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Commonwealth urged to act over Rwandan election unrest

Caroline Lucas, with other Green Party leaders in the Commonwealth, is urging action after the killing of the deputy leader of the Rwandan Green Party, Andre Kagwa Rwisereka.

In the lead-up to Rwanda’s presidential vote on the 9th August, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda has been subject to harassment, intimidation, and death threats. Police have broken up party meetings, and the party has been barred from registering or putting up candidates for the election. (1)

A letter was sent yesterday to the Commonwealth’s Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, co-signed by Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, Sen. Bob Brown (leader of the Australian Greens) and Russel Norman (leader, New Zealand Greens).

It calls on Sharma to take urgent steps to enforce the Commonwealth’s standards of human rights and democracy in Rwanda. (2)

In part, the joint-letter from Lucas, Brown and Norman reads:

“The death of Green Party Vice President, Mr. Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, who was found dead on 14th July 2010, is a tragic event and we are extremely concerned for the other members of the Rwandan Green Party.

“Mr. Rwisereka’s death follows on from a series of events in the last few months that suggest that the Rwandan government is creating or allowing an extremely hostile environment for opposition political parties in the run up to Presidential elections on 9 August.

“Rwanda’s membership of the Commonwealth requires that it honors and complies with the Commonwealth’s fundamental political principles which include respect for civil society and human rights.

“We urge you to immediately send a team of Commonwealth representatives to Rwanda to ensure the Government is taking all steps possible to ensure respect for rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly of opposition parties.”

Notes

1) 15th July 2010, The Independent

2) This week, Reporters Without Borders also called on the European Union and other donors to suspend financial support for the election because of “a series of grave press freedom violations.”

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