to
guarantee freedom of expression in Rwanda by rejecting the law and
returning it to Parliament for redrafting.
"President Kagame now has the opportunity to demonstrate his
commitment to freedom of expression by rejecting the Draft Penal Code
for Rwanda," said Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Director for Eastern Africa.
"If enacted, this legislation will negate recent and pending media
reforms to ensure the sector is independent, professional and
sustainable. As such, it poses a serious threat to the protection of all
other human rights in Rwanda," continued Maina.
ARTICLE 19 is seriously concerned about a number of provisions in
this important piece of legislation that do not comply with
international standards on freedom of expression, especially those
relating to criminal defamation, protection of national security, access
to reproductive health information and genocide ideology.
Offences in the Draft Penal Code, such as a number of severe
criminal defamation penalties, invert international standards on freedom
of expression and reputation and must be replaced with robust
protection for freedom of speech. Several of these provisions provide
heightened protections for officials, while others treat abstract
nationalistic symbols, such as the national flag, anthem, or emblems and
insignia as if they were people with reputations to defend. Criminal
defamation provisions are always disproportionate restrictions on speech
that have no legitimacy under international law.
The protection of national security and public order forms the basis
of numerous other restrictions on free expression and association.
These provisions restrict expression even where no connection to a
national security or public order breach is demonstrated, and are
therefore not necessary. Indeed, several of these provisions limit the
freedom of individuals to discuss important aspects of public life;
including military affairs and the Rwandan economy. Similar provisions
also restrict the disclosure of state secrets and provide insufficient
safeguards for journalists reporting on matters in the public interest.
Moreover, the Draft Penal Code even restricts women's access to
reproductive health information, making it a crime to publicise
information that may cause a woman to abort a pregnancy, even in
circumstances where the Draft Penal Code provides that an abortion would
Lastly, the Draft Penal Code entrenches provisions on "genocide
ideology" that ARTICLE 19 had highlighted as weaknesses on several
occasions since 2009. These provisions are extraordinarily broad,
allowing the state to suppress discussion of history, politics and
personal experience, particularly related to issues surrounding
genocide. In addition, these provisions violate international human
rights and humanitarian norms, and are likely to have an effect
counterproductive to their purported aim.
In sum, ARTICLE 19 reminds President Kagame of his obligations under
international human rights law, and urges him to renounce the Draft
For more information:
Free Word Centre
60 Farringdon Road
info (@) article19.org
Phone: +44 20 7324 2517
Fax: +44 20 7490 0566