Under its technical co-operation programme to assist the transitional National Assembly of Rwanda, the Inter-Parliamentary Union organised, with financial support from the UNDP and in collaboration with the Commission on National Unity and Human Rights of the transitional National Assembly of Rwanda, a seminar on "Parliament, guardian of human rights". The event was held on 22-24 January 2002 at the premises of the transitional National Assembly in Kigali.
The seminar began with a visit to three sites of the 1994 genocide, wich provided a bitter reminder of the terrible impact on the country and its people of the tragic events of that year. 1994 was the year when Rwanda went back to square one, particularly with respect to human rights. The role of the transitional National Assembly, which resumed in November 1994, was crucial in finding the way to national reconstruction and the establishment of the rule of law, and it remains equally important today.
The aim of the seminar was to assist the National Assembly to do precisely that by analysing various mechanisms and strategies which would enable the parliament and its members to better promote and protect human rights. The presence of human rights experts and MPs from Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa and Benin was instrumental in allowing participants to discover different parliamentary practices and exchange views on the subject.
The seminar focused on the role of parliament as a legislative body, including budget-related matters and on its important oversight role. Furthermore, it was stressed that in order to carry out that function well, MPs should enjoy freedom of expression and parliamentary immunity to shield them from any arbitrary measure which the Executive might decide to take. The accountability of each and every MP, as a key player on the national scene, was underscored.
The three days of lively debate and questioning bear testimony to the keen interest aroused by this seminar which has certainly shed more light on the role of MPs as guardians of human rights.