Background

The origins of the National Commission for Human Rights date back to the Arusha Peace Agreement of August 1993 between the Government of Rwanda of that time and the Rwanda Patriotic Front, in its Protocol on the Rule of Law. The creation of a National Human Rights Commission was a prerogative to the establishment of the Rule of Law due to the fact that Rwanda has in the past experienced prolonged periods of regimes that massively violated human rights and had a culture of impunity that culminated in the 1994 genocide.

The National Commission for Human Rights is provided for by the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 4th June 2003 as amended to date. Its Article 177 states: “The National Commission for Human Rights is an independent national Commission especially in charge of the promotion and protection of human rights… A Law shall determine responsibilities, organization and functioning of this Commission”. 

The National Human Rights Commission of Rwanda has been created by the Law n° 04/99 of 12th March 1999 modified and complemented by the Law n° 35/2002 of 31st December 2002. This Law was replaced by the Law n° 30/2007 of 6th July 2007 determining the organization and functioning of the National Commission for Human Rights based on the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 4th June 2003 as amended to date. Recently, so as to comply with the Paris Principles, the Law n° 30/2007 of 6th July 2007 has been replaced by Law n° 19/2013 of 25/03/2013 determining mission, organization and functioning of the National Commission for Human Rights.

As the Law n° 04/99 of 12th March 1999 conferred to the Commission only general responsibilities, it has been modified and complemented by Law n° 35/2002 of 31st December 2002 which set detailed responsibilities and powers. The name of the Commission “National Human Rights Commission” was replaced by “Rwanda Commission for Human Rights”.

Although the Law n° 35/2002 of 31st December 2002 set forth detailed responsibilities of the Commission, but it didn’t guarantee the immunity of Commissioners from prosecution for their opinions in the scope of the exercise of their duties which was guaranteed by the first law and this was contrary to the Paris Principles. It is in this context the Law n° 35/2002 of 31st December 2002 was replaced by Law n° 30/2007 of 6th July 2007 which determined the responsibilities, organisation and functioning of the Commission in accordance with Article 177 of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 4th June 2003.  

Finally, the Law n° 30/2007 of 6th July 2007 was replace by the Law n° 19/2013 of 25/03/2013 determining mission, organization and functioning of the National Commission for Human Rights. This new law sets forth new provisions required by the Paris Principles which were missing in three previous laws so as to guarantee the independence and autonomy of the Commission. 

The Commission has its Internal Rules and Regulations which broadly stress the structure, organization, powers and functioning of the Rwanda National Commission for Human Rights.