Category Archives: HRW

Appel à une enquête indépendante sur la mort du chanteur rwandais Kizito Mihigo

Lettre ouverte à tous les chefs de gouvernement du Commonwealth

Des organisations de la société civile à travers le monde demandent aux autorités rwandaises d’autoriser une enquête indépendante, impartiale et efficace sur sa mort en détention du chanteur populaire de gospel et activiste pour la paix Kizito Mihigo. Alors que vos gouvernements marquent la journée du Commonwealth aujourd’hui et s’apprêtent à participer au sommet des chefs de gouvernement du Commonwealth à Kigali en juin, nous vous écrivons pour vous demander de vous engager auprès de vos homologues du gouvernement rwandais afin de soutenir cet appel.

Le 14 février 2020, le Bureau d’enquête rwandais (RIB) a confirmé que Mihigo avait été arrêté près de la frontière. Il était accusé de tentative de passage illégal au Burundi, d’avoir rejoint des groupes « terroristes » et de corruption, ainsi que d’avoir violé les conditions de sa libération de prison en 2018. Quelques jours plus tard, le 17 février 2020, la police nationale rwandaise annonçait que Mihigo avait été retrouvé mort à 5 heures du matin, dans sa cellule au poste de police où il était détenu à Kigali, à la suite d’un suicide présumé.

Il y a pourtant des raisons de douter de cette version des faits. Au Rwanda, les dissidents et les voix critiques font souvent l’objet de menaces, de harcèlement judiciaire et d’arrestations arbitraires. Ces dernières années, plusieurs membres de l’opposition et journalistes ont disparu ou ont été retrouvés morts dans des circonstances suspectes. Après avoir publié en 2014 une chanson dans laquelle il faisait part de sa compassion pour les victimes du génocide et d’autres violences, chanson interprétée comme une référence aux crimes commis par le Front patriotique rwandais lors de sa prise de contrôle du pays en 1994, Mihigo a été menacé, détenu au secret pendant 9 jours et ensuite poursuivi pour complot contre le gouvernement, entre autres chefs d’inculpation. Le 27 février 2015, il a été reconnu coupable et condamné à 10 ans. Après sa grâce présidentielle et sa libération en 2018, et jusqu’aux jours qui ont précédé sa mort, Mihigo a informé ses contacts qu’on le menaçait pour qu’il fasse des faux témoignages contre les opposants politiques au gouvernement et qu’il voulait fuir le pays car il craignait pour sa sécurité.

L’annonce de la mort de Mihigo a provoqué une onde de choc au Rwanda et au-delà de ses frontières. Avant de perdre les faveurs du gouvernement en 2014, Mihigo avait joué un rôle important dans la vie publique rwandaise, notamment en participant à la composition du nouvel hymne national en 2001 et en chantantrégulièrement lors de cérémonies officielles. Le travail de Mihigo – lui-même un rescapé du génocide – pour promouvoir la réconciliation a reçu une reconnaissance tout aussi importante ; en 2011, par exemple, la première dame Jeannette Kagame lui a remis un prix « Célébrons les jeunes Rwandais » en hommage à son travail.

Selon l’Observation générale n°3 sur l’article 4 de la Charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples, « Lorsqu’une personne meurt dans un centre de détention de l’État, ce dernier est présumé responsable et il lui incombe de prouver que sa responsabilité n’est pas engagée moyennant une enquête rapide, impartiale, approfondie et transparente menée par un organisme indépendant ». De même, la version révisée du Manuel des Nations Unies sur la prévention des exécutions extrajudiciaires, arbitraires et sommaires et les moyens d’enquête sur ces exécutions (le Protocole du Minnesota), prévoit qu’il existe une présomption générale de responsabilité de l’État pour un décès en détention, sauf preuve du contraire, et souligne que cela est particulièrement vrai dans les cas où la personne décédée « était, avant sa mort, un opposant politique au gouvernement ou un défenseur des droits de l’homme ; elle souffrait de problèmes de santé mentale reconnus ; ou elle s’est suicidée dans des circonstances inexpliquées ».

Le jour où la mort de Mihigo a été annoncée, et avant qu’une enquête indépendante n’ait pu être menée, la porte-parole du RIB, Marie-Michelle Umuhoza, a déclaré aux médias rwandais que Mihigo s’était « étranglé » avec les draps de son lit, qu’il avait fait preuve d’un « comportement inhabituel » pendant sa détention et qu’il avait refusé de parler aux enquêteurs, à son avocat et à sa famille. Le 26 février, citant un rapport d’autopsie, l’Organe national de poursuite judiciaire a conclu que la mort de Mihigo « résultait d’un suicide par pendaison » et a déclaré qu’il n’engagerait pas de poursuites pénales.

Mihigo est l’un de plusieursdétenus à être mort dans des circonstances suspectes lors de sa détention au Rwanda ces dernières années. Des enquêtes indépendantes, impartiales et efficaces, susceptibles de déboucher sur des poursuites crédibles, sont essentielles pour dissuader de futures violations des droits et promouvoir la responsabilité, la justice et l’État de droit. Le fait de ne pas mener de telles enquêtes constitue une violation des obligations de l’État au titre du droit à la vie.

Pour que justice soit faite pour la mort de Mihigo, les autorités rwandaises devraient permettre à un organe indépendant de mener une enquête impartiale, approfondie et transparente.

Dans la Charte du Commonwealth de 2013 les États membres ont réaffirmé leurs valeurs et principes fondamentaux, notamment la défense des droits humains, la liberté d’expression, l’État de droit et le rôle de la société civile. La tenue du sommet des chefs de gouvernement du Commonwealth au Rwanda sans aborder l’absence de progrès des autorités rwandaises en matière de justice pour les violations des droits humains en général, et la mort de Mihigo en particulier, jette de sérieux doutes sur les engagements du Commonwealth en matière de droits humains.

Dans l’intérêt des droits humains au Rwanda et de l’intégrité du Commonwealth, nous vous demandons instamment de soutenir l’appel lancé aux autorités rwandaises pour qu’elles autorisent une enquête indépendante, impartiale et efficace sur la mort de Mihigo en détention.

Très sincèrement,

  1. Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT-France)
  2. African Child Care Network ACCN
  3. AfricanDefenders
  4. AfricTivistes
  5. Amnesty International
  6. Article 19 Eastern Africa
  7. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  8. Australian Centre for International Justice
  9. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)
  10. Brainforest
  11. Bytes for All
  12. CIVICUS
  13. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  14. Defend Defenders
  15. Defenders Coalition Kenya
  16. Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Center (EHRDC)
  17. FIDH within the framework of the Observatory for the protection of Human Rights Defenders
  18. Human Rights Defenders Network-Sierra Leone
  19. Human Rights Watch
  20. Humanitarian Development Organization HDO
  21. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)
  22. Network of Civil Society Organizations for the Observation and Monitoring of Elections in Guinea (ROSE)
  23. Nile Initiative for Development NID
  24. Odhikar
  25. Ole Reitov, Artistic Freedom Expert
  26. PEN America
  27. PEN International
  28. Quill Foundation
  29. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
  30. Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains de l’Afrique Centrale
  31. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network
  32. Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
  33. The Center for Peace and Advocacy
  34. The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation (Malta)
  35. The Voice Project
  36. Vanguard Africa
  37. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Contexte de l’arrestation de Kizito Mihigo

Le 27 février 2015, Kizito Mihigo a été condamné à 10 ans de prison pour complot contre le gouvernement en place ou contre le Président de la République, formation d’un groupe criminel et conspiration en vue de commettre un assassinat à l’issue d’un procès qui s’est appuyé sur des aveux qui auraient été obtenus sous la torture.

Il avait été arrêté le 6 avril 2014 et détenu au secret pendant neuf jours au cours desquels il avait déclaré que des hauts responsables du gouvernement l’avaient interrogé à plusieurs reprises sur une chanson religieuse, Igisobanuro cy’Urupfu (L’explication de la mort) écrite en mars et dans laquelle il priait pour toutes les personnes tuées, notamment les victimes du génocide et d’autres violences. Il a déclaré que ces hauts responsables l’avaient également interrogé sur ses liens présumés avec le Congrès national du Rwanda, un groupe d’opposition en exil, et que les policiers l’avaient battu et forcé à avouer les infractions dont il a été accusé par la suite devant le tribunal. Dans un enregistrement que Mihigo a réalisé le 6 octobre 2016 alors qu’il était en prison, et qui a été rendu public après sa mort, il en vient à la conclusion que ces poursuites ont été motivées par des raisons politiques, dans le but de supprimer la chanson.

Dans cet enregistrement, Mihigo décrit des rencontres avec plusieurs hauts responsables du gouvernement, qui, il a dit, lui auraient expliqué que le président n’aimait pas sa chanson et qu’il devait « demander pardon », ou risquer la mort. Dans l’enregistrement, Mihigo a décrit également sa détention au secret du 6 au 15 avril 2014, au cours de laquelle il a dit avoir été battu et interrogé par Dan Munyuza, l’inspecteur général adjoint de la police de l’époque et actuel inspecteur général de la police, qui lui a dit de plaider coupable et de « demander pardon » ou risquer une condamnation à la prison à vie. Ces allégations suggèrent que Mihigo a été victime de torture et d’autres mauvais traitements, ainsi que d’autres violations graves de ses droits à un procès équitable, à la liberté, à l’intégrité physique et à la sécurité.

Source : Human Rights Watch

ONU : Le Rwanda pointé du doigt pour son bilan en matière de droits humains

Human Rights Watch

L’Examen périodique universel devrait être suivi d’actions concrètes

Les délégués à l'ouverture de la 41ème session du Conseil des droits de l'homme, au siège des Nations Unies à Genève (Suisse), le 24 juin 2019.
Les délégués à l’ouverture de la 41ème session du Conseil des droits de l’homme, au siège des Nations Unies à Genève (Suisse), le 24 juin 2019. © 2019 Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP

(Genève) – Les pays membres des Nations Unies ont émis de vives critiques et de nombreuses recommandations concernant le bilan des droits humains au Rwanda lors de l’Examen périodique universel (EPU) du pays, qui s’est tenu au Conseil des droits de l’homme à Genève le 25 janvier 2021.

Pendant l’examen, des pays de toutes régions confondues ont appelé le Rwanda à mettre fin à la torture et aux mauvais traitements et à enquêter sur les cas d’exécutions extrajudiciaires, de disparitions forcées, de détentions arbitraires et de morts en détention. De nombreux pays ont déclaré que le Rwanda devrait autoriser les journalistes et activistes à travailler de manière indépendante, permettre aux organisations non gouvernementales de s’enregistrer, et protéger la liberté d’expression, notamment en réformant sa loi sur les médias et son code pénal. Plusieurs pays ont également déclaré que le Rwanda devrait protéger les groupes marginalisés, comme les enfants des rues, et veiller à ce qu’ils ne soient pas soumis à des arrestations et détentions arbitraires, notamment dans des centres de « transit ».

« Les vives critiques adressées au Rwanda par les pays du monde entier témoignent de l’inquiétude de la communauté internationale face à la crise des droits humains au Rwanda », a déclaré Lewis Mudge, directeur pour l’Afrique centrale à Human Rights Watch. « Il est crucial que ces pays fassent un suivi direct avec le gouvernement rwandais et qu’ils fassent pression pour qu’il adopte des mesures concrètes pour mettre en œuvre leurs recommandations ».

Créé en 2006, l’Examen périodique universel consiste en un examen complet du bilan de tous les États membres des Nations unies en matière de droits humains, effectué par d’autres membres tous les cinq ans, à tour de rôle. Les organisations locales et internationales, ainsi que le pays examiné, peuvent fournir des rapports qui alimentent le processus d’examen.

Après chaque examen, un groupe de trois pays collabore avec le pays examiné et le Haut-Commissariat des Nations unies aux droits de l’homme pour produire un « rapport final » qui comprend les recommandations et les réponses du pays. Le Conseil des droits de l’homme adoptera le rapport final lors de sa session du mois de juin.

Pendant son examen, le Rwanda a reçu 284 recommandations de la part de 99 pays. Il en a accepté 160, a pris note de 75 autres, et a dit ne pas soutenir les 49 recommandations restantes. Le Rwanda devrait agir immédiatement en vue d’améliorer son bilan en matière de droits humains, et les experts, les agences et les États membres des Nations unies devraient continuer à faire pression sur le Rwanda pour qu’il mette fin aux violations, a déclaré Human Rights Watch.

Dans le cadre de l’examen actuel, Human Rights Watch a fait une contribution sur la situation des droits humains au Rwanda depuis 2015 et sur la mise en œuvre par le gouvernement des recommandations qu’il a reçues lors de son dernier examen.

En 2015, le gouvernement a fait valoir que certaines des recommandations reçues – dont certaines demandaient des réformes majeures ou des enquêtes sur les violations graves des droits humains et appelaient à déterminer les responsabilités en la matière – étaient déjà partiellement ou totalement mises en œuvre. Le gouvernement a également affirmé, dans une déclaration générale, que plusieurs autres de ces recommandations étaient « actuellement incompatibles avec sa législation interne et ses obligations constitutionnelles », dont une recommandation appelant le Rwanda à adopter des lois et des politiques spécifiques pour protéger le travail des défenseurs des droits humains. Toutefois, le Rwanda est tenu de respecter ses obligations en vertu du droit international et il lui est interdit de prétendre qu’il n’est pas en mesure de le faire parce que son droit interne est incompatible avec ces obligations. Le gouvernement a répondu aux recommandations demandant la ratification de la Convention internationale pour la protection de toutes les personnes contre les disparitions forcées en déclarant que la ratification des instruments internationaux ne peut se faire qu’après consultation et approbation du Parlement rwandais. À la connaissance de Human Rights Watch, ce processus n’a pas encore eu lieu.

Entre 2010 et 2017, Human Rights Watch a documenté que les militaires rwandais ont fréquemment détenu arbitrairement et torturé des personnes, en les battant et en les asphyxiant, en utilisant des chocs électriques et en organisant des simulacres d’exécution dans les camps militaires autour de Kigali et dans le nord-ouest du pays. La plupart des détenus avaient été victimes de disparition forcée et détenus au secret pendant des mois dans des conditions déplorables. Le 25 janvier, la délégation rwandaise a rejeté les allégations de torture et de détention illégale dans des centres de détention non officiels.

Lors de l’examen du Rwanda en 2021, de nombreux pays ont réitéré leur recommandation au Rwanda de ratifier la Convention contre les disparitions forcées et le Statut de Rome pour que le pays devienne partie à la Cour pénale internationale. Plusieurs pays ont aussi exhorté le Rwanda à autoriser le sous-comité des Nations unies pour la prévention de la torture et autres peines ou traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradants à reprendre ses visites. En 2017, le sous-comité a suspendu sa visite d’État au Rwanda, avant de l’annuler neuf mois plus tard, invoquant des obstructions de la part du gouvernement et la crainte de représailles contre les personnes interrogées. L’annulation de 2018 reste la seule fois où le sous-comité a dû interrompre une visite d’État avant qu’elle ne soit terminée.

Même dans les cas où le Rwanda a accepté les recommandations en 2015, cela n’a pas nécessairement conduit à des améliorations concrètes en matière de droits humains, a déclaré Human Rights Watch. Le Rwanda s’est par exemple engagé à poursuivre ses efforts pour protéger les enfants en situation difficile, comme les enfants des rues, et à adopter une nouvelle législation pour réglementer les centres de transit et de « réhabilitation ». Dans son dernier rapport au Conseil des droits de l’homme, le Rwanda a affirmé que cette question avait été résolue par la création d’un Service national de réhabilitation en 2017 et que 4 416 enfants avaient suivi ce processus de réhabilitation.

En janvier 2020, Human Rights Watch a cependant constaté qu’en vertu de la nouvelle législation, les enfants accusés d’être des « mendiants », « vagabonds » ou « délinquants » sont effectivement traités comme des criminels et sont susceptibles d’être exposés à des mauvais traitements. Ils sont arrêtés arbitrairement et détenus dans des conditions déplorables dans des centres de transit ou de réhabilitation, sans procédure équitable ni contrôle judiciaire, en violation des normes régionales et internationales.

Le Rwanda doit accueillir la prochaine réunion des chefs de gouvernement du Commonwealth en juin. Lors de l’examen du 25 janvier, le Royaume-Uni a exhorté le Rwanda, en tant que membre et futur président du Commonwealth, « à incarner les valeurs du Commonwealth que sont la démocratie, l’État de droit et le respect des droits humains », consacrées dans sa déclaration de Harare de 1991.

Les gouvernements du Commonwealth, notamment ceux qui ont fait des recommandations dans le cadre de l’EPU, comme l’Australie, la Barbade, le Canada, Chypre, Fidji, la Sierra Leone et le Royaume-Uni, devraient profiter de la réunion du Commonwealth pour fixer des critères mesurables et exhorter le Rwanda à mettre en œuvre leurs recommandations, notamment en lançant des enquêtes et des poursuites judiciaires transparentes sur les décès en détention, les exécutions extrajudiciaires, les disparitions forcées, la torture et la détention arbitraire ou illégale ; en agissant pour la protection des journalistes et des défenseurs des droits humains afin de leur permettre de faire leur travail ; et en mettant fin aux abus contre les enfants des rues dans les centres de transit. Tout manquement à ces obligations porte atteinte aux valeurs et aux objectifs du Commonwealth.

Les responsables des gouvernements qui se rendent à Kigali devraient également évoquer des dossiers spécifiques. Par exemple, ils devraient demander une enquête internationale et indépendante sur la mort en garde à vue du célèbre chanteur et activiste Kizito Mihigo compte tenu du fait que les autorités rwandaises n’ont pas mené d’enquête crédible qui réponde aux normes régionales et internationales à son sujet, a déclaré Human Rights Watch.

« Les autorités rwandaises doivent aller au-delà des promesses vides et des faux-fuyants pour régler leurs problèmes de droits humains », a déclaré Lewis Mudge. « Pour prouver sa volonté de mettre fin à l’impunité, le gouvernement devrait garantir des enquêtes crédibles et transparentes qui débouchent sur des poursuites contre les responsables d’exécutions extrajudiciaires, de disparitions forcées, de tortures et de détentions arbitraires et illégales. En attendant, les autres gouvernements devraient accroître la pression sur le gouvernement.

Source : Human Rights Watch

Rwanda : deux disparitions appellent à des enquêtes crédibles

Rwanda: A Year On, No Justice for Refugee killings

Police Shot Dead at Least 12 During Protest

Kigali refuses cooperation with the UN anti-torture team

detention

The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) has cancelled its mission to Rwanda after suspending the visit last October.

The UN body accuses Kigali of lack of cooperation.

“In 11 years of exercising its mandate and more than 60 visits, it is the first time the SPT is terminating a visit before its completion. There was no realistic prospect of the visit being successfully resumed and concluded within a reasonable timeframe,” the agency said in a statement on July 4.

The decision has irked Kigali which accuses the body of acting in bad faith.

“The allegations of lack of cooperation are untrue, unfounded and in bad faith and the Government of Rwanda rejects them now as it has rejected them previously,” the administration said in a statement last Tuesday.

The UN body regularly visits countries that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture to investigate torture allegations and assess implementation of measures aimed at preventing torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

The mission was first suspended in October last year, when members of the subcommittee cut short their visit in Kigali citing a “series of obstructions imposed by authorities”.

The team also said it was denied confidentiality to certain interviewees who it argued could face reprisals.

“The Government of Rwanda acceded to and fully facilitated the visit of the SPT, including granting full and unimpeded access to places of detention and to detainees,” the government responded.

Termination of the mission now undermines UN’s recognition of Rwanda’s Human Rights Commission, which was granted the mandate by Parliament in February to serve as the national preventive mechanism against torture.

In a report by the Human Rights Watch last year, the watchdog alleged that the military routinely tortures detainees with beatings, asphyxiations, mock executions and electric shocks.

HRW said it had confirmed hundreds of people who were illegally detained and tortured in army detention centres between 2010 and 2016.

But Kigali dismissed the report as fake, arguing that the watchdog was “desperate for attention”.

Source: The East African

Rwanda: Locking Up the Poor New Findings of Arbitrary Detention, Ill-Treatment in “Transit Centers”

téléchargement (1)(Nairobi) – Rwandan authorities are rounding up poor people and arbitrarily detaining them in “transit centers” across the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The conditions in these centers are harsh and inhuman, and beatings are commonplace. New research indicates that the authorities have made few changes in a center in Gikondo, in the capital, Kigali, despite an earlier Human Rights Watch report on abuses there, and that similar degrading treatment prevails in other transit centers.

A street in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, May 11, 2016.

New Human Rights Watch research in 2016 has found that scores of people, including homeless people, street vendors, street children, and other poor people, are being rounded up off the streets and detained in “transit centers” or “rehabilitation centers” for prolonged periods. Detainees have inadequate food, water, and health care; suffer frequent beatings; and rarely leave their filthy, overcrowded rooms. None of the former detainees Human Rights Watch interviewed were formally charged with any criminal offense and none saw a prosecutor, judge, or lawyer before or during their detention.

“The Rwandan government should close these unofficial detention centers and instead provide voluntary vocational training, help, and protection for vulnerable people,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Locking poor people up in harsh and degrading conditions and abusing them isn’t going to end their poverty, and it violates both Rwandan and international law.”

Following a September 2015 Human Rights Watch report on abuses at the Gikondo transit center, Human Rights Watch interviewed 43 former detainees from Gikondo and three transit centers in other parts of Rwanda: Muhanga (Muhanga district), Mbazi (Huye district), and Mudende (Rubavu district). Most of these interviews took place in 2016.

Contrary to the designations for these centers, none of the people interviewed had “transited” to other facilities after their most recent arrest and most had not been through any “rehabilitation,” such as professional training or education, at the centers.

“They correct us by beating us with sticks,” one man told Human Rights Watch.

In November, just over a month after Human Rights Watch’s report, the Kigali City Council published a new directive regulating the Gikondo center, creating, for the first time, a specific legal framework. The directive contains provisions for improving conditions and granting certain rights, but leaves the door open for continuous arbitrary and lengthy detention.

Many aspects of the directive have not been implemented and the situation in Gikondo has not significantly improved since 2015, Human Rights Watch found. While some former detainees described minor adjustments to the infrastructure and the provision of some activities, the center continued to be overcrowded, with bad conditions. Arrests and detention were arbitrary and unlawful, and police officers beat detainees.

The new findings on the four centers Human Rights Watch researched – out of at least 28 across the country – were remarkably similar. Police or other groups responsible for security rounded up beggars, street vendors, or petty criminals, mostly in urban areas, and locked them up in the overcrowded, dirty transit centers.
Most detainees in these four centers were not allowed to leave their room, except to go to the toilet only twice a day. In most cases, food was no more than one cup of corn a day, and several former detainees complained about the lack of drinking water or the opportunity to wash.

Many said they had been beaten. In Gikondo and Muhanga, almost all those interviewed said they were beaten by police or by other detainees, often with sticks. Two adults detained in the center in Mbazi, close to the town of Huye, in southern Rwanda, said they were beaten when they arrived.

“Every day, we have the ‘right’ to be beaten twice: in the morning and in the evening,” a former detainee from the Mudende transit center told Human Rights Watch. “That is our ‘right.’” The situation in Mudende, close to the town of Rubavu, in northwestern Rwanda, was particularly serious, with police officers, military, or other detainees beating detainees daily. As soon as detainees arrived, police officers hit them while forcing them to crawl on the ground to the room where they were to be detained.

Human Rights Watch received information about several people who died during or just after their detention in Mudende, allegedly as a result of a combination of injuries from beatings, poor conditions, and lack of medical care. Human Rights Watch shared information about one such case with the Justice Ministry, which expressed willingness to thoroughly investigate the allegations.

Human Rights Watch spoke to 13 children, ages 10 to 18, who had been detained in Muhanga and Mbazi, between June 2015 and May 2016. Most said they were street children. In Muhanga, children were detained in the same building as adults. In Mbazi, they were held in a separate building with slightly better conditions than the adults, but lacked proper hygiene and access to education. Several former detainees from Mudende and Gikondo said they had also seen children in these centers, ranging from infants held with their mothers to children up to about 18. Several former detainees said children were beaten in Gikondo and Muhanga.

and Muhanga.

Four Transit Centers in RwandaLAUNCH MAP

Four transit centers in Rwanda © 2016 John Emerson for Human Rights Watch

“We are seriously concerned about the detention and ill-treatment of children in transit centers,” Bekele said. “This is a negative development, as we were no longer receiving reports of detention of children in Gikondo between mid-2014 and mid-2015. The Rwandan government should order the immediate release of all children detained in transit centers.”

Human Rights Watch wrote to the Rwandan justice minister, Johnston Busingye, in March, May, and June 2016, to share its findings and to comment on the Kigali City Council directive. In a written reply on July 5, the Ministry stated that it is continuing to inquire “to make sure that there are no human rights abuses in Rwanda’s transit centres” and that it has “been assured that no ill-treatment incident has happened neither in Muhanga nor Huye or Mudende.” The Ministry said it would follow up any specific incident reported.

The arbitrary arrest of poor people is part of an unofficial government practice to hide “undesirable” people from view, and contrasts with the Rwandan government’s impressive efforts to reduce poverty, Human Rights Watch said. Street vendors, many of them women, have been among the main targets. On May 25, the mayor of Kigali called street vendors “an impediment to cleanliness” and told them to form cooperatives.

Several other government officials promised measures to improve the situation after Theodosie Mahoro, a street vendor, was killed on May 7, in Nyabugogo bus station in Kigali – illustrating the precarious conditions in which they and other poor people operate. Security guards tried to confiscate Mahoro’s goods and beat her severely, in front of many witnesses. She died almost immediately. The authorities arrested three security guards suspected of causing her death and promised to investigate.

In 2015 and 2016, the National Commission for Human Rights and members of the Rwandan Parliament confirmed some of Human Rights Watch’s findings and endorsed a recommendation for an updated legal framework for all “transit centers.”

“New legislation could be a step in the right direction if it prevents arbitrary detention and guarantees detainees’ rights to full due process and protection from ill-treatment,” Bekele said. “But ultimately, the Rwandan government should close these centers and ensure that abuses are investigated and prosecuted.”

For details, please see below.

New Legal Framework for Gikondo
Following the September 2015 Human Rights Watch report on the Gikondo transit center, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye was quoted in the media denying the existence of any illegal detention center in the country and dismissing Human Rights Watch’s findings. He said the government stood by its policy of “rehabilitation rather than incarceration” and stated that Gikondo “is a transit center and people are held there for a short period before longer term remedial or corrective measures are taken.”

A general view of Rwanda's capital Kigali, March 26, 2014.

A general view of Rwanda’s capital Kigali, March 26, 2014. © 2014 Reuters

In a positive move, in November, the Kigali City Council adopted a new directive on the Kigali Rehabilitation Transit Center – the official name for the Gikondo center – laying out the center’s objectives and procedures. The directive addresses some of the issues Human Rights Watch had raised, in particular the lack of a legal framework. It also lists the rights of those taken to the center, including the rights not to be subjected to corporal punishment, harassed, or discriminated against, access to hygiene and health care, and the right to visits.

Fundamental concerns remain, however. Rather than eliminating arbitrary detention, the directive seems to embed detention practices that could conflict with Rwanda’s obligations under international human rights law. Under the directive, the center is to receive people whose behavior disturbs public order and security – a broad and vague notion that could be applied to categories of people for whom arrest and detention are not an appropriate or lawful response.

The directive created, at least in theory, a commission consisting of those running the center, representatives of the Justice Ministry, the district hospital, and district authorities, to analyze the problems of those taken to Gikondo and assign them, within 72 hours, to various categories. Based on the designation, within 14 days, the authorities should release them to their families or send them to the judicial police, a re-education center, a hospital, or another place “that could give him back a life that enhances his well-being.”

In theory, therefore, most detainees should leave Gikondo after a maximum of 17 days. However, the directive allows for some to be held longer. Unless they successfully pass a “test” and are released, the commission can decide that detainees should remain in Gikondo for an unspecified longer period to “help readapt those the commission can’t transfer elsewhere.”

On March 4, Human Rights Watch wrote to the Justice Minister requesting, among other things, clarification about elements of the directive and voicing concern about the continued possibility for arbitrary detention in the center for an unspecified and possibly lengthy period. The Justice Ministry replied on July 5 that it appreciated Human Rights Watch’s analysis of the directive and stated that “you cannot deny the fact that the directive contains positive elements and it is a step forward among others to eliminate any form of ill-treatment in transit centres.” It did not provide more detailed responses to the specific points about the directive.

No Fundamental Changes in Gikondo
Since the publication of the directive, Human Rights Watch has interviewed 12 former detainees – seven women and five men – who spent between four days and three months in Gikondo between October 2015 and April 2016. At least two were held for much longer than the period specified in the directive, and a third said she spent about two weeks in the detention center. Others spent an average of about a week in Gikondo.

None said they had seen members of a commission or undergone a test. As far as they could see, police were the only officials “screening” detainees and deciding who could leave.

Former detainees’ descriptions indicated that conditions inside Gikondo have not changed fundamentally. Some mentioned that walls had been repainted and toilet facilities renovated, but overall conditions remained very poor.

Transit Centers in Mudende, Mbazi, Muhanga
Human Rights Watch interviewed 31 people – 13 men, five women, and 13 children – whom the Rwandan authorities detained in three transit centers – Mudende transit center (in Nyabushongo, Rubavu district), Mbazi transit center (in Mbazi, Huye district), and Muhanga transit center (in Mushubati, Muhanga district) – between September 2014 and May 2016.

The 10 interviewed from Mudende had spent between a week and six months there; the 12 from Mbazi spent between one night and three months; and the nine from Muhanga were there between three days and three months.

Most said they were arrested because they couldn’t show identity documents or were street vendors or street children; others were arrested for being drunk or for otherwise disturbing public order.

Most had been arrested and detained in a transit center several times before – a pattern Human Rights Watch had documented in its 2015 report. One said he had been arrested more than 20 times. Another couldn’t even count the number of times he had been arrested and sent to a transit center.

No Transit, No Rehabilitation
Despite the fact that the Rwandan government calls these centers “transit centers” or “rehabilitation centers,” all the people interviewed had been released after their most recent period of detention without being transferred anywhere. Most resumed their old habits or activities as soon as they were released, as they had no alternative way to earn a living.

However, some said that some other detainees had been sent to a rehabilitation center on Iwawa, an island in Lake Kivu. Human Rights Watch spoke to a man who had spent nine months in Gikondo in 2015, was transferred to Iwawa, but was rearrested and taken back to Gikondo – for the sixth time – in April 2016, after his release from Iwawa.

Justice Minister Busingye said in September 2015, in his response to the earlier Human Rights Watch report, that Rwanda had “chosen to focus on rehabilitating and reintegrating them [drug addicts and other criminals] to offer the chance for a better life.” The 2015 directive on Gikondo states that the center will provide activities and courses to encourage good conduct, as well as counseling and other support, but few of the former detainees interviewed had benefited from such activities or services.

Human Rights Watch research in 2016 showed that rehabilitation or reintegration efforts are very limited at the transit centers. The majority interviewed were not aware of or given the opportunity to participate in training or education activities. One former female detainee mentioned that detainees in Gikondo were taught to make baskets; another remembered a presentation about savings. In Mbazi, Muhanga, and Mudende, no training was provided, but some former detainees remembered civic education activities about crime prevention, genocide commemoration, or HIV/AIDS.

A 25-year-old male street vendor who was detained in Gikondo in March said:

They say on the radio that the government is teaching professions in Kwa Kabuga [the unofficial name for Gikondo]. It’s wrong, because no one in our room received any training when I was there. There are no jobs in Kwa Kabuga. We stay in the room the whole day.

Inhuman Conditions
Former detainees’ descriptions of conditions in the four transit centers were remarkably similar. They said that as many as several hundred people were crammed into one room. Some said that there was so little space that they had to sleep standing up. There was poor hygiene, vermin, and difficult and limited access to toilets, causing health problems.

Most former detainees said they received a maximum of one cup of corn a day, sometimes mixed with beans. Some said they had porridge in the morning. Most detainees slept on the floor, others slept on mats or under dirty blankets, which several detainees had to share.

Access to drinking water varied according to the location and period of detention. Some said there was no drinking water, while others said there was sufficient water. In its annual report for 2014-2015, the National Commission for Human Rights documented that in seven transit centers, including Mudende, there was no clean drinking water. Some detainees were unable to wash themselves or their clothes throughout their stay in one of the four centers, while others could wash sporadically or regularly.

A 33-year old female soft-drink vendor described the daily routine and conditions in Gikondo in March:

Inside, life is not good. They wake us up at 3 a.m., then put us in line, count us and write it [the number of detainees] down. They ask us what we owned before the arrest. There is no water. They give us only half a cup of corn. We have difficulties finding water to drink, except when we can go out to wash. We take a shower in the room. They give us a bucket for five people. We wash in front of everyone. We also defecate in front of everyone, as there are no doors. […] In the room, there are mice, lice and fleas. We tried to clean the room, but it didn’t help much. I have scars from scratching.

Most former detainees only left their room to go to the toilet, which they were only allowed to do once or twice a day, in a group. If someone had to use the toilet in between these visits, they had to improvise inside the room.

In Gikondo, some former detainees said they could leave their room for group prayers or exercises, known as mchaka. Others in other centers were only taken out for beatings or when officials counted the detainees.

In these conditions, health problems such as malaria, cholera, and diarrhea were common, the former detainees said. Some said they had access to medication and that a nurse visited, but others received no health care. Some detainees were taken to a dispensary, sometimes handcuffed, for medical treatment. Some were released because they were very sick.

Some former detainees mentioned that visits were allowed twice a week in Gikondo or once a week in Mbazi. But one former detainee from Gikondo said: “They are not real visits. People only come to inquire whether you are there, and then they leave. It is just to inform the family. That’s what they call a visit.”

Absence of Due Process
Most detainees were arrested in public areas in towns or urbanized centers, such as bus stations or markets, by police, military, or by people described as “those who do the rounds” (private security guards in places such as Nyabugogo bus station in Kigali); asinkeragutabara, an auxiliary service of the Rwanda Defense Force; or as members of the District Administration Security Support Organ (DASSO). Several former detainees said that members of all these groups beat certain people during their arrest.

Most detainees were then taken to a police station or post, where some were held for several days, often in bad conditions. The police beat some of them there. Police then transported them to a transit center in a police truck. In May, Human Rights Watch researchers saw a police truck with detainees arriving at the Mudende transit center.

Three people arrested in Kigali were released from a police station after family members or acquaintances bribed the police or after a police officer intervened on their behalf. “Normally those who are taken to Gikondo are vagabonds and street vendors,” a male street vendor said. “[After I was arrested] I was able to inform people from my home area and they came to check my case. They found a (civilian) person of standing and gave him 10,000 Rwandan francs (US$12) that she gave to a police officer. That’s how I was released after three weeks in detention [in the police station].” Other people who had lacked the means to bribe police officers confirmed the practice.

Police administering the transit centers often carried out a very basic registration of detainees before or on arrival at the transit center.

Only one former detainee interviewed, from Mbazi transit center, said he had been questioned by a judicial police officer. None of those interviewed had been taken before a prosecutor or a judge, or officially charged with an offense, before or during their detention. Some Gikondo detainees received a token or a piece of paper indicating their alleged offense – for example “armed robbery” – but were given no opportunity to explain or defend themselves.

Although the right to legal assistance is enshrined in Rwandan and international law, none of those interviewed saw a lawyer before or during their detention, nor did the officials running the center ask them if they wanted legal assistance.

Some families did not know where detainees were held, though most went directly to the police or these transit centers to look for them since it is widely known that poor people are locked up in these centers. Some families were then able to confirm that the detainees were there. In its 2014-2015 report, the National Commission for Human Rights stated that, “The commission has observed that some families who have their [family members] in transit centers were not informed that they were imprisoned there.”

Beatings
All former Mudende detainees interviewed said they had been beaten by the police who administered the center and by other detainees chosen by the police to maintain order inside the center.

The beatings by police started as soon as they arrived. A former detainee said:

After getting out of the vehicle, they ordered us to lie down on our belly on the ground and walk with our hands one after the other, like a snake. When we arrived close to the door of the place where the policemen wash, they beat me with a padlock. They beat me all over.

Further beatings took place during their detention, sometimes daily. Police and military officials sometimes also took detainees out of their room to beat them.

Most former Gikondo or Muhanga detainees had also been beaten there by police or by other detainees. A 40-year-old woman who sold juice and water in Nyabugogo bus station in Kigali was part of a group of people arrested and taken to Gikondo in December. She said:

When we arrived at Gikondo, they made us sit in line. First they beat the street children. They were police officers in uniform. Then they beat the women on their feet, saying […] “Why do you continue to sell in the streets? Why don’t you respect the law?” The men were lying on their belly and were beaten like this by the police on their buttocks. The police beat them with sticks. Me too, I was beaten on my shoulders.

She said she still felt pain from the beatings several months later.

Inside the four detention centers, detainees chosen by the police, and known as “counselors,” beat those who disturbed the order or who didn’t have money to give them. In Mudende, the “counselor” beat detainees with a knotted rope.

A 30-year woman described how the “counselors” treated detainees in Gikondo:

They are very mean, but they are prisoners like us. If we have nothing [no money] on us, we are terribly beaten. I was not beaten myself, as I had 500 Rwandan francs [approximately US$0.60] that I gave immediately. The “counselors” punched others with their fists, to give a “stamp” on their back, or hit them with their elbows.

A former male detainee who was in charge of security in a room in Gikondo in April 2016 said:

The “counselor” was our boss. When someone spoke, he had to put his feet on the wall, like this. [He demonstrated how detainees were forced to stand upside down against the wall.] The punishment would only stop when everyone had to leave the room [for collective sports or toilet visits]. If [the detainee] fell, he was beaten by the “counselor”.

In Mbazi, two of the 12 former detainees interviewed – a man and a woman – said they were beaten, but for them, the conditions in the center were an even greater concern. A former detainee from Mbazi said the conditions were worse than the beatings.

Children in Detention
Human Rights Watch interviewed 13 minors, ages 10 to 18, who had been detained in Muhanga or Mbazi. Former detainees from Mudende and Gikondo also said they had seen children in these centers, including infants held with their mothers.

The presence of children in these transit centers is a step back, as Human Rights Watch had not received reports of children being sent to Gikondo between mid-2014 and September 2015.

In Muhanga, children were held in the same center as adults, while in Mbazi they were held in a separate building, in slightly better conditions. They received more varied food, and a greater quantity, and could move around more freely, but adults who visited the children’s room said there was a lack of proper hygiene and no education.

Most of the children interviewed who had been in Muhanga told Human Rights Watch that they were beaten by police who administered the center or by other detainees. Some former detainees from Gikondo also said they saw children being beaten.

Most children had been arrested because they were street children. Two boys said they had gone to the Mbazi transit center voluntarily, looking for a better life. One ran away a few days after he arrived. A social worker took another boy out of the center, where there were no activities, to place him back in school.

Releases
Most detainees were released on the decision of the police commander in charge of the center, sometimes assisted by other policemen, military, or local government officials. Releases were as arbitrary as the arrests. There were no clear criteria for deciding that someone could leave the center. Some were told they were being released because their room was full, others because they were sick or had apparently spent enough time in the center. Others did not know the reason.

A young man who was detained in Gikondo six times, most recently in April because he wasn’t carrying an identity card, said:

The “screening” is a selection of those that can go [be released] and those who stay. It is the [police] commander who does it. They bring us outside, the street kids, the street vendors, the criminals, everyone with his group. The afande [commander] says: “Street vendors, you go!” or “Street children, you go!” […] For the selection, there are three or four people, but the afande is the boss. The others are policemen in uniform, but the commander decides.

In Gikondo, Mudende, and Muhanga, several detainees were released because they were seriously ill, or after a family member or acquaintance bribed one of the police officers in charge of the center. In some cases, a plea by an influential person led to a release.

Police officers told a former detainee in Mbazi before his release in February 2016: “You saw the conditions here, you have understood. You have to change if you have understood.”

Public Debate
After the publication of the Human Rights Watch 2015 report, several Rwandan and international organizations discussed the situation in transit centers.

In its 2014-2015 annual report, the National Commission for Human Rights described its visits to 28 transit centers across Rwanda. It confirmed several problems in the transit centers, but concluded that human rights were respected. Despite being nominally independent, the commission rarely expresses strong or fundamental criticism of the Rwandan government’s human rights record. In March 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed its concern about the selection of the members of the commission and its perceived lack of independence.

After the commission presented its report to parliament in October 2015, and a parliamentary visit to 11 transit centers, members of parliament were quoted in the media in March 2016, calling the transit centers “prisons” and speaking out against prolonged detention, including of minors.

One member of parliament declared in a parliamentary debate broadcast on Voice of America on March 15, 2016:

It isn’t even a transit center! In fact, those who are held in a transit center normally have a destination. That is, those who are held there spend some time, normally a short time, waiting to be transferred elsewhere. But we have become aware that those who are held in these centers spent as long as two months there, and then returned home. They don’t receive any training. In fact, we have realized that it is a prison conceived in another way.

Several Rwandan radio stations broadcast discussions on the topic in late 2015 and early 2016. In a rare expression of critical views and debate – most Rwandan media tend to favor the government’s view – listeners called in and told their personal stories about detention in transit centers, while government officials in the radio studio denied that there were abuses in the transit centers.

In March, the National Assembly endorsed a National Commission for Human Rights recommendation to revise a ministerial order on rehabilitation centers for minors. The Rwandan government is preparing a new legal framework on transit centers. Despite multiple requests to the Justice Ministry, Human Rights Watch has not received any details about this new legislation.

After its March 2016 review of Rwanda’s human rights situation, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about the fact that “homeless people and beggars continue to be detained without charge and without judicial oversight in Gikondo Rehabilitation Transit Centre, allegedly in extremely harsh conditions.” It recommended ending “involuntary detention of homeless people, beggars and other members of vulnerable groups in transit or rehabilitation centres” and abolishing the crime of vagrancy. An upcoming review of Rwanda’s Penal Code could provide a good opportunity to abolish this offense.

After Rwanda’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council in November 2015, Rwanda accepted a recommendation by the United Kingdom to comply with and implement further legislation on transit centers. It did not accept a suggestion by Ghana to “investigate allegations of arbitrary arrests and maltreatment of detained persons at the Gikondo Transit Centre, and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

Despite the Rwandan justice minister’s public promises to investigate and act on information related to possible human rights abuses, and despite multiple requests for information, Human Rights Watch is not aware of any investigation, prosecution, or other actions by the Rwandan authorities in relation to abuses in transit centers.

Source: Human Rights Watch

RWANDA/BURUNDI: Rotting bodies with bound limbs or stuffed in sacks,…

Some of dead bodies carried down by Akagera river into lake Rweru. Geographical situation hints that these bodies came undoubtedly from RWANDA. This takes place months after Human Rights Watch and the US State Department reported thousands of missing persons in Rwanda. Admin

Where they have come from and why they are there remains a mystery. Investigations have stalled as the case embarrasses Burundi and its powerful neighbour denies all knowledge.

Officially, just four bodies were found tied up in sacks last month – already enough to set alarm bells ringing in a region scarred by decades of political unrest and serious rights abuses.

Fishermen report seeing as many as 10 times that number, carried by the currents in the lake 270km north-east of Bujumbura.

Late last month a joint Burundi-Rwanda commission was set up to find the origin of the bodies, and Burundi’s presidential spokesman Willy Nyamitwe repeated this week that the two countries were working together on the case.

But on the ground, little seems to be done to unravel the mystery.

“On our side, we investigated by asking leaders in the area if there were any missing people, and they said no,” said local Burundian governor Aline Manirabarusha.

One diplomat in Burundi’s capital Bujumbura says the bodies were buried without an autopsy.

“It means that the people can never be identified, or know where they come from,” the diplomat said.

In 2006, the bodies of Burundian opponents murdered in political violence were thrown into various rivers in the country.

That was the year Burundi emerged from more than a decade of brutal civil war, and its political climate remains fractious ahead of presidential polls due next June.

Neighbouring Rwanda is led by strongman President Paul Kagame, who despite being credited with overseeing dramatic economic advances while in office, has also come in for mounting criticism for suppressing dissent, including the alleged assassinations of exiled opposition figures.

On both banks of Lake Rweru, which is 10km long, residents say they are sure the bodies were washed downstream by the Nyabarongo-Kagera river.

The river originates in Rwanda before flowing into Lake Rweru, on into Burundi and Tanzania, and emptying into Lake Victoria.

It has a grim history: during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the bodies of some of those massacred floated down the river.

Near the water, a young Rwandan farmer describes how the main river, which splits into different channels, has in recent months taken a new path.

That is why the bodies have appeared in the lake, he says.

“Had they remained in the Kagera river, the injustice would never have come to light,” said the farmer, who lives with his family in a small hut at the edge of the river, a short boat ride from the border with Burundi.

“It was God who wanted these crimes not to go unpunished.”

The farmer says he has seen around 20 bags containing bodies flowing downstream in the river.

Local residents say the bodies started coming in mid-July. But after discovering them, they pushed them back into the water, for fear of bringing trouble on themselves.

Local official Manirabarusha also insisted the bodies come “down the Kagera river”.

But asked if that means the bodies come from Rwanda, the governor declined to comment.

“I do not know where exactly the Kagera is… I forget, ask geographers who have studied this,” she said, visibly embarrassed.

A senior Burundi official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the case may never be brought to light because “Burundi will sacrifice the truth on the altar of its relations with Kigali”.

“It is crucial, because Burundi cannot afford to antagonise its powerful neighbour,” he said.

When contacted by AFP, Rwandan police spokesman Damas Gatera dismissed any suggestion the bodies have come from his country.

“There were no dead bodies in Rwanda or found in Rwanda, the ones we are talking about were found in Burundi,” he said.

When asked why Rwandan farmers have been ordered not to talk to journalists in the area, he said he did not know. – Sapa-AFP

source: iol.co.za

Cadavres du lac Rweru: la présidence burundaise répond à HRW

imirambo

L’organisation de défense des droits de l’homme Human Rights Watch (HRW) avait appelé, mardi 16 septembre, les gouvernements rwandais et burundais à enquêter après la découverte de plusieurs corps sur les rives du lac Rweru, à la frontière entre les deux pays. La présidence du Burundi, par la voix de son conseiller en communication, Willy Nyamitwe, joint par RFI, assure que des enquêtes sont menées en synergie par les polices rwandaises et burundaises.

« On ne peut pas dire que les enquêtes sont au point mort », insiste le conseiller en communication du président burundais Pierre Nkurunziza.

« Les autorités burundaises et rwandaises sont en train de travailler en synergie pour essayer de comprendre ce qui s’est passé. Vous savez, quand vous voyez des corps en décomposition, ça crée des inquiétudes », poursuit Willy Nyamitwe.

Human Rights Watch ainsi que d’autres organisations de défense des droits de l’homme s’étaient étonnées que les corps retrouvés flottant sur le lac Rweru soient immédiatement enterrés, enlevant tout espoir d’identification des victimes.

Des risques sanitaires

« Ce n’est qu’une question de principe. Des corps qui sont déjà en décomposition doivent être enterrés », explique encore le conseiller à la présidence burundaise, évoquant des risques sanitaires pour les populations riveraines du lac.

RFI avait recueilli des témoignages au Burundi ainsi qu’au Rwanda de riverains et pêcheurs qui assuraient que ces corps provenaient de la rivière Akagera, située du côté rwandais de la frontière.

« La seule chose que nous pouvons confirmer, c’est que ces corps ne proviennent pas du Burundi, parce qu’ils ont été charriés par cette rivière », ajoute Willy Nyamitwe.

Le conseiller à la présidence du Burundi se refuse à tout commentaire concernant la provenance de ces corps « en attendant les résultats des investigations en cours ».

Willy Nyamitwe assure que les relations entre le Rwanda et le Burundi sont « au beau fixe ». Néanmoins, précise-t-il, « nous ne sacrifions aucune victime au nom de ces bonnes relations. Ce qui s’est passé est condamnable et le Burundi ne peut que s’associer à tout effort afin de déterminer ce qui s’est passé. Le Burundi est gêné, quand même, de continuer à enterrer des corps qui ne proviennent pas de notre territoire », a-t-il conclu.

Source:  RFI