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Rwanda: Trial against opposition leader Victoire Ingabire

by Dr. Emmanuel Mwiseneza

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza

Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Chair of political party FDU-Inkingi

Everyone is awaiting the trial against Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi, an opposition party that the Rwandan authorities still refuse to register. Officially, she is accused of: genocide ideology, collaboration with a terrorist group, divisionism, spreading rumors aimed at inciting the population to rise against the regime, and creating a rebel army aimed at overthrowing the government by force. However, behind that judicial makeup, there are in reality hidden political agendas for the RPF dictatorship as we shall demonstrate it below.

a. Political reasons

Since the installation of the regime led by the RPF-Inkotanyi, its leaders have established a culture of holding judicial proceedings in order to silence real or supposed opponents. Upon taking office, the regime of Paul Kagame has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of people wrongly or rightly accused of participation in the genocide. If among these prisoners there were people who could have participated in genocide, little by little, people were falsely accused of this crime in order to expropriate them or to silence them politically. This is also what essentially says the latest press release from Amnesty International [1].

All individuals who, at one time or another, tried to contradict those in power, were prosecuted either for genocide or for genocide ideology, even after many years of loyal service to the regime. There is no shortage of examples: former Prime Minister Pierre Celestin Rwigema, former Parliament Speaker Alfred Mukezamfura and former Senator Stanley Safari were prosecuted and convicted for genocide, even though they had occupied these high offices for several years. All those who tried to be critical or wanted to leave the RPF to create their own opposition party such as former President Pasteur Bizimungu, former minister Charles Ntakirutinka, former candidate for the presidential elections in 2003, Dr. Theoneste Niyitegeka, were prosecuted for fabricated crimes. Yet the reality is quite different: the political motives are the main reasons for the trial.

When Ms. Ingabire arrived in Rwanda on January 16, 2010, the regime was taken aback by the determination of this lady who does not mince words in denouncing the muzzling of the press, social injustice, unfair trials and discriminatory bereavement. To defy General Paul Kagame and aspire to be his challenger in presidential elections could only attract the wrath against the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi. The RPF regime spared no means to drag Ms. Ingabire in the mud while hiding itself behind the judicial reasons.

i. Persecution of Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza upon her arrival in Rwanda

When FDU-Inkingi announced its intention to go to implement itself in Rwanda in order to participate in the presidential elections of August 2010, acts of intimidation and other threats began right away. They were aimed at deterring FDU-Inkingi from returning to Rwanda. The first attempts were of course the refusal to grant passports to potential returnees in Rwanda in order to help implementing the party. This refusal did not alter the determination of FDU-Inkingi to return to Rwanda to exercise the political rights recognized by the current Constitution in Rwanda. The Rwandan government then appealed to the media under its control to demonize Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and to lobbying groups to accuse her of daring to participate, with representatives from the FDLR, in a meeting on the reconciliation of Rwandans. Ironically, the RPF had also been invited and was represented at that meeting which was organized by a Spanish NGO in Barcelona, Spain. Yet everyone agrees that the FDLR are part of the equation to be solved to ensure lasting peace in the Great Lakes region in general and in Rwanda in particular.

Calls for lynching the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi were launched by the highest state authorities. The only daily newspaper in Rwanda and government mouthpiece, The New Times (TNT), devoted itself to a series of editorials and articles, which every day, distorted, and transformed Ms. Ingabire’s speeches, denigrated her, called her all the names under the sun, accused her of defending the theory of double genocide, to spread the genocide ideology, to preach divisionism, to undermine national unity, to collaborate with the FDLR, etc.. Other state media or media that are close to the government followed the same path and took turns with TNT by relaying calls for lynching Ms. Ingabire. Her only crime: having dared to point the accusing finger to individuals that are responsible for massacres, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against the Hutus as this has been done with regard to individuals that are responsible for the genocide against the Tutsis. She is “guilty” of having called for the fight against impunity, by bringing up the crimes committed by the RPF army. Even though, these crimes have also been confirmed by the UN report “Mapping Exercise” published on October 1, 2010.

On February 3, 2010, she was attacked by a mob inside the administrative office of the Kinyinya Sector. As if this was not enough to discourage the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi, the police took over and began to summon her almost on a daily basis for interrogations that sometimes lasted for up to 10 hours a day. It was then the beginning of a psychological warfare. When she tried to take airplane to go to visit her family in the Netherlands, the police stopped her despite the fact that there was no order preventing her from leaving the territory. On April 22, 2010, she was placed under house arrest. In fact, the major wrong doings alleged against Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza and FDU-Inkingi, are those of having dared to create an opposition party and having requested that political and military figures within the current regime that are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity be brought to justice.

ii. Persecution of members of FDU-Inkingi

When the campaign of demonization and aggression against Ms. Ingabire intensified, other party members who dared to affirm themselves as such or who were suspected of being so, in turn, were persecuted, fired from their jobs, were beaten and some of them were imprisoned or went missing. As they were getting ready to participate in a peaceful demonstration organized by the opposition [2] on June 24, 2010, hundreds of members of FDU-Inkingi were arrested and beaten by the police at Gishushu (Remera) and outside the Ministry of Justice in Kimihurura. They were converging for a peaceful demonstration outside the Ministry to ask the government to lift: the refusal to register FDU-Inkingi; restrictive measures and false accusations against their Chairperson Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza who was placed under house arrest since April 22, 2010 and therefore was deprived of her basic civil rights.

Two members of the Interim Executive Committee of FDU-Inkingi, Mr. Sylvain Sibomana, Secretary General, and Ms. Alice Muhirwa, were arrested and tortured by elements from the national police. Ms. Alice Muhirwa was hospitalized for several days after such abuses. Other officials of FDU-Inkingi including those within the City of Kigali were also beaten, arrested and put in jail along with members of the PS-Imberakuri including their Chairperson Me Bernard Ntaganda. Behind the criminal charges against these members there are hidden political motives: no citizen has the right to demonstrate peacefully against the regime and draconian laws tailored in order to remain in power indefinitely.

iii. Refusal to register the party FDU-Inkingi

FDU-Inkingi is an opposition party founded in exile. It decided to return to Rwanda to exercise its political rights recognized by the Constitution of Rwanda mostly owing to the fact that the Rwandan authorities keep appearing to the world that the doors are open for all Rwandan refugees who wish to return to their country. When she arrived in Rwanda, Ms. Ingabire directly began the administrative process aimed at registering FDU-Inkingi, which meanwhile had managed to recruit members inside the country. As provided in the Rwandan law on political parties [3], to be approved, each political party must hold a constituent assembly that brings together representatives of the party in each district, according to a distribution imposed by that law.

FDU-Inkingi has repeatedly requested a permit to hold the constituent assembly, but each time the permit was refused. Initially, local authorities claimed that FDU-Inkingi must first have a permit from the police. Such a request was later rejected by the police before falling back as usual on the alleged crimes of Ms. Ingabire, even though during those first applications she was not the subject of any previous charge. When the permit to hold a constituent assembly was requested by the first Vice Chair of the Interim Executive Committee, it was the same old song while he too, was not the subject of any prosecution. The evidence finally came to light: the regime did not want in any way to recognize a real opposition party. However, to mislead the public opinion, the government was always put ting forward the alleged criminal motives leveled against the Chairperson Ms. Ingabire.

b. Political motives became criminal charges

What everyone feared for quite a while, particularly since the interference of President Kagame finally arrived. Responding to yet another meeting of the anti-criminal police (CID), Ms. Ingabire was arrested on April 21, 2010 at 9 am GMT. Shock and dismay settled among the people fighting for democracy and who dreamed for the beginning of a democratic and peaceful change in Rwanda. On the same day she was presented to the prosecutor to let her know that she was charged with genocide ideology, divisionism and collaboration with a terrorist group, the FDLR. Her house was searched from top to bottom; computers, mobile phones, flash drives, SIM cards, CD’s and various documents were taken away by the police and Ms. Ingabire was taken to jail where she spent that night. With these seized documents, the police were able to get some insights into the FDU-Inkingi operating system especially the names of its members that the police began to intimidate and harass. On April 22, 2010, Ms. Ingabire was released under judicial control. However, the harassment continued until her second arrest on October 14, 2010 after a week of siege. She was first held at the police station at Kicukiro before being transferred in Kigali maximum security prison, also known as “1930”, where she is held up to date.

c. The charges

i. The ideology of genocide

“I and my party, FDU-Inkingi, founded in 2006, recognize that in 1994 there was genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsis. We also recognize that prior to 1994, in 1994 and after 1994, there were in Rwanda, war crimes and crimes against humanity that targeted the other components of the Rwandan population. These are the facts that we have witnessed and have been recognized by the United Nations in Resolution 955 of November 8, 1994. We also state unequivocally that anyone with a responsibility for these crimes, whether he/she is part of the former regime or the current regime, must answer for his/her actions in court. All these crimes are serious and are inalienable but we never tried to compare them or to exempt the responsibilities of some culprits by the responsibilities of others. We also recognize that genocide is the highest degree of inhumanity. We advocate that the sufferings of all survivors be adequately recognized and that they all be given special compensations,” Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, FDU-Inkingi, Press Release of 03 May 2010.

This statement could not be clearer; it resumes everything FDU-Inkingi and its Chairperson have been saying publicly. There is no doubt about the recognition of the genocide by FDU-Inkingi and its Chairperson. Ms. Ingabire is a victim of false denunciation of the RPF which would like to liquidate any opposition leader by using the law No. 18/2008 of 23/07/2008 on genocide ideology. This law was designed in a vague and ambiguous way intended as a tool for blackmail, to use as the sword of Damocles over anyone who disagrees with the sole thought of the RPF or anyone who ventures to assert that the RPF committed crimes against humanity and acts that could be classified as genocide against the Hutus (trial of Peter Erlinder, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Deo Mushayidi, Paul Rusesabagina, Bernard Ntaganda, etc.).

Any difference of opinion on facts that were proven in our recent history, any mention of the crimes and victims of the RPF during the conflict from 1990 to 1994 and beyond can be equated with genocide ideology. The Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Kagarurama himself acknowledged that the law on genocide ideology was problematic following strong reservations in this regard expressed by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International had, but since then nothing has changed [4].

ii. Divisionism:

FDU-Inkingi is an opposition party. It is not a mystery in terms of the country’s governance and national cohesion for FDU-Inkingi to be in total opposition to the current regime. Our party cannot accept to stand behind the ruling party under the pretext that to not have the same vision as the RPF is deliberately equated to divisionism. The Constitution of our country, which the RPF regime set up itself, recognizes the multiparty system; the citizens have de facto the right to political projects competing with those of the ruling party.

To tell the world that the Rwandan people are under the yoke of fear and a political totalitarianism of another age; to denounce a justice that is under the dome of the executive and the traditional courts “Gacaca” which do not allow assistance by a defense counsel; to denounce the blatant hunger in rural Rwanda and slums; to regret that the basic health cares are lacking despite the compulsory affiliation to the so-called universal healthcare system (mutuelle de sante), and that the access to high schools and universities is subjected to discriminatory criteria; to condemn serious violations of humanitarian law and massive looting of the Congo’s natural resources and to request that the perpetrators of such crimes be prosecuted, that is what the current regime in Rwanda calls divisionism and this is what the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi is being accused of.

iii. Collaboration with a terrorist group:

The decision to return peacefully to exercise our political activities in Rwanda against a regime that we knew was dictatorial and disrespectful of basic human rights of its citizens has not been easy and has not been taken lightly. All scenarios to solve the political problems of Rwanda were examined with their consequences. Although we found that the peaceful way was strewn with many pitfalls, it appeared to us to be the best solution in the long term because it is the only way capable of ensuring regime change without further bloodshed and preserving the social fabric of Rwanda.

As a matter of politics, Ms. Ingabire effectively met with a representative of the FDLR, in Barcelona, Spain; the meeting was facilitated by Non-Governmental Organizations in this country. Many participants took part in this meeting, including a delegation from Rwanda whose one member openly declared that belonged to the RPF [5]. The FDLR are like any other Rwandans; they need to be reassured so that they can return home without fear of being charged arbitrarily; there is nothing wrong that they participate in a meeting aimed at reconciliation.

FDU-Inkingi is in total disagreement with the government policy of “poaching” some leaders of the FDLR while emphasizing the use of force against the others, as if the government has no interest that the FDLR problem be resolved once and for all. We know from experience that the sole use of force has never helped to solve problems of political origins. It is this political position that makes it possible that the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi is accused of collaboration with a “terrorist” group.

iv. Spreading rumors aimed at inciting the population to rise against the government

FDU-Inkingi is a political party that is primarily concerned with the population. When we point out all the problems the population is facing, it should not be us who must be accused of stirring up the population against the government. Rather, it the regime that is the source of public discontent must be denounced because of its policies that favor special interests of a group of individuals at the expense of the rest of the population; the regime that has a political justice that favors the witch hunt; promotes informers in order to sow hatred and resentment among citizens so that it can continue to rule over divisions; destroys farmers’ crops so that they can go hungry and hence keep them in dependency. It is not a crime for an opposition party to point out the major problems facing the population and to which the party wishes to propose alternative solutions.

v. Creation of a rebel army aimed at overthrowing the government by force

Knowing the history the RPF created itself, contrary to the assertion claiming that it cares about the interests and safety of the Rwandan people, the RPF seeks to protect its system at any price, and it cries wolf each time an opponent dares to openly stand against its totalitarianism. Indeed, the RPF  regime, because it does not believe at all in political change through peaceful and democratic ways, is afraid that another political organization may seek to repeat its feats of conquest of power by arms. General Paul Kagame, because of his dictatorial governance and serious crimes against humanity he is suspected of having personally committed, knows well that he cannot win free and fair elections.

The accusations that the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi may be involved in military actions and creation of a terrorist group are false and pure fabrications. The nation’s prosecution founds his accusation on statements of another defendant now turned key witness, Vital Uwumuremyi, who said that he had proposed to Ms. Ingabire the creation of a rebel movement, CDF, and that she might have accepted the plan and paid several thousand of dollars for a feasibility study. No one in the region is aware of this movement. The same key witness has provided a list of accomplices, all of which former members of the FDLR, who by chance were already in prison before the return of the main defendent in Rwanda.

Around the statements of these defendent-turned-witnesses, the prosecution has built a double charge of creating a rebellion and complicity in acts of terrorism in an attempt to overthrow the regime by force. Fortunately, “ridiculousness does not kill”! The Rwandan prosecution even claimed that the cesspool of Ms. Ingabire rental home designed to collect rainwater would be a military bunker. Additionally, these accusations that are supported by prisoners who are bought and paid big bucks by secret services, are baseless and have become commonplace to neutralize or imprison all opponents of the regime of General Kagame [6]. This is why Deo Mushayidi, Bernard Ntaganda, Paul Rusesabagina, etc. are all subjected to the same charges as Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.

vi. Complicity in acts intended to overthrow the government by force

Any political party of the opposition is in line to replace the regime to which it is opposed. By choosing to return to Rwanda to exercise political activities, we announced our clear intention to replace the RPF regime by a regime issued from the polls. That means a regime issued from the people’s choice. For the reasons we have already explained, however, we excluded the use of force and have chosen the peaceful way, the only way that seems to be our best long term solution. Therefore, we have nothing to do with those who may be preparing the overthrow of the regime by force. It is once again a fabricated crime to prevent FDU-Inkingi from competing for power.

d. Interferences of the executive and political authorities in the court file

In a rule of law system worthy of its name, the executive branch guarantees the respect for the Constitution. The Rwandan Constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary and the equality of all citizens before the law. The presumption of innocence is also recognized by the law as long as there has been no conviction by a competent court.

While the independence of the Rwandan justice system is questionable, the highest Rwandan authorities, starting with the most prominent among them, the President of the Republic, General Paul Kagame did not wait for the justice to decide on the case of Ms. Ingabire to openly accuse her of fabricated crimes.

The ballet of the attacks was initiated the day after her arrival in Rwanda by the Minister of Internal Security and Chairman of the Ideal Democratic Party (PDI), a satellite party of the RPF, Sheikh Mussa Fazil Harerimana. In his interview in the government supporting daily newspaper, The New Times [7], the Minister Harerimana accused Ms. Ingabire of revisionism and denial and threatened her of prosecution for the simple reason that she dared to say that the Hutu victims of the Rwandan conflict also deserve honor and dignity just as the Tutsi victims of the genocide. This is the dialectic of the RPF: to talk about Hutu victims equals denying the genocide of the Tutsis!

In the same vein, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Jean de Dieu Mucyo violently lashed out at Ms. Ingabire by accusing her of divisionism and called upon the authorities to take appropriate actions. The same speech was then continued by RPF satellite parties. Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo, Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Spokesman for the Senate insinuated that Ms. Ingabire sowed doubt about the existence of the genocide committed against Tutsis. Next, Protais Mitali, Chairman of the Liberal Party (PL), accused Ms. Ingabire of playing the ethnic card [8].

As the saying goes, credit where credit is due: the Golden Palm went finally to President Paul Kagame himself. In a speech delivered on April 7, 2010, on the occasion of the commemoration of the genocide, President Paul Kagame publicly treated Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza of “hooligan that Westerners want to place at the head of the country.” [9]

In several public appearances, the President began to harass her and went on to declare that Ms. Ingabire would face a “wall of laws” that would prevent her from running for president. He did not hesitate to declare that “we [the RPF] fought and what we obtained by force, they won’t take it back from us through the ballot box.” In a separate speech, he declared that the political space in Rwanda was fully occupied. Once the President of the Republic speaks in these terms, one can easily understand the link between politics and justice and the flexibility that remains to the later, which can now begin working to implement the orders from the President of the Republic.

e. Conclusion

As we have just shown throughout this document, the trial against Ms. Ingabire Umuhoza is a political process designed to silence a political competitor in order to perpetuate the dictatorship of the party-state, the RPF. Once FDU-Inkingi announced its intention to return to exercise political activities in Rwanda, the attacks of all kinds began and no action has been left out to deter FDU-Inkingi from returning to Rwanda. From the refusal to deliver passports to members of the party who wanted to return to Rwanda with the Chairperson to implement the party, to unfounded accusations of collaboration with the FDLR rebels operating in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, nothing was left at random. Confronted with the intact determination of the Chairperson of FDU-Inkingi, policy makers opted for the devious transformation of political motives into criminal charges to bar the way to FDU-Inkingi and to Ms. Ingabire, the party Chaiperson. The distortion of her speech delivered at the Gisozi genocide memorial site, hate media campaign conducted by a partisan press of the regime, the interference of authorities in the court file, physical attacks directed against Ms. Ingabire with the administrative building of Kinyinya Sector despite the fact that she was invited by the authorities for administrative procedures, the never ending change of the charges leveled against her, the manipulation of witnesses and evidence by the prosecution and the secret services, the refusal to let Ms. Ingabire talk to her lawyers in privacy, etc. are all elements that allow us to conclude that Ms. Ingabire trial is political and that it only requires political solutions.

As Professor Filip Reyntjens once pointed it out (political column on Rwanda from 2009 to 2010, Antwerp, May 2010), Ms. Ingabire is ultimately the victim of having publicly challenged the very foundations of the regime by addressing three RPF monopoly: a) the status of the RPF as the “moral authority”, b) the status of the Tutsi as the “only victims” of the Rwandan genocide, c) the status of the Hutus as the “criminals.” These three pillars are in fact the basis of internal and international legitimacy of the RPF. Its regime has seen the emergence of a real opposition inside the country claiming the opening of political space as a threat to a situation that the RPF used to take for granted, namely: the total control of politics and the Rwandan society.

But then, a regime that was imposed by force and therefore illegitimate, can it render justice? An obsolete totalitarian regime, criminal, nepotist, clientelist, unable to solve the thorny issue of national reconciliation and most of the problems facing our citizens, doesn’t rather deserve to be replaced by a regime chosen by the people? Next time we will try to make a sketch of answers to all these questions.

Done in Paris on June 19, 2011

For the Coordination Committee
Dr. Emmanuel Mwiseneza
Delegate to information and communication


[1] Amnesty International on Saturday CALLED ON Rwanda to stop using a Law Aimed Preventing “genocide ideology” to stifle dissent and charge Critics and journalists, in http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20110618/wl_africa_afp/rwandapoliticsrightsmedia_20110618152919

[2] The event for which the authorization had been requested by the party PS-Imberakuri founded by Me Bernard Ntaganda, currently also in prison, was brutally repressed by the police before it happened.

[3] Organic Law No 19/2007 of 04/05/2007, complementing Organic Law n ° 16/2003 of 27/06/2003: even though this law is tailored to deter other political parties to be created, FDU-Inkingi had decided to respect it and had been able to meet the stringent conditions imposed by the law.

[4] “In response to this text, the Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama said that these laws were passed in the interests of Rwanda to avoid the repetition of genocide against Tutsi in 1994.

“Like other countries around the world, Rwanda has laws on genocide ideology so that we will never return to hatred and divisionism of the past,” said Mr. Karugarama in an official statement denouncing a report that is “inaccurate and partisan.” “However, in the process of rebuilding our country and development of our system of justice, we’re amending our legislation,” he said. “Thus, the laws on genocide ideology and divisionism are currently being revised and we will amendment them in the interests of Rwanda,” the official said, without specifying the nature of this review”. (Rwanda: Amnesty demande la révision des lois sur “l’idéologie du génocide”)

[5] http://www.veritasrwandaforum.org/dialeg/COMMUNIQUE_FINAL_DIALOGUE_INTRA.pdf

[6] Rwanda: Stop Attacks on Journalists, Opponents

[7] The New Times, Monday 18th January 2010

[8] Ibid

[9] “Foreigners imposing ‘hooligans’ like Ingabire on Rwanda”

June 21, 2011   1 Comment

Rwanda urged to Respect freedom of expression and end arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances

Human Rights Council adopts Universal Periodic Review outcome on Rwanda

Amnesty International welcomes Rwanda’s support of the majority of recommendations made during the review, in particular all the recommendations to protect and respect freedom of expression, including by reviewing and revising existing legislation.

In this respect, the organization urges Rwanda to publicly announce a timeframe for revising the genocide ideology law as well as for the consideration of amendments to the media law by Parliament. It also strongly encourages Rwanda to review related laws and amend the sectarianism law in line with international standards.

Amnesty International is concerned that despite Rwanda’s recognition of the shortcomings of the genocide ideology law, the authorities continue to use it to prosecute government critics, including journalists. It urges Rwanda to ensure that legislative changes are accompanied by prompt reviews of past cases – including of opposition politicians and journalists convicted to lengthy prison sentences for merely expressing their opinions without advocating violence.

Amnesty International also urges Rwanda to uphold its commitment to undertake credible investigations into reports of harassment of journalists and to prosecute where the evidence warrants. Rwanda could demonstrate this commitment by re-opening investigations into the killing of journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage on 24 June 2010 and by following all leads.

Abductions, enforced disappearances and incommunicado detention – rare in Rwanda in recent years – increased in 2010 as the authorities investigated a spate of grenade attacks. Amnesty International deeply regrets Rwanda’s rejection of the recommendation to investigate cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, and enforced disappearances. Rwanda states that it intends to ratify the Convention on the Protection of Enforced Disappearances, yet remains unwilling to investigate such cases.

Amnesty International urges Rwanda to determine the whereabouts and fate of any individual subjected to enforced disappearance. Anyone arbitrarily detained should be granted access to a lawyer and charged with a recognizable criminal offence, or released. Those held incommunicado should be given access to relatives and lawyers. It also calls on Rwanda to respond promptly to communications from human rights organizations and family members regarding such cases.

Amnesty International welcomes Rwanda’s acceptance of recommendations to issue a standing invitation to the UN Special Procedures and urge the government to act on this without delay.

Background

The UN Human Rights Council adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda on 7 June 2011 at its 17th session.

[Amnesty International]

 

June 18, 2011   No Comments

UN Human Rights Council adopts outcome of Universal Periodic Review on Rwanda

7 June 2011 – United Nations Human Rights Council.

Consideration of Outcome of Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda

Summary

Tharcisse Karugarma, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, was grateful to the Council for the opportunity to make further clarification on a few issues that remained pending when the report was formerly presented to the Council’s Working Group. Of 73 recommendations made under the Universal Periodic Review, 3 were rejected by Rwanda because they were premised on wrong grounds. Most of the recommendations were accepted by Rwanda and were being implemented or were in the pipeline for implementation. The Rwanda Government benefited from the recommendations and would cooperate with the Human Rights Council in its quest to protect and promote human rights in Rwanda.

In the discussion on Rwanda, speakers commended Rwanda on implementing many of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review and thanked Rwanda for the clarification provided regarding the recommendations. Speakers appreciated the progress Rwanda had made in achieving its Millennium Development Goals and in working towards reconciliation after the genocide in 1994. Several speakers stated that Rwanda should reform the “genocide ideology laws” and raised concern about the Batwa community in Rwanda.

Speaking in the general debate on the Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda were Algeria, Cuba, Morocco, Republic of Moldova, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda. Also taking the floor were Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Society for Threatened Peoples, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Recontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, Action international pour la paix et le développment dans la région des Grands Lacs, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

General Debate

THARCISSE KARUGARAMA, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, said Rwanda was grateful to the Council for the opportunity to make further clarification on a few issues that remained pending when the report was formerly presented to the Council’s Working Group. Rwanda accepted most of the recommendations made by the Working Group, but observed that many were made several times and thus were merged and harmonized. That was why, according to Rwanda, the total number of distinct recommendations were 73, although the Working Group’s report referred to 81 recommendations. Of all the recommendations that were made, Rwanda rejected only three because they were based on totally wrong or false premises.

Recommendation number 81.1 asked Rwanda to assure that children under 18 were not recruited into any armed group and that child recruitment into the local defense forces or any armed group was prohibited. The Minister said there were no armed groups in Rwanda, the professional army was made up of adult men and women and the Local Defense Force had undergone tremendous reforms to bring it into harmony with national objectives. Recommendation number 81.2 covered Rwanda’s work to ensure that concrete measures were taken in addressing the problem of human trafficking. Rwanda rejected this recommendation because Rwanda was not known as a place where trafficking took place. Rwanda had signed all international conventions against human trafficking and had put in place a policy of community policing.

Recommendation number 81.3 about measures to improve access of minority groups and indigenous peoples to basic social services was also rejected. While there were marginalized and vulnerable groups in Rwanda, there were no indigenous people in Rwanda. Rwanda also rejected recommendation number 80.4, that it should investigate cases of arbitrary arrests and detentions; recommendation number 80.15, that Rwanda should adopt concrete measures to avoid discrimination and protect the right of people of the Batwa Community; and recommendation number 80.16, that Rwanda should ensure religious minorities were able to freely practice their respective religions.

Mr. Karugarama stated that the Rwandan Government had benefited from the recommendations and would in particular cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council in its quest to protect and promote human rights in Rwanda. Most of the recommendations were accepted by Rwanda and were being implemented or were in the pipeline for implementation. This was except for the three that were rejected outright on 24 January 2011 and a further three that had now been rejected out of the 16 that needed further consultations. There was no doubt that Rwanda had made tremendous progress in its reform portfolio and the Universal Periodic Review process would help Rwanda to identify existing gaps that still needed Rwanda’s attention.

MOHAMED SALIM SAMAR (Algeria) thanked the Minister from Rwanda for the useful information he provided on Rwanda. Rwanda’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process had been shown throughout the process and they had accepted many of the recommendations put before them, including three from Algeria. Rwanda had made significant progress toward the respect for human rights, economic growth and national reconciliation that deserved recognition and Algeria wished them every success in the implementation of the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review.

YUMIRKA FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said Cuba welcomed the spirit of great responsibility shown by Rwanda during the Universal Periodic Review process and thanked Rwanda for the additional information provided at the appropriate moment. Cuba fully agreed with the conclusions of the report that Rwanda had made significant progress in the promotion and protection of human rights. Despite the negative impacts and consequences of the 1994 genocide and the challenges, the country had made huge progress. Rwanda intended to achieve a number of Millennium Development Goals even before 2015, including those relating to education, health and the environment. Cuba commended Rwanda for accepting a great majority of recommendations, particularly on socio-economic development and improvement of access to health by women and children. Cuba wished Rwanda and its people great success.

MOHAMED ACHGALOU (Morocco) said Morocco welcomed the delegation of Rwanda. After listening to the statement, the Council was assured that Rwanda would implement the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review. Morocco believed that accepting so many recommendations was an act of good will which underscored Rwanda’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process. Morocco welcomed the steps forward made by Rwanda, especially in assuring the rights of the most vulnerable, particularly women. With regards to the 1994 genocide, Morocco paid tribute to the efforts at national reconciliation, which had set Rwanda on a path to stability and peace. Morocco welcomed the progress toward the Millennium Development Goals made by Rwanda, which would assure that it became a space of peace, economic development and stability.

VLADIMIR CHIRINCIUC (Republic of Moldova) thanked the delegation of Rwanda for its constructive participation in the Universal Periodic Review process and for the additional information they supplied today. The Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda had allowed the Moldovan delegation as well as other interested delegations to have a dialogue with the representatives of the Rwandan Government with respect to the challenges that their country faced in the field of human rights and to formulate appropriate recommendations. The Republic of Moldova noted that Rwanda accepted many of the recommendations put to it, including two recommendations from the Republic of Moldova on women’s rights and domestic violence and speeding up the process of legal reform. This showed Rwanda’s engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process. The Republic of Moldova was encouraged by the determination of the Rwandan Government to pursue efforts to strengthen democratic society and to accept many of the recommendations.

BEATRICE IKEKU-THOMAS (Nigeria) said Nigeria thanked the Government of Rwanda for its commitments and efforts in the promotion and protection of rights of its citizens. Nigeria was encouraged by the acceptance of most of the recommendations by Rwanda, which was reflective of the commitment of the Government to engage with the human rights system, regardless of numerous challenges experienced. Nigeria encouraged Rwanda not to relent in its efforts but to see to the implementation of the recommendations accepted towards the realisation of the human rights of its people and the attainment of its Millennium Development Goals. Nigeria then called on the international community to render all the needed assistance to Rwanda in this regard.

MOUHAMADOU LAMINE THIAW (Senegal) said Senegal appreciated the spirit of openness and dialogue with which the Rwandan delegation engaged in the process of the Universal Periodic Review. It was in that spirit that Rwanda had accepted many of the recommendations, especially as they related to women and children and improving the quality of life of its population. The implementation of the recommendations, along with efforts already accomplished in terms of socio-economic issues, would bring Rwanda closer to achieving its Millennium Development Goals. Senegal noted with interest the clarifications and complementary information provided by Rwanda, including the information related to the fight against all forms of discrimination. The delegation of Senegal wished the Government of Rwanda success in the process of the Universal Periodic Review and in achieving its development goals.

ROSSETTE NYIRINKINDI KATUNGYE (Uganda) congratulated the Government of Rwanda for participating in the Universal Periodic Review process, and Uganda was satisfied with the Rwandan delegation’s consideration of the recommendations made to them, particularly with the clarity given regarding their intended course of action in relation to each recommendation. The Ugandan delegation noted that almost 20 recommendations were already in the process of being implemented and that the Government of Rwanda had accepted almost all of the recommendations given to it. This was indicative of the State’s commitment to the full realization of universal human rights for its citizenry. Uganda also appreciated the reasons given for rejecting three of the recommendations. Uganda was pleased to learn that the Government of Rwanda supported the recommendation to provide basic education for all by 2015. In this regard, Uganda encouraged the Government to continue to give the implementation of this recommendation the priority it deserved.

PHILIPPE DAM, of Human Rights Watch, said that Human Rights Watch welcomed the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda, in particular its recommendations on freedom of expression, legal reforms and the independence of the judiciary. Human Rights Watch remained seriously concerned that freedom of expression was not respected in practice, as evidenced by recent cases of imprisonment and detention of journalists and leaders of opposition parties and lack of progress in the investigation into the murder of the Vice President of Democratic Green Party. Human Rights Watch welcomed the Government’s statement that the Government was reviewing the 2008 “genocide ideology law” and the 2009 media law and encouraged it to amend those laws as soon as possible. The Government should also ensure that the National Human Rights Commission refrained from interfering with the work of independent human rights organizations.

MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, welcomed Rwanda’s support of the vast majority of the recommendations made during the review and urged Rwanda to publicly announce a timeframe for revising the Genocide Ideology Law and the 2009 Media Law. Amnesty International was concerned that authorities continued to use the law to prosecute those engaging in government criticism, including journalists. Amnesty International urged Rwanda to uphold its commitment to undertake credible investigations into reports of harassment of journalists and to prosecute where the evidence warranted. Amnesty International regretted the rejection of the recommendation to investigate cases of arbitrary arrest and detention, and enforced disappearances.

CAROLINE DE BRUIN, of Society of Threatened People, was concerned by Rwanda’s non-ratification of ILO Convention 169 concerning indigenous and tribal communities, linked to the non-recognition of the existence of minorities and indigenous peoples, in particular the Batwa. The refusal of the State to recognize the Batwa as a minority or indigenous group left the Batwa community with no legal status or recognition and, being numerically small, they were prevented from actively engaging in political activities at the national level. The Society of Threatened People called on the State to reconsider its decision not to support the recommendation laid out in the report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review to intensify measures to improve access by minority groups and indigenous people to basic social services such as health, education, employment and occupation.

HASSAN SHIRE SHEIKH, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, in a joint statement, commended Rwanda for its acceptance of the majority of recommendations made during the Universal Periodic Review and encouraged it to go through with their implementation. They also commended Rwanda for accepting the recommendation to ensure the safety of all human rights activists operating in the country and looked forward to seeing the implementation of this commitment. The revision of the Media Law currently under way was also a positive step, particularly if defamation was to be decriminalised. The non-governmental organizations noted with concern the continued use of this and other criminal charges as a means to obstruct freedom of expression in Rwanda. A visit by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression would be welcome. They hoped that the Rwandan Government would continue to seize the opportunity presented by the Universal Periodic Review to engage with civil society to fully implement its recommendations and to make use of their expertise and commitment.

BIRO DIAWARA, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme, appreciated the efforts that Rwanda had made in terms of social fabric and the economy, as well as in implementing political and institutional reforms. These had ensured that Rwanda was now a world leader in the representation of women in parliament. Rwanda had abolished the death penalty and made a significant contribution to peace efforts worldwide. All social strata of Rwandan society should be involved in discussions of peace and reform, in order to provide a framework that was beneficial to social and economic dialogue, and contributed to national cohesion. Recontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme encouraged Rwanda to revise the 2009 law, put an end to restrictions imposed on human rights defenders and encouraged Rwanda to pursue cooperation with the Council.

MAURICE KATALA, of Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs (AIPD), said that Rwanda had been formally and repeatedly implicated by the United Nations, the Security Council, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide. One of the perpetrators of these crimes, General Nkudabatware, benefited from the protection of President Paul Kagame. The mapping report of the United Nations recently echoed grave violations of human rights committed by Rwanda in the Congo and the Great Lakes region. The adoption of this Universal Periodic Review would be an affront to the memory of the 8 million Congolese victims and taint the credibility of the Human Rights Council. Action Internationale recommended that the Council reject the report of Rwanda from the Universal Periodic Review Working Group as it was a State that was de-stabilizing the Great Lakes region.

The Representative of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, noted the willingness of Rwanda to revise its media laws in accordance with international standards, ensure freedom of expression by protecting journalists and human rights defenders, revise genocide laws to meet international standards and reform the judiciary while ending the gacaca court system. Rwanda had a long way to go in achieving the effective implementation of these recommendations and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative questioned the reality of progress given allegations of brutality and miscarriage of justice in the treatment of dissidents. Looking ahead, the implementation must be the letter and sprit for the four years before the next Universal Periodic Review of this country. Rwanda’s implementation of human rights recommendations would not have their full effect until fundamental freedoms were guaranteed within the country and the Government should ensure that free speech and dissent were permitted, that civil society and human rights defenders had the freedom to associate and that space was available for free political participation.

THARCISSE KARUGARMA, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, said he appreciated the statements from partner States and the comments made by non-governmental organizations. With regards to the non-governmental organizations, Mr. Karugarma said he had invited Special Rapporteurs and non-governmental organizations to visit Rwanda. Comments from several non-governmental organizations were unfortunate, sometimes careless and did not reflect the reality on the ground, but Mr. Karugarma stated he would not dwell in a combative mood. Running a country in a way to help people was difficult, and legislative reforms could not satisfy all parties.

The Council then adopted the outcome of the Universal Periodic Review on Rwanda.

June 17, 2011   1 Comment

Human Rights groups launch legal action to force South African government to revoke the refugee status of Rwandan criminal General Kayumba Nyamwasa

Lt Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa: played key role in genocide against Hutus

Lt Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa: played key role in genocide against Hutus

Two human rights groups said Tuesday they have launched legal action to force South Africa to revoke the refugee status of former Rwandan army general Faustin Nyamwasa.

The groups said South Africa was violating its own refugees act and international law by granting exile to Nyamwasa, who has been accused of playing a catalytic role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

“Refugee law is intended to protect the vulnerable, not those who are the cause of the vulnerability,” said Alan Wallis, a lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which brought the case together with the Consortium for Refugees and Migrant Rights.

Officials at South Africa’s home affairs ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the case.

Nyamwasa, formerly part of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s inner circle, fled to South Africa in February after being accused of corruption and abandoning his post as Rwanda’s envoy to India.

He was shot and wounded outside his Johannesburg home four months later in what South Africa’s foreign ministry described as an assassination attempt by foreign “security operatives”.

Pretoria recalled its ambassador to Rwanda in the wake of the incident.

Nyamwasa’s presence has caused diplomatic headaches for South Africa.

Spain and France are both seeking to extradite him for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide, in which 800,000 people were killed.

Rwanda also wants to bring him home to serve a 24-year prison sentence after a military court tried him in absentia on charges of desertion, defamation and threatening state security.

Nyamwasa was tried with three other former top officials who co-authored a document slamming what they said was the repression of freedoms in Rwanda since Kagame’s arrival in 1994.

He also faces terrorism charges for allegedly masterminding grenade attacks last year in Kigali in the run-up to presidential elections.

Nyamwasa served as chief of staff in the Rwandan army and is accused of orchestrating the shooting down of an aircraft carrying former president Juvenal Habyarimana — an event that heightened ethnic tensions and helped spark the genocide.

He is also accused of involvement in the killing of civilians in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, including 2,500 Hutu refugees.

[AFP]

June 15, 2011   1 Comment

Do Rwandan Tutsi dissidents Kayumba Nyamwasa, Karegeya and RUD-Urunana collaborate with FDLR?

No Documented Collaboration Among Kayumba Nyamwasa, Karegeya RUD-Urunana and FDLR, UN Experts Says

In their interim report published on June 7, 2011 and presented in front of the United Nations Sanctions Committee, the UN Panel of experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)  have rejected Rwandan Government’s allegations accusing two exiled Tutsi military leaders General Kayumba Nyamwasa and Colonel Karegeya of collaborating with the Hutu rebel groups of  Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) and  Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD-Urunana).

The Group would like to clarify that, contrary to reports in the Rwandan press, the Group’s final report in November 2010 did not document any substantial links with, or material support to, FDLR by the Rwandan dissidents Colonel Patrick Karegeya and Lieutenant General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, aside from a potential emissary who may have visited armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in February 2010, ” the UN experts said.

On January 21, 2011, during a summit of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes Countries (Communauté économique des pays des Grands Lacs, CEPGL) in Kigali,  Rwandan Government officials had alleged that “an alliance between armed groups operating in Rutshuru, with the alleged support of Rwandan dissidents Lieutenant General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa and Colonel Patrick Karegeya, had the potential to destabilize the whole region

The UN Experts added that  RUD Urunana leaders denied any collaboration between RUD-Urunana and FDLR or RUD-Urunana and  Rwandan National Congress (RNC), a political organization linked to the two exiled Tutsi high ranking officers. RUD-Urunana and another  Rwandan Tutsi rebel group, the Rally for the Rwandan People (RPR) form the National Democartic Congress (NDC).

The experts said: “At the outset of its mandate, the Group met with the Secretary-General of RUD, Félicien Kanyamibwa, and its spokesperson Augustin Dakuze, who sought to respond to the Group’s final report of 2010 (S/2010/596). They denied any responsibility for events ending the Kasiki demobilization process in February 2009, instead blaming its failure on alleged attacks by Rwandan forces, the outcome of a visit to assess conditions in Rwanda in January 2009 and the rapprochement between the Governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They also disavowed political connections with FDLR or the Rwandan National Congress.” (see also AfroAmerica Network article: UN Security Council Meet Rwandan Opposition Leaders of February 9, 2011)

However, the UN Experts confirmed that Tribert Rujugiro, a Rwandan Tutsi magnate and a personnal advisor to the Rwandan dictator  General Paul Kagame was funding the Congolese rebels of the CNDP.  According the the UN Experts: “the Group gathered testimony from numerous CNDP officers that Mr. Rujugiro provided support to their movement. These allegations were confirmed by at least three independent sources.“  The UN Experts also confirmed that Tribert Rujugiro is a Congolese, not a Rwandan because  ”in contrast, the documents annexed as “Exhibit L”, pertaining to the lands owned and acquired by Mr. Rujugiro, all indicate that Mr. Rujugiro was born on 4 August 1941 in the locality of Jomba, which is in Rutshuru Territory, North Kivu Province, and that he has Congolese nationality. These documents are duly dated and signed.”

A final report from the UN Group of Experts will be issued in November 2011.

[AfroAmerica Network]

June 15, 2011   3 Comments

Secret Recording: Kagame’s assassin and his boss in assassination attempt in South Africa on former chief of staff and ambassador Kayumba Nyamwasa

Kagame’s Assasin caught in South Africa Trap

In a stunning exposé the exiled Rwandan online newspaper Umuvugizi has sourced actual audio recording between Rwandan General Jack Nziza (see picture) and one of the General’s shadow operatives; they are heard negotiating the price for the assassination of General Kayumba Nyamwasa.

Jack Nziza

Emmanuel Ndahiro

At the time of the recording (2010) Nyamwasa was recovering in hospital in Johannesburg, from an earlier unsuccessful assassination attempt that had left his body riddled with bullet wounds.

In this recording you can hear a nervous operative asking General Nziza to quickly dispatch a USD$250,000.00 down payment to give to the would-be assassins to be followed by an additional USD$250,000.00 after accomplishing the vile deed.

The disorganised Murder for Hire master-mind General Nziza is heard pleading for time because he cannot raise the money – it is on Sunday and of course banks are closed in Kigali on a Sunday. Or Kagame was unreachable at this time to authorize from what accounts the cost of killing would come from?

The butcher of Kigali is currently on his way to Chicago to address the “Rwanda Day” on 11/12 June 2011. In Chicago he will tell the world how he has single handedly transformed Rwanda. Enroute to the windy City he had a starring role at UNICEF’s missing face of Children and Aids meeting in New York.

The dictator’s trip to the US is designed to give him as much good press as possible. He needs to bolster his image given the rising international attention to his brutality.

Despite the dictator’s attempts to walk and talk like a benevolent leader, his instructions to silence and even kill opposition voices; whether they be opposition politician’s, critical media, Rwandan business entrepreneurs (Tristar Corporations cannibalisation of the Rwandan economy) , is finaly testing the patience of his Western backers.

The evidence is mounting against the dictator Kagame, he is paving his own path to the ICC in the Hague.

[African Dictator]

June 11, 2011   5 Comments

Amnesty International campaign “Unsafe to Speak Out: Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Rwanda”

by Amnesty International

UNSAFE TO SPEAK OUT:
RESTRICTIONS ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN RWANDA

Rwanda: Unsafe to speak out

Rwanda: Unsafe to Speak Out

Freedom of expression in Rwanda has been unduly restricted for many years. The months leading up to the August 2010 presidential elections, which President Paul Kagame won with 93 per cent of the vote, were marked by a clampdown on freedom of expression. The Rwandan government has expressed a commitment to review laws which criminalize criticism, but recent trials of journalists and opposition politicians suggest that Rwanda’s clampdown on critics shows no sign of abating.

The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), in power since the 1994 genocide, tightly controls political space, civil society and the media, contending that this is necessary to prevent renewed violence. Human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents cannot openly and publicly criticize the authorities. People who do speak out risk prosecution and imprisonment.

Restrictions on freedom of association and expression prevented new opposition parties from contesting the August 2010 elections. During this period, journalists were subjected to criminal sanctions for defamation. The Rwandan government did not respond constructively to criticism but rather tried to stamp it out.

CRIMINALIZING CRITICISM

TAKE ACTION NOW

Write to the Rwandan authorities, calling on them to:

● Allow opposition politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and others to express their views, including legitimate criticism of government policies, without fear for their safety.

● Accelerate the review of the “genocide ideology” law and the 2009 media law to bring them in line with Rwanda’s obligations under international human rights law.

● Review laws on “sectarianism” and “insulting the president” to bring them in line with Rwanda’s obligations under international human rights law.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS TO:

President Paul Kagame
Office of the President
BP 15 Kigali
Rwanda
Fax: + 250 252 58 43 90

Mr Tharcisse Karugarama
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
BP 160 Kigali
Rwanda
Fax: + 250 252 586 509

Vague and sweeping laws on “divisionism” and “genocide ideology” were introduced in Rwanda in the decade after the 1994 genocide. Up to 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the genocide, mostly ethnic Tutsi, but also Hutu who opposed the organized killing. The laws prohibit hate speech, but are broadly drafted so that they criminalize expression that does not amount to hate speech, including legitimate criticism of the government. The laws contravene Rwanda’s regional and international human rights obligations and commitments to freedom of expression, and the vague wording is deliberately exploited to violate human rights.

In its August 2010 report, Safer to stay silent: The chilling effect of Rwanda’s laws on “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism” (Index: AFR 47/005/2010), Amnesty International described how the vague wording of these laws is misused to criminalize criticism of the government and legitimate dissent by opposition politicians, human rights activists and journalists.

Amnesty International found that many Rwandans, even those with specialist knowledge of Rwandan law including lawyers and human rights workers, were unable to precisely define “genocide ideology”. Even judges, the professionals charged with applying the law, noted that the law was broad and abstract.

At a local level, individuals appear to use “genocide ideology” accusations to settle personal disputes. These laws allow for the criminal punishment even of children under 12, as well as parents, guardians or teachers convicted of “inoculating” a child with “genocide ideology”. Sentences for convicted adults range from 10 to 25 years’ imprisonment.

GOVERNMENT COMMITMENTS TO LEGISLATIVE REFORM

The Rwandan government expressed a commitment in April 2010 to review the “genocide ideology” law. During Rwanda’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in January 2011, the Rwandan government reiterated this commitment and indicated that the 2009 media law, which unduly restricts freedom of expression, was also up for review.

Despite their recognition of the shortcomings of the “genocide ideology” law, the government continues to use it to prosecute individuals for legitimate criticism. It remains unclear whether the “divisionism” law, similarly used to silence critics, will also be revised. Since the elections, individuals have also been convicted of threatening state security, another charge carrying a heavy prison sentence, for criticizing the government.

MEDIA CLAMPDOWN BEFORE THE ELECTIONS

The government clamped down on critics before the August 2010 presidential elections. They used regulatory sanctions, restrictive laws and criminal defamation cases to close down media outlets critical of the government.

The Rwandan Media High Council, a regulatory body close to the ruling party, suspended two private Kinyarwanda language newspapers, Umuseso and Umuvugizi, from April to October 2010. It then called for their indefinite closure claiming that some of their articles threatened national security.

Jean-Bosco Gasasira, editor of Umuvugizi, and Didas Gasana, editor of Umuseso, fled Rwanda in April and May 2010 respectively after receiving threats.

OPPOSITION POLITICIAN IMPRISONED

Rwandan opposition leader and founding president of the opposition Ideal Social Party (PS-Imberakuri), Bernard Ntaganda, was jailed on 11 February 2011 on politically motivated charges. He was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment after being convicted of breaching state security, of “divisionism” for public speeches criticizing government policies ahead of the elections, and of attempting to plan an “unauthorized” demonstration. Bernard Ntaganda appealed against his conviction.

Bernard Ntaganda’s conviction is part of a wider and concerning trend to prosecute individuals with threatening national security for legitimate criticism of the government. His prosecution for threatening state security and “divisionism” was based solely on his speeches criticizing government policies. The prosecution had requested a 10-year prison sentence for these two charges and contended that “paint[ing] a negative image of state authority” could cause the population to rebel and create unrest.

Bernard Ntaganda was arrested at dawn on 24 June 2010 – the first day that presidential candidates could register for the elections – and just hours before a demonstration planned by his party in the capital, Kigali. Although Bernard Ntaganda had requested authorization to hold the demonstration, according to the prosecution the authorities had attempted to notify him that it was banned only on the day before it was due to take place. The defence said the demonstrators were unaware of the ban.

The Ideal Social Party (PS-Imberakuri) was the only new party which successfully secured registration. It was later infiltrated by dissident members who decided not to field a candidate in the elections.

Bernard Ntaganda was called before the Senate in late 2009 to respond to “genocide ideology” accusations. In April 2010, the Senate’s political commission said they felt such accusations were well founded.

The government should immediately and unconditionally release Bernard Ntaganda, imprisoned for expressing his opinion without advocating violence.

JOURNALISTS IMPRISONED

Agnes Nkusi Uwimana, editor of the private Kinyarwanda newspaper Umurabyo, and her deputy editor, Saidati Mukakibibi, were sentenced on 5 February 2011 to 17 and seven years in prison respectively for opinion pieces published before the elections. Both women appealed against their conviction.

Agnes Nkusi Uwimana was found guilty of threatening state security, “genocide ideology”, “divisionism” and defamation, and Saidati Mukakibibi was found guilty of threatening state security. The two women were prosecuted over several articles in which they criticized government policies and made corruption allegations against senior government officials, including President Kagame. The articles also made references to the prevailing feeling of insecurity before the elections and contended that there were growing divisions within the security forces.

Before prosecution, Agnes Nkusi Uwimana was called before the Rwandan Media High Council to respond to allegations that her articles were defamatory.

The government should immediately and unconditionally release Agnes Nkusi Uwimana and Saidati Mukakibibi, imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression without advocating violence.

JOURNALIST MURDERED

Rwandan journalist and deputy editor of the Kinyarwanda newspaper Umuvugizi, Jean-Leonard Rugambage, was shot dead outside his home in Kigali at 10pm on 24 June 2010. He was the first Rwandan journalist to be murdered in recent years.

Jean-Leonard Rugambage had been investigating the shooting in the same month of the exiled former head of the Rwandan army, Kayumba Nyamwasa, in South Africa. Earlier on 24 June, Umuvugizi had published an online article alleging that Rwandan intelligence officials were linked to the shooting. In the days before his murder, Jean-Leonard Rugambage told colleagues that he felt surveillance over him had intensified.

There is no evidence that Rwandan police have explored those leads into the killing of Jean-Leonard Rugambage that pointed towards it being politically motivated. Within days of the murder, two suspects were arrested. In October, they were convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. They claimed that Jean-Leonard Rugambage had killed one of their family members during the 1994 genocide. A case had been brought against Jean-Leonard Rugambage on these same allegations in 2005 before a gacaca court (community tribunals to expedite trials of the vast majority of people suspected of participation in the genocide) after he published an article critical of gacaca. However, it was dropped for lack of evidence.

Amnesty International believes that the government should re-open the investigation by establishing an independent commission of enquiry) into the killing of Jean-Leonard Rugambage with a view to investigating all possible leads.

OPPOSITION POLITICIAN MURDERED

On 14 July 2010, André Kagwa Rwisereka, vice-president of the opposition Democratic Green Party, was found dead in Butare, southern Rwanda. He had been beheaded.

André Kagwa Rwisereka, who left the RPF to create the Democratic Green Party, had told colleagues in the weeks before his murder that he was concerned for his security. Other Democratic Green Party members said they had also received threats.

No one has been brought to justice for André Kagwa Rwisereka’s murder. The police opened investigations, but the prosecution claim to have insufficient evidence to press charges. Amnesty International calls on the government to establish an independent commission of inquiry into André Kagwa Rwisereka’s death.

[AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL]

June 7, 2011   3 Comments

Rwandan football team Amavubi U-17 in Mexico World Cup plays against England on June 19th.

Rwanda is in Group C together with Uruguay, Canada and England.

The Rwanda team Amavubi U-17 opens the campaign with a challenge against England on June 19. All Rwandans are excited and expect their favorite team to perform very well.

The groups for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 are as follows:

Group A (Morelia/Monterrey)

1. Mexico

2. Korea DPR

3. Congo

4. Netherlands

Group B (Monterrey/Morelia)

1. Japan

2. Jamaica

3. France

4. Argentina

Group C (Pachuca/Torreon)

1. Uruguay

2. Canada

3.Rwanda

4. England

Group D (Torreon/Pachuca)

1. USA

2. Czech Republic

3. Uzbekistan

4. New Zealand

Group E (Queretaro/Guadalajara)

1. Burkina Faso

2. Panama

3. Germany

4. Ecuador

Group F (Guadalajara/ Queretaro)

1. Australia

2. Côte d’Ivoire

3. Brazil

4. Denmark

 

June 6, 2011   No Comments

Rwandan Gacaca Genocide Courts Betrayed Rape Victims

RWANDA: Rape, justice and privacy

Rwanda Gacaca court in action

Justice in action: A gacaca court near Kigali (Photo: IRIN)

A new report has rekindled debate on whether the Rwandan government “betrayed” women who were raped during the 1994 genocide by letting community-based gacaca courts process their cases.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report marks one of the first attempts by an advocacy group to assess how the gacaca handled rape cases, which were transferred from conventional courts in 2008. (Gacaca means “grass” in Kinyarwanda, symbolizing a gathering place and referring to a system of public conflict resolution once reserved for minor civil disputes.)

Because of the community-based nature of gacaca, HRW says the privacy of rape survivors was “seriously compromised” by the transfer. The government, however, argues that appropriate safeguards were put in place to keep testimony confidential, and stresses that gacaca was the only means of administering justice in a timely fashion. Some Rwandan civil society groups share this view.

Philip Clark, political scientist and author of The Gacaca Courts, Post-Genocide Justice and Reconciliation in Rwanda: Justice without Lawyers (2010), said the resource constraints placed on conventional courts, which, before 2008 had failed to take action on genocide-related rape cases, made gacaca “the most obvious process to deal with those particular crimes”. Still, he conceded that some problems had emerged.

More than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus perished in the genocide. The resulting arrests saw dramatic prison overcrowding: by 1998, 130,000 detainees were being held in a system designed for just 12,000.

The government in 2002 formally launched trials by gacaca, which were to be adjudicated by ordinary citizens. The cases of so-called “category 1” suspects, including rapists, as well as organizers and leaders of the genocide, remained in conventional courts until 2008. (Those deemed “most responsible” for the genocide were processed by the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.)

By 2008, gacaca had tried hundreds of thousands of genocide cases, moving at a much faster pace than conventional courts, which tried just 222 between January 2005 and March 2008. In May that year, parliament transferred most remaining “category 1” genocide cases to gacaca, including at least 8,000 rape or sexual violence cases.

One official told HRW this decision was made in response to pleas from rape victims, who said they were dying of HIV/AIDS and wanted to see their assailants brought to trial.

Denis Bikesha, director of training, mobilization and sensitization in the National Service of Gacaca Jurisdictions, also stressed the relative speed of gacaca. “This was done in a bid to render timely justice to many, as before 2008 the rape cases were mostly pending in the Prosecution Authority,” he told IRIN.

Fear of exposure
Rape survivors feared their identities would be revealed to their communities despite the fact that testimony in rape cases was to be heard behind closed doors

But Leslie Haskell, author of the HRW report, noted that of the more than 20 rape survivors interviewed for the report, only one expressed a preference for gacaca over conventional courts. For others, who said they had been reluctant to come forward and file complaints but had done so because they believed conventional courts would protect their privacy, the transfer to gacaca “took them by surprise and left some feeling betrayed”, the report states.

Rape survivors feared their identities would be revealed to their communities despite the fact that testimony in rape cases was to be heard behind closed doors, Haskell said. Because trials were held near administrative offices or schools in many cases, third parties would still be able to see a complainant enter a room with a judge and her alleged assailant. “You’d still know it was a rape case, but if all went well you wouldn’t know what the details were,” Haskell said.

The report states that “a few” of the women – some of whom had not told their families about the rape and did not want the community to know – decided to drop their cases after they were transferred to gacaca.

However, the report also notes that provisions were put in place to make it easier for rape survivors to testify: they were able to challenge judges they believed were biased or would not respect their privacy; and they could write letters detailing their allegations rather than appearing in person.

Bikesha highlighted these “safeguards” in claiming that the rape cases had been “really successful”, adding that “whoever dares to reveal secrets” could be subject to “punishment”. (He did not specify what that punishment might be.)

Privacy compromised

According to the report, the process of bringing rape cases before gacaca ended up being “less traumatic” than many survivors expected. “For most women, the experience of appearing in gacaca was emotionally difficult, and more difficult than they believed a conventional court trial would have been, but their cases proceeded relatively smoothly,” the report states.

However, the report does cite some cases in which privacy appeared to have been compromised, with reports of intimidation and accusations of false testimony.

Clark, who observed many gacaca trials as part of his research, said “maintaining privacy was a real problem. A lot of this has to do with the closeness of Rwandan communities. It’s almost impossible for any legal process to hide people’s identities. People know each other. They’re very aware when people are summoned to give testimony.”

Rwanda - Gacaca Court poster 

Justice promoted: A poster urging people to participate in gacaca courts (Photo: IRIN)

Despite reports of intimidation, Jane Abatoni Gatete, former executive secretary of the Rwandan Association of Trauma Counsellors, who now works independently with trauma victims, including some who have brought rape cases before gacaca, said she believed the system had generally served survivors well.

“Steps were put in place by the government, and they were acting to make sure those women were protected and maybe counselled and advised to come forward and give the testimony,” she said. “If they didn’t then maybe their cases would not have been heard.”

Fair trial rights

Beyond the privacy rights of rape survivors, the HRW report also raises concerns about the fair trial rights of the accused.

Because gacaca does not involve lawyers, the process has long been open to criticism that suspects are unable to prepare an adequate defence. One of the government’s justifications for not involving lawyers – in addition to the fact that there simply were not enough – is that community participation negated the need for them. If a witness lied, for instance, community members could speak out.

With rape cases being held in camera, however, the community cannot participate at all, Haskell noted.

“It was sort of a Catch-22, right? The gacaca system was built on this idea of public participation to call out prejudicial partiality or lies on account of any of the parties who were testifying,” Haskell said. “The problem with that is because they are behind closed doors, because there’s no public participation, because there’s no monitoring by rights groups, it could’ve been easier to manipulate.”

Clark said Rwandans had been taken aback by this feature of the rape cases. “There was a great deal of frustration at the community level that people had had very public hearings for all of the previous crimes, and then suddenly these very contentious rape cases were being held behind close doors where the community couldn’t hear and couldn’t participate,” he said.

But he added that, in light of HRW’s concerns about privacy, this criticism struck him as “a bit rich. I have to say on that particular point it does look like Human Rights Watch are having their cake and eating it, too,” he said. “They can hardly criticize open rape cases and then turn around and criticize the fact that they’re being held behind closed doors.”

The Rwandan government has said that there are no more than 100 gacaca cases remaining, and Clark said he expected the government, which has missed previous deadlines, to stick to the current plan of shutting down the system by December.

If gacaca does end this year, Clark said its record on sexual violence cases would be decidedly mixed, but that the decision to transfer them from conventional courts would also be remembered as “inevitable. I really don’t think there was any other way the government could have done it,” he said.

[IRIN]

June 4, 2011   No Comments

Journalist Gasasira of Rwandan Newspaper Umuvugizi Sentenced to 2.5 Years of Jail

Jean Bosco Gasasira, Journalist Newspaper Umuvugizi

Jean Bosco Gasasira, Journalist Newspaper Umuvugizi

Rwanda’s highest court this Friday June 3  sentenced a journalist in exile to two years and six months in jail, after finding him guilty of inciting civil disobedience and insulting the president.

The journalist, Jean Bosco Gasasira, editor of the bi-monthly newspaper Umuvugizi was acquitted by a lower court in September but the prosecutor appealed against the acquittal and asked for a 10-year sentence.

“The supreme court found him guilty of inciting civil disobedience, and insulting the head of state and sentenced him to two years and six months in prison,” a source at the court told AFP by telephone.

The verdict was confirmed by human rights activists who attended the hearing.

Reporters without Borders said it was “appalled” by what it said was Rwanda’s determination to hound an exiled journalist from an anti-government paper.

The Paris-based media rights watchdog called on the supreme court, whose rulings cannot be appealed, to uphold the earlier acquittal.

RSF said Gasasira has been harassed and prosecuted on several occasions over the past years.

Umuvugizi was suspended for six months on 13 April 2010. As tension mounted in the run-up to the August 2010 presidential election, Gasasira went into exile in order to continue working, and launched an online version of the newspaper.

In June 2010 Jean-Leonard Rugambage, Umuvugizi’s deputy editor, was shot and killed at the gate of his home in Kigali.

Two men have been jailed for life for the killing but rights groups have charged that the authorities were behind it, a claim they have repeatedly dismissed.

[AFP]

June 3, 2011   1 Comment