Annual Report: Rwanda 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Rwanda 2011

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  • The Rwandan Media High Council (MHC), a regulatory body close to the ruling party, suspended two private Kinyarwanda newspapers, Umuseso and Umuvugizi, from April to October. The MHC alleged that the newspapers had insulted the President and caused trouble in the army.
  • Jean-Léonard Rugambage, a journalist working for Umuvugizi, was shot dead on 24 June outside his home in Kigali. He had been investigating the shooting in South Africa of Kayumba Nyamwasa, and his newspaper published a story alleging that Rwandan intelligence was involved. In October, two men were convicted of Jean-Léonard Rugambage’s murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The convicted men claimed that Jean-Léonard Rugambage had killed a member of one of their families during the 1994 genocide, although he had previously been acquitted in gacaca proceedings.
  • Jean-Bosco Gasasira, editor of Umuvugizi and Didas Gasana, editor of Umuseso, fled Rwanda in April and May respectively after receiving threats.

Human rights defenders

Human rights defenders faced renewed threats, including from government representatives. They self-censored their work to avoid confrontation with the authorities.

The government expelled a staff member of Human Rights Watch from Rwanda. Other international NGOs reported increased constraints on their work. International human rights groups, including Amnesty International, were attacked in speeches by senior government officials.

A Rwandan government representative criticized Rwandan human rights organizations at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in May.

Freedom of association

Restrictions on freedom of association prevented new opposition parties from contesting the elections. FDU-Inkingi and the Democratic Green Party were unable to obtain security clearance to organize meetings needed for their registration. The only new party to secure registration, PS-Imberakuri, was infiltrated by dissident members and decided not to stand.

Opposition politicians were harassed and threatened. Investigations into threats were cursory and did not lead to prosecutions.

Prisoner of conscience

Charles Ntakirutinka, a former government minister, remained in Kigali Central Prison, serving a 10-year sentence due to end in 2012. He had been convicted, in an unfair trial, of inciting civil disobedience and association with criminal elements.

Justice system

Witness protection staff received training and kept better records. Concerns remained about the willingness of witnesses to testify, given restrictions on freedom of expression through laws on "genocide ideology" and "sectarianism".

In October, Rwanda promulgated a law on "life imprisonment with special provisions", the sentence which replaced the death penalty. The law requires prisoners to be kept in individual cells for up to 20 years, which could constitute prolonged solitary confinement for those whose family members are unwilling or unable to visit. Such prisoners would only have the right to communicate with a lawyer in the presence of a prison guard, violating their defence rights during appeal hearings and possibly preventing prisoners from reporting abuse. The sentence was not applied due to a lack of individual cells.

Prison overcrowding continued to be a problem.

The deadline to complete gacaca trials of genocide cases was postponed indefinitely in September.

Enforced disappearances

At least four individuals disappeared between March and May. Some were close to Laurent Nkunda’s wing of the CNDP or had past links to armed groups in the DRC. Their whereabouts remained unknown at the end of the year. At least one of these individuals, Robert Ndengeye Urayeneza, was believed to have been subjected to enforced disappearance and detained in Rwandan military custody.

Ill-treatment by police

Some members of PS-Imberakuri and FDU-Inkingi arrested in June and July were ill-treated by the police. They were beaten and were handcuffed to other prisoners, including while going to the toilet.