Annual Report: Rwanda 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Rwanda 2013

View More Research

REPUBLIC OF RWANDA

Head of state Paul Kagame

The government continued to stifle legitimate freedom of expression and association. Cases of illegal detention and allegations of torture by Rwandan military intelligence were not investigated. Military support from Rwanda to the M23 armed group in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) tarnished Rwanda's international image built on economic development and low levels of corruption. The international community's support for Rwanda wavered.

Background

A final report by the UN Group of Experts on the DRC, published in November 2012, contained evidence that Rwanda had breached the UN arms embargo by transferring arms, ammunition and military equipment to the M23. The report stated that Rwandan military officials were supporting the M23 by recruiting civilians in Rwanda and providing logistics, intelligence and political advice.

In an interim report addendum published in June, the Group of Experts had already named high-ranking Rwandan military officials – including the Minister of Defence – as having played a key role in providing this support. Rwanda published a detailed rebuttal, denying any support and criticizing the methodology and credibility of the sources used.

Major donors to Rwanda, including the USA, the EU, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, subsequently suspended or delayed part of their financial assistance.

In October, Rwanda was elected to hold a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for two years starting in 2013.

Community-based gacaca courts, set up to try genocide cases, completed their work in 2012 and were officially closed in June following several delays.

Impunity

The government failed to investigate and prosecute cases of illegal detention and allegations of torture by Rwandan military intelligence. In May and October, Amnesty International published evidence of illegal and incommunicado detention and enforced disappearances. The research included allegations of torture, including serious beatings, electric shocks and sensory deprivation used to force confessions during interrogations, mostly of civilians, in 2010 and 2011.

In May, the government categorically denied all allegations of illegal detentions and torture by Rwandan military intelligence before the UN Committee against Torture. In June, the Rwandan Minister of Justice acknowledged that illegal detentions had occurred, attributing them to operatives' “excessive zeal in the execution of a noble mission”. On 7 October, the government issued a statement reaffirming that illegal detentions had taken place, but made no reference to investigations or prosecutions.

  • Sheikh Iddy Abassi, a Congolese religious leader, was abducted in Rwanda on 25 March 2010. He was a known supporter of Laurent Nkunda, a leader of the former Congolese armed group, the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). His family reported him missing to the local police and military the following day, 26 March. Mary Gahonzire, the Deputy Commissioner General of the Rwanda Correctional Service, told the UN Committee against Torture that investigations were ongoing, but that indications pointed to Sheikh Iddy Abassi being in the DRC.

Freedom of expression

There was almost no space for critical journalism in Rwanda. The aftermath of a 2010 clampdown on journalists and political opposition members left few independent voices in the country. Private media outlets remained closed. Efforts to improve media freedom through legislative reform, technical improvement and private sector investment, were undermined by the continued imprisonment of journalists for their legitimate work. Defamation remained a criminal offence.

Laws on ‘genocide ideology' and ‘sectarianism'

Vaguely worded laws on “genocide ideology” and “sectarianism” were misused to criminalize legitimate dissent and criticism of the government. A new draft “genocide ideology” law was before parliament.

Journalists

Several media-related laws were approved by parliament and pending promulgation at the year's end.