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Calls to become increasingly louder to suspend Rwanda from the Commonwealth

Rwanda at risk of becoming another Zimbabwe

26 October 2011 – Australia and other Commonwealth Governments naively believed admission to the Commonwealth would support Rwanda’s path to democracy, but human rights abuses have continued and worsened, President of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, Frank Habineza and Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown warned today.

“The Commonwealth should take action or risk Rwanda becoming another Zimbabwe. Without swift action, the calls will become louder to suspend the Commonwealth’s newest member,” Senator Brown said.

“The entry of Rwanda into the Commonwealth in 2009 was allowed despite suspicions of political abuses being undertaken by the Government. A coalition of Greens in Commonwealth nations, including Senator Brown, warned against Rwanda being admitted without conditions being placed on its entry,” Mr Habineza said.

“The 2010 Presidential elections saw the Kagame government becoming increasingly intolerant towards the central role that opposition parties and a free media have in robust democracies,” Mr Habineza said.

Senator Brown and Mr Habineza call on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to undertake the following steps in the next 12 months:

● Fund the provision of ballot box seals which are uniquely numbered or identifiable, to ensure security seals are a security feature for the next Chamber of Deputies election in Rwanda in

● Provide observers to oversee the registration of opposition political parties in the six month leading up to the next election, and advise if there have been irregularities in this process;

● Request the Government to re-open the investigation into the death of the Green Party Vice President, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka which occurred on 14 July 2010;

● Seek input from civil society organisations like Friends of Rwandan Greens;

● Pressure the Rwandan Government to release political prisoners and jailed journalists, and letting the independent media operate freely.

“Around the globe Green MPs will be watching to ensure the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group is taking active steps to improve democracy in Rwanda,” Senator Brown said.

Concerns have already been expressed by Human Rights Watch, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Amnesty International and also the Commonwealth Observer Group that democracy in Rwanda is being undermined.

Media contact: Marion Rae 0438 376 082

October 26, 2011   1 Comment

Rwanda/ICTR: Genocide convict Michel Bagaragaza to be freed early

Michel Bagaragaza

Michel Bagaragaza

Arusha, October 25, 2011 (FH) – For the first time ever, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has granted early release to one of its convicts, Michel Bagaragaza, who has served three-quarters of an eight year sentence for complicity to commit genocide.

Under a court order issued Monday by ICTR president Judge Khalida Rachid Khan, the former head of the Rwandan Tea Authority is to be released on December 1, 2011 from the prison in Sweden where he is currently jailed. Judge Khan directed the ICTR Registry to inform the Rwandan and Swedish authorities about the order as soon as possible.

Judge Khan based her decision on jurisprudence of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) regarding release after three-quarters of a sentence served; on the fact that Bagaragaza confessed to crimes and expressed remorse; and on his good behaviour in jail as attested by the Swedish prison authorities.

Bagaragaza surrendered himself to the ICTR on August 15, 2005 and pleaded guilty to complicity to commit genocide. He confessed to stocking arms used during the genocide at the Rubaya tea factory in Gisenyi prefecture (northern Rwanda). He also said he gave money, arms and the use of tea factory vehicles to Interahamwe militia who were massacring Tutsis, out of fears for the safety of himself and his family.

On November 17, 2009, the ICTR found Bagaragaza guilty and sentenced him to eight years in jail  with credit for the time already served in the ICTR Detention Facility since 2005. He was sent to Sweden in July 2010 to complete his sentence.

In the past, the ICTR has always refused requests for early release of its convicts. In April 2009, Italy unilaterally released Italo-Belgian ICTR convict Georges Ruggiu, in violation of the ICTR Statute. Ruggiu also pleaded guilty before the ICTR. He is the only non-Rwandan to have been tried by the Tribunal.

[Hirondelle News Agency]

October 26, 2011   No Comments