Constitutional Provisions

Rwanda's 2003 Constitution (as revised in 2015) address fundamental human rights in its Chapter IV. Article 12 concerns the right to life:

Everyone has the right to life. ... No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of life.

Article 13 concerns the inviolability of a human being:

A human being is sacred and inviolable. ... The State has an obligation to respect, protect and defend the human being.

Article 14 concerns the right to physical and mental integrity;

Everyone has the right to physical and mental integrity. ... No one shall be subjected to torture or physical abuse, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Under Article 40:

The right to freedom of peaceful and unarmed assembly is guaranteed. This right is exercised in accordance with the law. This right does not require prior authorisation, except when provided for by the law.

A further provision specifically addresses the role of the Rwanda National Police:

[The] Rwanda National Police is generally responsible for ensuring security of persons and property throughout the country. ... A law determines the governing principles, powers, responsibilities, organisation and functioning of the Rwanda National Police.Art. 160, 2003 Constitution (as revised in 2015).

Treaty Adherence

Global Treaties

Adherence to Selected Human Rights Treaties

1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

State Party
ICCPR Optional Protocol 1 Not party
1984 Convention against Torture (CAT) State Party
Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints No
CAT Optional Protocol 1 State Party
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties
1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Not party

Regional Treaties

Adherence to Regional Human Rights Treaties

1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights

State Party
1998 Protocol to the African Charter on the African Court State Party
Article 34(6) declaration regarding individual petitions No (withdrawn)
Adherence to International Criminal Law Treaties at Regional Level
Malabo Protocol on the African Court of Justice and Human Rights Not party

National Legislation

Police Use of Force

The use of force by the Rwanda National Police is regulated under a dedicated 2010 law.Law N°46/2010 of 14/12/2010 Determining the Powers, Responsibilities, Organization and Functioning of the Rwanda National Police.Two key provisions in Section 5 of the law govern police use of force, one which has general application and the other that is specific to the use of firearms.

Article 37: Use of force

The Rwanda National Police may use appropriate means of force if it realizes that its objective cannot be achieved otherwise

The use of force has to be lawful, reasonable and proportionate to the objective.

The use of force shall be consistent with laws governing police officers.

These general provisions on use of force conform to the requirements of the international law of law enforcement.

Article 38: Use of firearms

The Rwanda National Police shall endeavour to accomplish its mission without using firearms.

A police officer may, where necessary, use a firearm if:
1. he/she has unsuccessfully tried other means of force;
2. he/she is subject to violence or has to assist other persons who are subject to violence when no other means are available;
3. he/she he/she is fighting armed persons and cannot protect persons or property he/she is supposed to protect by any other means;
4. he/she has to arrest notorious criminals or any other armed persons. 

The provisions governing use of firearms are considerably broader than is permissible under international law. They would allow use of firearms against an unarmed suspect who was resisting arrest and do not require an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.

Use of Force in Custodial Settings

In general, a prison guard is required to accomplish his or her responsibilities "without use of force".Art. 43, 2006 Prisons Act.However,

he/she may use appropriate force in order to accomplish his/her duties in absence of other means available to accomplish them.

Use of force shall be applied reasonably and not excessively beyond the gravity of the committed crime.Art. 43, 2006 Prisons Act.

Under the 2006 Prisons Act, a prison guard is empowered "to use appropriate force to prevent escape of the prisoner".Art. 42, 2006 Prisons Act.The provisions on use of firearms are especially permissive in this regard:

Use of firearms shall be applicable after warning the prisoner. It shall be applicable in the following circumstances: self-defence; escape of the prisoner; to protect other prisoners.Art. 44, 2006 Prisons Act.

Police Oversight

There is no fully independent oversight body for the police in Rwanda. The functioning of disciplinary committees in the Rwanda National Police is supervised by the Directorate of Inspectorate of Services, which submits a report to the Inspector General of Police (the head of the Rwanda National Police).



Views and Concluding Observations of the United Nations Treaty Bodies

In 2016, the Human Rights Committee called on Rwanda to 

systematically undertake prompt, impartial and effective investigations into reported cases of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and murders, including any possible complicity in those acts by members of the police and security forces, and identify the perpetrators with a view to bringing them to justice.Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the fourth periodic report of Rwanda, UN doc. CCPR/C/RWA/CO/4, 2 May 2016, §22.

It further urged Rwanda to "take all measures necessary to prevent cases of disappearances and executions, establish the truth of the circumstances and the fate of the victims and provide full reparation to victims’ families".Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the fourth periodic report of Rwanda, UN doc. CCPR/C/RWA/CO/4, 2 May 2016, §22.

A year later, the Committee against Torture expressed its alarm at

reports from reliable sources indicating that the Rwandan security forces and the police summarily executed at least 37 suspected petty offenders between July 2016 and March 2017 in north-western Rwanda and encouraged local residents to execute others on at least two occasions.Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on the second periodic report of Rwanda, UN doc. CAT/C/RWA/CO/2, 21 December 2017, §38.

The Committee urged Rwanda to:

(a) Ensure that all allegations of extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions and enforced disappearances are investigated with impartiality by an independent authority and that those responsible are punished if found guilty, including potential officers or civilian authorities who may bear command responsibility;

(b) Guarantee that any investigation into allegations of extrajudicial, arbitrary or summary executions entails an independent forensic examination, including, if necessary, an autopsy, in line with the Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016).Committee against Torture, Concluding Observations on the second periodic report of Rwanda, UN doc. CAT/C/RWA/CO/2, 21 December 2017, §39.

In 2020, the Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed its deep concern at allegations of the detention, ill-treatment and beating of children in street situations, sometimes for prolonged periods, in transit centres.


African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights

A number of individual petitions were brought before the African Court prior to Rwanda's withdrawal of the right in 2016, but none concerned police use of force.

Views of Civil Society

Human Rights Watch reported in 2021 that arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture in official and unofficial detention facilities was commonplace, and that there were credible reports of arbitrary detention and mistreatment of people accused of “deviant behaviors", including street children, sex workers, and petty vendors.


2003 Constitution (as revised in 2015)

2010 Law on the Rwandan National Police

2006 Prisons Act

Human Rights Committee: Concluding Observations (2016)

Committee against Torture: Concluding Observations (2017)

Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observations on Rwanda (2020)