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UK Presses Rwanda On Human Rights

In a tense exchange on Tuesday July 6, 2010, the British House of the Commons has quizzed officials of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (British Ministry of Foreign Affairs) regarding the on-going repression and assassinations in Rwanda and the role the British Government has played or is expected to play.
The FCO officials included the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr William Hague, The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Mr Jeremy Browne, The Minister for Europe, Mr David Lidington, and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Henry Bellingham.

Henry Belligham said during the hearing: “We have already made our views clear to the Rwandan Government, and we will continue with that dialogue, putting pressure on them. As I said a moment ago, it is essential that there should be not only a free election, but one with proper opposition and open and transparent media reporting it.

Following is the entire hearing about Rwanda’s human rights and ongoing repression against and assassination of opposition figures and journalists.

Ann McKechin (Glasgow North) (Lab):
What recent discussions he has had with the Rwandan National Election Commission on the forthcoming presidential elections in that country.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Henry Bellingham):
We are working with the National Election Commission, encouraging it to implement recommendations of previous EU election observer missions. The recent electoral code addresses most recommendations, but it is important that the presidential elections in August comply with international norms.

Ann McKechin:
I am sure that the Minister will share my concerns about the increasing reports of incidents of harassment and intimidation of opposition leaders, including the arrest of one of the leaders of the opposition party just less than two weeks ago. Will he impress it on the National Election Commission and the Rwandan Government that such continued reports will stain Rwandan’s reputation, which has made much progress in the past decade, and that it is vital that they show real signs of ensuring that democracy is fully protected?

Mr Bellingham:
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that constructive question. I share her concern about the arrest of Victoire Ingabire, who is a prominent opposition leader, and about the fact that her American lawyer, Professor Erlinder, was also arrested on what were basically trumped-up charges. We are also concerned that so far just one party outside the ruling coalition has been registered, and we are applying as much pressure as we can.

Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con) rose—
Mr Speaker:
I call Andrew Stephenson—[Interruption.] He is not Andrew Stephenson, but he is very welcome. Let us hear from him.

Stuart Andrew:
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Given that top military officials have also been arrested, does my hon. Friend the Minister see any danger of interference in the elections by the Rwandan army?

Mr Bellingham:
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. To say that Rwanda has come back from the abyss would be an understatement. We should pay tribute to the extraordinary progress that Rwanda has made. What we want to do the day after the election is call the new President of Rwanda, congratulate him on his election and say that he has enhanced credibility and trust with the world community by winning a completely free and fair election against proper opposition.

Mr Speaker:
My apologies to Stuart Andrew.

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab):
Does the Minister share my concern about the murder of Jean-Léonard Rugambage, a journalist on the Umuvugizi newspaper—I will pass that name up to Hansard afterwards—who was shot on Friday 25 June? Does he agree that having free, fair and open newspapers is an essential part of ensuring a civil space where democracy can work, and will he do everything he can to press the Rwandan Government to bring that man’s murderers to justice?

Mr Bellingham:
We have already made our views clear to the Rwandan Government, and we will continue with that dialogue, putting pressure on them. As I said a moment ago, it is essential that there should be not only a free election, but one with proper opposition and open and transparent media reporting it.

Source: AfroAmerica

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July 7, 2010   1 Comment

Rwandan opposition leader Bernard Ntaganda appears in court

Bernard Ntaganda - Leader of PS-Imberakuri

Bernard Ntaganda - Chair of PS-Imberakuri

Kigali: Opposition politician Bernard Ntaganda along with other opposition members was on Tuesday charged with four counts including terrorism after about 10 days in custody.

Appearing before the Nyamirambo court of first instance, Ntaganda and eight others are charged among other cases trying to cause instability in the country. In his defense, Ntaganda instead says this court is incompetent to handle his case as a senior political figure in the country.

Prosecution claims the PS Imberakuri founder – now controlling a dissident faction, is a threat to national security – in which the protests he organised on June 24 are cited. The state also charged him with forming a terrorist organisation.

The state says Ntaganda tried to hold an illegal gathering without the permission of the authorities.

Carrying boxes of documents including protest posters and crude weapons allegedly which were to be used to cause chaos in the June protests, prosecution claims Ntaganda has been trying to destabilize the harmony in the country.

However, court was forced to adjourn after it was challenged that it was not the appropriate instance to try him because he is a leader of a political party. Court over-ruled him later that he was being tried as an individual for crimes committed personally.

For these cases, prosecution wants Ntaganda to stay in custody for the next month as investigations continue.

In lengthy submissions, Ntaganda, himself a lawyer, denied all the charges and dismissed prosecution claims as politically motivated. He said it is only the high court which can handle his case as a party leader.

The other co-accused including FDU-Inkingi vice president and other top members, are charged with two counts including forming a terrorist group and organizing unlawful gatherings.

Some 30 people were arrested on June 24 at the US embassy as they prepared to demonstrate against the National Electoral Commission. Incidentally, the protests happened as President Kagame was submitting his papers at the commission to vie for the August 09 polls.

Court adjourned the case for Wednesday morning.

[ARI-RNA]

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July 7, 2010   No Comments

Nyamwasa shooting: Rwanda Foreign Affairs summons South Africa’s envoy in Kigali

Kigali – The Minister of Foreign Affair, Louise Mushikiwabo, yesterday summoned the South African High Commissioner to Rwanda, Gladstone Dumisani Gwadiso, to express her government’s concerns over the manner in which investigations into the shooting of renegade Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa are being conducted.

Nyamwasa, Rwanda’s former Ambassador to India was shot by an unidentified gunman last month in South Africa.
Since then, there have been several controversial reports on the shooting.

“I summoned the Ambassador to express serious concerns in terms of how the investigations are being conducted. We have been seeing in the media, South African officials implicating Rwanda in the shooting, which is totally wrong and untrue,” said Mushikiwabo.

“Rwanda and South Africa have enjoyed good relations for the last sixteen years, but we are surprised by the manner in which investigations are being conducted which is very unprofessional.”

The Minister added that; “officials are not supposed to speculate whatsoever; they are giving signals implicating the government of Rwanda yet they are supposed to let the investigation take its course”.

Mushikiwabo also tabled before the envoy, Rwanda’s protest of how some of its citizens are being mistreated in South Africa in relation to the Nyamwasa incident.

“We are protesting the manner in which our citizen, Francis Gakwerere is being treated. He was arrested as a suspect but later released. Since then, the South African authorities have confiscated his property with no genuine explanation,” said the Minister.

Some of the property that were illegally confiscated from Gakwerere, a businessman, include his wallet, money, identification documents and watch.

She added that Rwanda was concerned by the possible manipulation of the investigations by Nyamwasa and his entourage, pointing out that his brother-in-law took part in interrogations at the John Foster High Risk Prison.

Other concerns raised by the minister included the delayed arrest and questioning of Nyamwasa’s driver, yet he had confessed of being involved in a plot to kill his boss.

“We are interested in this case since Nyamwasa is a Rwandan wanted by the Rwandan judicial authorities on serious crimes and that why we want absolute transparency in his shooting.

“We also want our citizens to be treated duly until proved guilty,” said Mushikiwabo.

[The New Times]

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July 7, 2010   1 Comment

Rwanda: Victims of “The War on the Opposition” Are Political Prisoners

by Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.

Kigali – Opposition leaders arrested on 24th June 2010 in the operation “war on the opposition” were paraded in a Rwandan court today (6 July 2010). It was an opportunity for both their families and the population to know the charges levelled by the regime’s judiciary: criminal association by responding to calls for protest against the government; and threat to national security because of participation in illegal protest.
The reality is that Rwandans don’t have right to peaceful demonstration thanks to harsh anti-democracy and anti-protest laws tailored by the regime in order to remain in power.

The government has just confirmed that the victims are nothing else than prisoners of conscience.

They have been locked up for speaking out with non-violent means against the dictatorship. The schism between the government and the population is pushing the country to a brink of chaos: jail, torture, summary executions and a set of repressive laws are common for those branded as enemies opposed to the diktat of the ruling party.
Rwandans have only one choice: follow or suffer.

A de facto definition of a political prisoner is provided by the human rights organization Amnesty International: “Any prisoner whose case has a significant political element: whether the motivation of the prisoner’s acts, the acts themselves, or the motivation of the authorities.

The repression and torture of members of the opposition is justified by anti-protest laws protecting the ruling party and its leader Paul Kagame.
According to the incumbent (press conference, Kigali, 29th June 2010), critics are only “a barking dog while the worriless train is speeding up”.
The arrest of peaceful demonstrators is not only an infringement of the Rwandan Constitution but an open violation of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights ratified by every country in 1948, meaning that political, religious and cultural freedoms are supposed to be upheld by every country’s laws.
However, political prisoners continue to be taken every day, with alarmingly large numbers of these arrests being legalized by various anti-terrorism, anti-protest, anti-genocide, divisionism and political party laws.

We call upon the government of Paul Kagame not to disregard the political status of those prisoners of conscience i.e. opposition leaders – Sylvain Sibomana (FDU Secretary General),
– Ms. Alice Muhirwa (FDU Treasurer),
– Theoneste Sibomana (FDU Kigali),
– Martin Ntavuka (FDU Nyarugenge) and
– Bernard Ntaganda (PSI Chair),
– Jean Baptiste Icyitonderwa,
– Theobald Mutarambirwa,
– Sylvere Mwizerwa of PS Imberakuri.

The scandalous incarceration of the lawyer Theogene MUHAYEYEZU mirrors the real face of a leadership oppressing lawyers because of non-violent political views of their clients.

All those innocent people should go back home without any further delay.

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
FDU INKINGI
Chair.

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July 7, 2010   No Comments