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To the Rwandan Government:
The Government of Rwanda must strive to improve the protection of vulnerable children. The government cannot condone widespread abuse and exploitation of children simply because Rwanda is a poor country. Nor can the government delegate to society its obligation to protect children's rights. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Rwanda ratified in 1991, requires that policymakers incorporate child protection concerns into new policies as the government embarks on ambitious programs including constitutional and land reform. The Government of Rwanda must not only enact concrete legislative protections for children but must also make sustained efforts to ensure that they are enforced.

Juvenile Justice

· Develop and implement as soon as possible a system of juvenile justice that emphasizes the best interests of the child and provides children with a fair hearing and equal protection of the law in accordance with international standards. Children accused of infringing the law have the right to treatment in a manner consistent with the promotion of their sense of dignity and worth, taking into account their age and the desirability of promoting their reintegration into society. The juvenile justice system should be employed to treat those accused of crimes of genocide while they were children as well as children, including those living on the streets, accused of common crimes.

· Immediately release all remaining prisoners arbitrarily detained on charges of genocide while they were children-especially those younger than fourteen, the minimum age for criminal responsibility, at the time of the crime; those against whom there is not substantial evidence; and those who are likely to have completed their sentences in pretrial detention (including all prisoners accused solely of property crimes, for which the maximum penalty is restitution).

· Expedite the case files and trials of all those accused of crimes committed while they were fourteen to eighteen years old if they are not released.

· Ensure that children accused of genocide or common crimes who were fourteen to eighteen years old at the time of the crime and whose cases are in the regular justice system have prompt access to effective legal counsel and other due process protections afforded them under international human rights law, in addition to the separate trials and reduced penalties that should be afforded them under national law.

· Amend the law on gacaca, the popular justice system being put in place to try those accused of genocide, to ensure that defendants who were children at the time of the crime receive additional protections as required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

· Follow-up with those who are or have already been released after spending their adolescence in prison to provide them with the necessary education, training, and protection to ensure that they enjoy their human rights.

· Provide training and issue instructions on children's rights for members of the National Police and Local Defense Forces, in particular to cease the use of physical force during interrogation. Investigate and prosecute any police or security agents accused of having beaten or otherwise seriously mistreated children.

Abuse and Exploitation

· Draft and implement binding standards for the protection of children who lack parental care including orphans, children in foster care, children with a parent in prison, children living without adults, and the increasing numbers of children affected by AIDS. The standards should make explicit that these children have the right not to be exploited for their labor, have the right to education, and have the right to own and inherit property. The standards should be disseminated widely to the population. Local authorities should be trained to enforce the standards, and those who fail to do so should be disciplined.

· Take immediate steps to identify vulnerable children and monitor their protection. These should include deployment of additional social workers and lawyers or paralegals at the local (district) level to monitor children's rights proactively. They should have the power to intervene with local authorities and, if necessary, in tribunals when they suspect a child is being abused or exploited.

· Ensure that the official minimum age of eighteen is respected for recruitment for the Rwandan Defense Force and the Local Defense Forces. For example, instruct local authorities and commanders in charge of recruitment to verify the age on identity cards of all new recruits. Officials who violate this rule should be held accountable.

· National and municipal authorities should immediately cease forcible roundups of street children. Resources should be devoted to creating other programs such as education and training programs and encouraging children to take advantage of them, and to addressing the abuse and exploitation that caused them to flee to city streets in the first place.

· Ensure that officials do not arbitrarily deny government assistance for school fees to needy children in marginalized groups. Local authorities who do not comply should be disciplined.

· Address the severe problem of child domestic labor, particularly among child domestics including foster children. Efforts should include the creation of mechanisms to enforce their rights as set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and public information campaigns about the exploitative nature of domestic labor for children.

· Ensure that child protection concerns are reflected in important new legislation and policies currently being developed including the new constitution and land law and policy.

To Rwanda's International Donors and UNICEF:

· Publicly and privately urge the Government of Rwanda to cease abusing children's rights including forcible roundups of street children and denial of due process protections for children in conflict with the law whenever they occur; ensure that donor funding does not support these actions.

· Work with the Government of Rwanda to ensure that child protection concerns are reflected in the range of new legislation and policies currently being elaborated including the new constitution, fiscal decentralization policies, and land law and policy.

· Monitor the use of aid money allocated to the justice system and gacaca to ensure that appropriate safeguards for minors are respected.

· Provide resources and technical assistance to facilitate the government's efforts to provide education and protection for vulnerable children.

· Allocate additional resources for Rwandan nongovernmental organizations to provide training and other forms of assistance to vulnerable children and to monitor the protection of children's rights.

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