Practice Relating to Rule 105. Respect for Family Life
Rwanda’s Law Repressing the Crime of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes (2003) provides:
“War crime” shall also mean any of the following acts committed in armed conflicts:
10° intentionally separating children from their parents or persons responsible for their safety and well-being;
Anyone who commits one of the war crimes provided for in Article 10 of this law shall be punished by the following penalties:
1° the death penalty or life imprisonment where he has committed a crime provided for in point 1°, 4°, 5°, 6°, 9° or 10° of Article 10 of this law.
In 2003, in its second periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Rwanda stated:
B. Preservation of identity
163. In an effort to re-establish the identity of more than 14 000 children in 86 CLCs [Centres for Lone Children] after the genocide of 1994 as speedily as possible, the Rwandan Government, supported by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, established family reunification and tracing programmes. Many children have been able to find their families again and, at the end of 2001, only 3 500 lone children were still being housed in 26 CLCs. These are chiefly small children, collectively known as “no known address”, whose age prevents identification. The technique of photo tracing developed jointly by UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross has had some success in seeking the families of the “no known address” children. In addition, each CLC has identification files for every child.
F. Children deprived of a family environment
196. The war situation that Rwanda experienced in 1990, the genocide of 1994 and the resulting internal and external migrations had disastrous consequences in both material and human terms, and many children were separated from their families.
197. The Government has developed a family tracing and reunification programme. Its implementation has been supported by UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and national and international non-governmental organizations, and it has been possible to reunite most lone children with their parents. According to a study carried out by MINALOC [Ministry of Local Administration and Social Affairs], UNICEF and Save the Children, which quotes ICRC, 67 119 children had been reunited with their families in May 2000, and 3 658 had been spontaneously reintegrated into foster families. In principle, no effort is spared to reunite the child with the members of his extended family, or to place him in another volunteer family (family reintegration). Although these cases of family reintegration are not legalized by any law, the Government has drawn up an official document setting out the conditions and procedures for such cases that protects the rights of reintegrated children. The selection criteria for host families are very specific, the best candidates being determined by social committees at the local level. Among non-governmental organizations, International Social Service (ISS) was able to place 800 children in host families between 1996 and 2000, while Concern placed 322 children between 1994 and 1999. It should be emphasized that social officers of the non-governmental organizations concerned and of the Ministry responsible for social affairs supervise the entire process and are responsible for its monitoring.
198. There have been many cases of spontaneous reintegration without the participation of any agency or ministerial institution. Unfortunately, recent studies on the situation of orphans and reintegration have shown that the monitoring phase is not properly carried out, hence the risk that the rights of some reintegrated children may be violated.
199. Children whose families have not been found and who have not been reintegrated in foster families continue to live in CLCs. The amount allocated to CLCs by MINALOC from the regular budget in the budget year 2001 is about 42 million Rwandan francs. In 1996, 86 CLCs housing some 14 000 children were in operation. At the end of 2001 only 26 CLCs housing about 3 500 lone children, made up of orphans and children separated from their families, remained.
200. The decline in the number of CLCs since 1996 is the consequence of the implementation of the national policy for lone children, based on the principle “One child, one family”, and the national mobilization to promote fostering of children in CLCs. This principle stems from the central theme chosen at the fourth Day of the African Child, celebrated on 16 June 1995. Efforts are continuing in this direction as much as they are in the area of family tracing and reunification.
4. Lone children living abroad
327. Following the genocide and massacres of 1994, many children went to various foreign countries. The Rwandan Government continues to repatriate them. Data gathered between 1 January 200 and 30 June 2001 showed 30 874 repatriated persons who had not passed through the MINALOC transit centres, of which 15 603 were children accompanied by their parents and 571 were lone minors. The lone minors were immediately sent to CLCs and are being identified and registered for family tracing.
In 2010, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Rwanda stated:
133. … [A]ctivities in the demobilization camp [for former child soldiers] are accompanied by Family Tracing, i.e. the research for families or families close to the children since the centre only serves as [a] transit place. The National policy on the matter is that every child should have a family. Family Tracing is carried out in collaboration with [the] ICRC which must each time obtain the opinion of the child.
134. The … [former] child soldier who has just been demobilized may reintegrate the civil life through various options:
(a) Handing over the child to its parents (father and mother) or to the one of the two surviving parents (ideal option);
135. Of all these options, ex-soldier children reintegrated until now were received by their families (nuclear or extended family). For children whose families were traced, there exists a reunification ceremony to which local authorities and the surrounding community are invited.
143. Children targeted by this programme are Rwandan children recruited by armed militia operating in DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]. There is also a Burundian child who was repatriated in 2006 and who belonged to FNL [Forces Nationales de Libération]. The family of this child was traced and the child reunified.
[footnote in original omitted]