Rwanda has announced the appointment of another remarkable female law scholar, Providence Umurungi, as the new Chairperson of the National Commission for Human Rights, replacing Marie-Claire Mukasine who was at the helm of the institution for over three years, since June 2020.
This momentous decision comes in a historic move towards gender equality and recognition of exemplary leadership, as The Cabinet appointed Mukasine to head to Japan as the proposed Ambassador.
Umurungi, 52, has legal and human rights experience spanning about 25 years.
She is widely respected for her expertise in human rights law and her commitment to promoting justice and equality, brings a wealth of experience to her new role.
The mother of two studied international law. She has a master’s degree from the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) – a public research university based in Montreal, Canada.
The appointment of Providence Umurungi as Chairperson of the National Commission for Human Rights is seen as another significant step toward gender equality and the empowerment of women in leadership positions. Rwanda’s commitment to promoting gender parity has long been recognized internationally, and this latest decision serves as a shining example of the nation’s dedication to inclusivity and equal representation.
The overall mission of the Commission is human rights promotion and protection, preventing torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
Before her new appointment, Umurungi was the Head of International Justice and Judicial Cooperation Department, or Principal State Attorney, at the Ministry of Justice. Earlier, she was an Associate Legal Officer at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.
Umurungi’s service records
From November 2016 until her new appointment, Umurungi was the Head of the Department of International Justice and Judicial Cooperation at Rwanda’s Ministry of Justice.
Earlier, from January 2014 to October 2016, she served as Project Coordinator of the One UN Programme on Access to Justice, Human Rights and Peace Consolidation, under the Ministry of Justice.
She also served in diplomacy from January 2010-December 2013 as Administrative Assistant to the Rwanda High Commission, Ottawa, Canada.
From January 2008 to September 2008: Coordination officer, National Task Force on the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Completion Programme, at the Ministry of Justice.
Other functions she held include Associate Legal Officer, ICTR, Office of the Registrar, Legal Service and Internship Program Unit, from December 2006 to November 2007.
That was preceded by her being an Associate Lecturer, in the Faculty of Law at the former National University of Rwanda (current University of Rwanda), and Coordinator of a Master’s Programme in Business Law, from June 2005 to November 2006. While at the university, she taught Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law courses.
The National Commission for Human has powers in line with discharging its human rights promotion and protection responsibilities.
These include receiving and considering testimonies on human rights violations; and having access to any place where rights violations are alleged or reported including places of detention for the purpose of investigations.
Others are contacting, interrogating and seeking explanations from any person likely to have testimony, information, responsibility and expertise deemed to enlighten it on scrutinising and collecting Human Rights violation evidence.
It also has the powers to have access to documents, consult them on the spot or get their copies as well as any other document required by the commission to be able to analyse and collect human rights violation evidence, and to conduct mediation and conciliation between parties with human rights litigations where the mediation or conciliation does not contravene the law.
In line with the rule of law, the commission has the powers to request relevant organs to unconditionally restore the rights of any person where it appears that his/her rights have been violated; and to request relevant organs to bring to justice any person having committed offences related to the violation of human rights.
Particularly, Commissioners (of the commission) have permanent judicial police power throughout the territory of Rwanda while discharging their duties.