Rwanda: Know your rights: Crime and territory

Elizabeth Buhungiro

Laws on crime and punishment vary from country to country. That’s why the Penal Code of Rwanda provides laws on the way crimes committed on different territories are punished.

Article 9 of the Penal Code says that any offense that is committed by either a national or a foreigner on Rwanda’s territory is punished according to Rwandan law. The exception to the rule is any person with diplomatic immunity recognised by Rwanda.

The definition of Rwandan territory, according to article 10 of the Penal Code is: “land, rivers, lakes and air space within the boundaries of the Republic of Rwanda and Rwandan Embassies in other countries.”

The limit of Rwanda’s territory in terms of persecution of crime also extends to areas such as water bodies, vessels that fly the flag of Rwanda and aircrafts that are Rwandan-registered as long as they are in a territory which is not under any other country. This is according to article 11 of the Penal Code.

If a person who is within Rwanda’s territorial bounds is an accomplice of a crime committed in another country, article 12 of the Penal Code says that such a person may be prosecuted by Rwandan courts as long the crime is punishable by both foreign and Rwandan law.

If a Rwandan commits an act that is punishable under Rwandan law in a foreign country, he/she is prosecuted and tried by Rwandan courts as if the offense was committed on Rwandan territory. This is par article 13 of the Penal Code.

Other crimes that can be tried under Rwandan law are international and cross-border crimes. Article 15 of the Penal Code defines international crimes as those that have been “characterised as such by International Conventions” while cross-border crimes are those “for which one of its constituent elements is accomplished outside Rwanda’s borders.”

For above mentioned crimes, it doesn’t matter whether they have been committed by a Rwandan or a foreigner, or whether they have been committed inside or outside Rwandan territory. Such crimes as listed under article 16 of the Penal Code include terrorism, hostage taking, piracy, drug and arms trafficking, slavery and torture, genocide and other crimes against humanity, and other grave crimes.

A country may request the extradition of a criminal on Rwandan territory. This is granted under article 18 of the Penal Code as long as the extradition is in accordance with Rwandan law, international conventions endorsed by Rwanda, and as long as the crime is considered punishable both in Rwandan and foreign law. Additionally, there has to be an agreement on extradition between the country requesting it and Rwanda.

A person will not be given up for extradition if his/her offense is political in nature and Rwandans are not to be extradited.

A person who has been prosecuted and convicted in a foreign country may serve their punishment in Rwanda at the request of the Public Prosecution or at the request of the victim if it includes civil damages whose execution must take place on Rwandan territory. This is according to article 20 of the Penal Code.



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