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Rwanda adopted specific legislation on countering terrorism in 2008, but the government has employed the law also to target political opponents of the regime. 

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

Rwanda has dedicated counterterrorism legislation, which it adopted in 2008. Law 45 is a detailed piece of legislation, which defines terrorism in relatively narrow terms as follows:

to commit or threaten to commit acts aimed at leading State organs into changing their functioning through taking hostages of one or more persons, killing, injuring or threatening the population by use of any means that may kill or injure a person. Art. 2, Law 45/2008 on countering terrorism.

The focus of terrorism is therefore limited to physical harm as opposed to property damage or economic loss. 

It is further stipulated in the 2008 Law that: "An act considered as terrorism shall mean an act committed or a threat to commit an act in the interest of an individual, a group or a terrorist organization." Art. 3, Law 45/2008 on countering terrorism.

The personal and geographical jurisdiction of the law is extremely broad, applying to an "act committed within or outside Rwanda by a Rwandan or a foreigner". Art. 4(1), Law 45/2008 on countering terrorism.

The Penal Code reflects that definition of terrorism, and adds that committing or threatening to commit an act set out above on political, religious, or any ideological grounds also amounts to terrorism.Art. 497(2), Criminal Code of Rwanda.

Adherence to Global and Regional Terrorism Treaties


Rwanda is a State Party to most relevant treaties at global and regional level.


Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention Signatory

It is a signatory but not a State Party to the 2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention. 


Adherence to Regional Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1999 Algiers Convention State Party
2004 Protocol to the Algiers Convention State Party

Laws and Penalties for Terrorist Offences

The 2008 Law prescribes severe penalties for engaging in terrorism. Any person, "whether a principal author or an accomplice who joins or deliberately participates in the acts of a terrorism association" or a group "which operates in building capacities of any association that conducts terrorist acts" is liable to a term of imprisonment of between 20 and 35 years. Art. 75, Law 45/2008 on countering terrorism.

The Criminal Code stipulates that:

Any offender or an accomplice who deliberately joins or participates in the acts of a terrorist association or an association which contributes to the capacity-building of another terrorism association for the purpose of committing or supporting terrorism, shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of fifteen years to twenty years.Art. 498, Criminal Code of Rwanda.

In 2021, Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of "Hotel Rwanda", was found guilty of supporting a rebel group behind deadly attacks in 2018 and 2019 and was sentenced to 25 years in prison for terrorism. He had criticised the Rwandan government for human rights violations, and alleged that Hutus were being targeted. Living in exile, Mr Rusesabagina led an opposition coalition, which had an armed wing -- the National Liberation Front (FLN). In a 2018 video message, he called for regime change, saying that "the time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda". Human Rights Watch observed that Mr Rusesabagina was forcibly disappeared and unlawfully returned to Rwanda in August 2020 and that his trial was marred by fair trial and due process rights violations. 

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

Law 46/2010 on the powers, responsibilities, organization, and functioning of the Rwanda National Police gives the National Police the responsibility of combating terrorism. Art. 7(7), 2010 Law on the Rwanda National Police.

In July 2021, Rwanda was praised as a regional leader in counterterrorism. Michael Rubin, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, lauded Rwanda's military support for the government of the Central African Republic and for its subsequent support to Mozambique, under the auspices of the Southern African Development Community. Mozambique has been battling an insurgency in Cabo Delgado province by a terrorist group linked to Islamic State. 


Rwanda Law 45_2008 on Countering Terrorism

Penal Code of Rwanda (as amended at 2012)

2010 Law on the Rwanda National Police