Category Archives: Human rights

THE US SECRETARY OF STATE’S VISIT TO RWANDA SHOULD SPARK THE OPENING OF THE POLITICAL SPACE

PRESS RELEASE N° ISH2022/08/006

THE US SECRETARY OF STATE’S VISIT TO RWANDA SHOULD SPARK THE OPENING OF THE POLITICAL SPACE

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On behalf of members of ISHEMA Party and on behalf of all Rwandans, we would like to welcome the United States (US) Secretary of State, Hon Antony BLINKEN to the country of a thousand hills, Rwanda.

On this occasion, it is imperative to raise some important issues faced by our people because of lack of good governance, violations of human rights, lack of an open political space, which, if not well managed are driving the country and the whole region into a chaotic end. The American government has played a major role in supporting the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) despite its liberticide and warmongering nature in the Great Lakes region. While the RPF has a heavy responsibility, its partners, and donors such as the US cannot escape the public judgement. To confront these ills and correct what is popularly seen as mistakes of the past, a call to act is sent to the American People as well as to all the international community.

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Congress to investigate Kagame’s spy actions against Americans with Pegasus

Last year, the world was shocked to learn that Rwandan President Paul Kagame was using Israeli spy software, Pegasus to spy on his perceived enemies. They include Americans. One American citizen he targeted is Carine Kanimba. She found out the security on her phone had been compromised when she was in Belgium advocating for her father’s release.

Kanimba said, “It was bad enough that they kidnapped my father, tortured him, and robbed him of his legal rights. Now we find out that they have listened to my conversations with the US State Department, Belgium Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmes, and our attorneys. This adds insult to injury.”

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World’s ‘most inhumane’ jail where ‘prisoners eat bodies of dead lags to survive’

Rwanda’s Gitarama prison can lay claim to the dubious honour of being the filthiest, most overcrowded and most brutal jails on Earth, even though a former governor admits it’s ‘possible’ that some of its inmates are innocent.

Gitarama Prison is considered to be one of the most hellish places on Earth.

The brutal jail on the outskirts of Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, was built in 1960 as housing for British workers. It was later converted into a jail designed to hold around 400 prisoners.

It currently holds over 7,000, and at its peak after the horrifying Rwandan genocide of the mid-1990s, was estimated to hold closer to 50,000 inmates.

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UK’s Rights Assessment of Rwanda Not Based on Facts

Abuses Overlooked to Justify Cruel Asylum Policy

This week, the United Kingdom published its safety assessment on Rwanda, intended to justify a recently announced agreement to send asylum seekers crossing the English Channel or other so called “irregular” or dangerous routes to the Central African country. The report was expected to downplay human rights violations in Rwanda. After all, the government couldn’t ship off vulnerable people seeking protection with a one-way ticket to a partner they regard as abusive. But it goes even further, cherry-picking facts, or ignoring them completely, to bolster a foregone conclusion.

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Un jour avec Denis Mukwege, Nobel de la paix contraint de vivre sous protection

Il est célèbre dans le monde entier pour son combat en faveur des femmes violées, ces corps « transformés en champs de bataille » que le gynécologue formé à Angers tente de réparer. Et obtenir, pour toutes les victimes des carnages perpétrés au Congo, justice et vérité.

Denis Mukwege, 67 ans, prix Nobel de la paix (2018), a nommé les crimes, les violences sexuelles, les monstruosités subies par les femmes en République du Congo.

Il a, le temps d’un passage à Paris, troqué sa blouse de chirurgien pour un élégant costume et reçoit chaleureusement quelques journalistes et représentants d’ONG dans un discret hôtel parisien. Denis Mukwege, 67 ans, vit en permanence sous protection depuis qu’il dénonce, avec le renfort et l’autorité de son prix Nobel de la paix décerné en 2018, les carnages incompréhensibles perpétrés en République démocratique du Congo.

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Hotel Rwanda’ hero’s family file $400m suit against gov’t

Paul Rusesabagina is serving 25 years in prison in Rwanda on terrorism charges which his supporters say are a sham.

Published On 30 Apr 2022

The family of Paul Rusesabagina, whose heroism during the 1994 Rwandan genocide was depicted in the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda, have filed a $400m lawsuit in the US over his alleged abduction and torture by the government in Kigali.

The lawsuit names the government of Rwanda, President Paul Kagame, and other senior officials including the former justice minister and intelligence chief.

“The complaint alleges that the Government of Rwanda and high-ranking Rwandan officials conspired to facilitate and execute an elaborate plot to lure Paul Rusesabagina from his home in Texas to Rwanda, where he would be tortured and illegally detained,” the family and his lawyers said in a statement on Saturday.

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Rwanda: Wave of Free Speech Prosecutions

(Nairobi) – Judicial authorities in Rwanda are prosecuting opposition members, journalists, and commentators on the basis of their speech and opinions, Human Rights Watch said today. Throughout 2020 and 2021, Human Rights Watch monitored trials in which judicial authorities pursued politically motivated prosecutions and perpetuated a culture of intolerance of dissent.

Less than two years out from the 2024 presidential election campaign season, the Rwandan government should ensure an end to violations against civil society activists, journalists, and opposition figures. The government should also protect their right to freedom of expression – a precondition to creating a conducive environment for free and fair elections.

“Judicial authorities in Rwanda, lacking the independence to stand up and protect free speech in accordance with international law, have unjustly convicted and jailed people based on their protected speech and opinions,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “All those jailed unjustly should be immediately and unconditionally released, and the abusive legal framework that allowed their prosecution should be reviewed and brought in line with international free speech standards.”

Since the publication of a March 2021 report on the arrests of, and threats against, several Rwandans for posts on YouTube, Human Rights Watch has monitored trials and reviewed trial documents and verdicts to examine the evidence and arguments of prosecutorial authorities, and the basis for judges’ rulings.

Researchers also reviewed content published on various channels managed by journalists and commentators on trial and interviewed 11 opposition members and people who post on YouTube. The cases documented are not exhaustive – Human Rights Watch also received information about other similar cases.

On March 3, 2022, Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to Justice Minister Emmanuel Ugirashebuja to share information about the cases it has documented and to request information on the Rwandan authorities’ steps to address violations of the right to freedom of expression. The government has not responded.

Rwanda has very few opposition parties, and human rights organizations and independent media remain weak. Victoire Ingabire, who was the president of the unregistered opposition party FDU-Inkingi before founding Dalfa-Umurinzi in November 2019, was released from prison in 2018. Members of her party have repeatedly been harassed, threatened, and arrested, or have died or disappeared in suspicious circumstances. Since October 2021, at least eight members of her party have been arrested and charged with offenses, including spreading rumors and forming a criminal association, in relation to a book they acquired and an online training session they attended to learn strategies for peaceful dissent.

Journalists using YouTube as a platform have also been targeted for prosecution for not registering with the Rwanda Media Commission (RMC) or for publishing information that contradicts the government’s version of certain events, such as the suspicious death in custody of Kizito Mihigo, a gospel singer and activist, or disappearances of government opponents.

The cases of Dieudonné Niyonsenga – alias Cyuma Hassan – and Théoneste Nsengimana, which Human Rights Watch documented, could further erode journalists’ legal protections and narrow the space for media and online speech. Niyonsenga, a high-profile YouTuber, was found guilty on appeal of forgery, impersonation, hindering public works, and “humiliation of national authorities and persons in charge of public service.” The last charge, which was added during the first appeal, is no longer a criminal offense in Rwanda. The prosecution authority announced it was lodging a “second appeal” to correct the error. Its verdict is expected on March 18. On March 9, Human Rights Watch received reports and confirmed that Ishema TV was no longer available on YouTube. At time of writing, it is unclear whether the channel was removed voluntarily.

Since 1994, speaking about crimes committed by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in the aftermath of the genocide, or sometimes even simply commemorating Hutu who were killed during the genocide, is perceived as crossing a red line, with the government presenting it as a threat to Rwandan unity, or the country’s security as a whole.

“When you are pro-government, you don’t have any problems. When you talk about bad things, you become persecuted, you are a genocide denier,” one YouTuber told Human Rights Watch.

Another said, “They take one word, and they create a crime for you…. Here, the problem is talking the truth. If you do, they go after you.”

The Rwandan government may have legitimate grounds to seek to restrict the kind of dangerous, vitriolic speech that led to the deaths of over half a million people in 1994, but current laws and practices go far beyond this purpose – creating fear and effectively stifling opinions, debate, and criticism of the government.

As Rwanda approaches the 30-year mark since the genocide, and the government aims to ramp up efforts to combat genocide ideology, there is a need to ensure that Rwandans can peacefully express legitimate grievances related to the genocide and post-genocide periods, Human Rights Watch said.

Article 38 of the 2015 Constitution protects freedom of expression but limits that protection by permitting ill-defined restrictions based on “public order, good morals, the protection of the youth and children, the right of every citizen to honor and dignity and protection of personal and family privacy.” The government, with the support of the judiciary, has used this clawback clause to impose restrictions on freedom of expression in ways that are incompatible with Rwanda’s regional and international obligations.

As Rwanda prepares to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, scheduled to take place in June, the international community should take a stand and press the authorities to stop harassing, immediately release, and drop all charges against opposition members, YouTube commentators and journalists facing abusive prosecutions that violate freedom of expression. The authorities should also open credible, independent, and transparent investigations into suspicious deaths and disappearances of critics, opposition members, civil society actors, and journalists, and prosecute those responsible.

“The evidence provided by the prosecuting authorities, and what judges have chosen to rely on to justify their conclusions, clearly demonstrates that these cases violate African and international human rights law,” Mudge said. “Prosecuting those who challenge the government of incitement to insurrection or of attempting to tarnish the country’s image is an indication of how little dissent is tolerated in Rwanda.”

For details of the recent cases, please see below.


Cases Against the Political Opposition

In October 2021, at least eight members of Victoire Ingabire’s opposition party, Dalfa-Umurinzi, were arrested in the largest crackdown against the party in recent years. Sylvain Sibomana, Alexis Rucubanganya, Hamad Hagenimana, Jean-Claude Ndayishimiye, Alphonse Mutabazi, Marcel Nahimana, and Emmanuel Masengesho were all detained in the days leading up to and following “Ingabire day,” scheduled for October 14.

On that day, Ingabire was planning to speak about political repression in Rwanda, cases of suspicious deaths, killings, disappearances, and abusive prosecutions. Théoneste Nsengimana, a journalist who was planning to cover the event, was arrested on October 13 and is being tried with the group of seven.

Criminal charges of “spreading false information or harmful propaganda with intent to cause a hostile international opinion against Rwandan government” and “formation of or joining a criminal association” were brought against Sibomana, Rucubanganya, Hagenimana, Ndayishimiye, Mutabazi, Nahimana, and Masengesho. On November 9, during a pretrial hearing, the Kicukiro court said it is also considering evidence to support other, undetermined charges against them. The prosecution contended that the defendants were also responsible for inciting insurrection.

Claudine Uwimana, a party member who was arrested on December 14 in Rutsiro, is being tried separately. She is charged with spreading false information, publishing rumors, forming a criminal association, and inciting insurrection, and has been denied bail.

The arrests send a clear message to those who may wish to mobilize, organize, or campaign on a political platform in the lead-up to the elections that efforts to peacefully change the power structures in place can be considered a criminal offense, Human Rights Watch said.

In both cases, the prosecution based its accusations on the group’s decision to acquire “Blueprint for Revolution,” a book written by Srdja Popovic, and to follow a training organized by the author’s organization, Canvas – the Center for Applied Non-Violent Actions and Strategies. Both the book and the training focus on peaceful strategies to resist authoritarianism, such as nonviolent protest, noncooperation, boycott, and mobilization. The prosecution used as evidence the contents of the book and training, the use of Jitsi – an encrypted online communication platform – and the use of pseudonyms during the training.

The prosecution also accused the group of planning activities such as mobilizing, among others, street vendors and others who are routinely rounded up and subjected to abuse, and a commemoration of political activists and critics who have died, disappeared, or been jailed, on “Ingabire Day,” based on the strategies proposed during the training.

Social protest and mobilization offer people the opportunity to peacefully communicate legitimate complaints and grievances. Governments have a responsibility to create a safe and enabling environment for individuals and groups to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, of expression, and of association.

Journalists Under Threat

Dieudonné Niyonsenga

Dieudonné Niyonsenga, also known as “Cyuma Hassan,” runs Ishema TV, a popular YouTube channel on which he has published his sensitive and critical reports. Ishema TV has millions of views, and Niyonsenga is one of the most popular YouTube contributors in Rwanda.

In April 2020, police arrested Niyonsenga and his driver, Fidèle Komezusenge, as they were reporting on the impact of the Covid-19 guidelines on vulnerable populations in a poor neighborhood of Kigali. Niyonsenga and Komezusenge were accused of forgery, impersonating journalists, and hindering public works for being outside during lockdown without a valid RMC-issued press card. Both spent almost a year in detention, but then were acquitted on March 12, 2021. After his release, Niyonsenga gave several interviews on YouTube describing his treatment in detention. In one, he said:

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Like the U.S., Rwanda is in a pitched battle over its history

Controlling the historical narrative in Rwanda is key to the regime’s power

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By Tom ZoellnerTom Zoellner is professor of English at Chapman University and the author of “Island on Fire: The Revolt That Ended Slavery in the British Empire.”July 12, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. EDT2

Tucker Carlson recently went on an attention-grabbing screed about how America’s history of racism gets taught. He garnered headlines by calling Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff, “stupid” and “a pig” for defending a class on the subject taught at the U.S. Military Academy. Carlson then made a comparison of America to another country that managed to be both absurd — and surprisingly apt:

“The question is, and this is the question we should be meditating on, day in and day out, is how do we get out of this vortex, the cycle, before it’s too late? How do we save this country before we become Rwanda?”

The absurd part is what Carlson was trying to say: that the teaching of critical race theory in schools and universities would lead to oppressed people of color picking up machetes to slaughter White people, an ethnic cleansing that would resemble the 1994 genocide in the small East African nation of Rwanda, in which 800,000 people were slaughtered at the urging of a government made up of the majority Hutu ethnicity.

Rwanda holds an important lesson for America’s culture wars today, but not in the way Carlson thinks. Rather, in Rwanda, political leaders have rewritten the country’s history to gain political power, just as the right wing is now attempting to do in the United States. In fact, the greatest asset of the dictatorship in today’s Rwanda is its mastery of the past. “Within Rwanda today, hegemonic power relies for much of its justification on a certain reading of history,” the Smith College scholar David Newbury has concluded.

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UK is disappointed in Rwanda’s noncompliance with UPR recommendations

UN Human Rights Council: Universal Periodic Review Adoption – Rwanda

The UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, delivered this statement during the Universal Periodic Review Adoption for Rwanda.

Rita French

Thank you, Madam President.

The United Kingdom welcomes Rwanda’s engagement with the UPR, including collaboration between the Government and civil society on human rights. The UK reiterates its commitment to work constructively with Rwanda to support UPR implementation.

The UK is pleased that Rwanda fully supports our recommendation to protect and enable journalists to work freely, without fear of retribution, and ensure that State authorities comply with the access to information law. This is an important step to promote freedom of speech, including allowing space for critical voices.

We regret that Rwanda did not support our recommendation, which was also made by other States, to conduct transparent, credible and independent investigations into allegations of human rights violations including deaths in custody and torture.

We welcome that Rwanda accepted recommendations from other countries on combatting human trafficking, but we were disappointed that Rwanda did not support the UK recommendation to screen, identify and provide support to trafficking victims, including those held in Government transit centres. In recognising the progress made by Rwanda, the UK encourages Rwanda to submit an optional mid-term report to provide an update on implementation of recommendations, between reviews.

Thank you.

https://www.gov.uk

WILL PAUL KAGAME’S REGIME PIN AN ASSASINATION OF AIMABLE KARASIRA ON COVID-19?

The Kagame Regime is the enemy of free-thinking Rwandans. On almost every occasion that someone — Rwandan or otherwise– has spoken up about the repression by the regime, the government builds a case for a smear campaign against critics.

Following smear campaigns are disappearances, prison sentences, and assassinations. In countless cases, the Kagame regime has combined prison sentences and assassinations.

Such is the case of Aimable Karasira, a university professor, musician, and famous YouTuber who speaks out on issues affecting ordinary Rwandans. He is bold and energetic, charismatic, and charming. He is also fearless, humane, and compassionate. His human values and compassion are demonstrated in the platform he built and used to address injustices affecting his fellow citizens within Rwanda. Unfortunately, Aimable Karasira has been a target of formal and informal smear campaigns and demonization by the RPF since 2019.

How Does Rwanda Smear & Outcast Dissenters?

Demonization and smear campaigns are run formally (by the government) and informally (by Kagame’s or his regime’s supporters). Formal smear campaigns typically utilize government tabloids and propaganda newspapers as well as known agents of the Rwandese Patriotic Front. In a coordinated attack, publications run articles demonizing and smearing Kagame critics while RPF agents take to social media to slander the victim. Inside the country, intelligence services track people down to express free thought against the Kagame regime.

Meanwhile, domestic and global supporters of Paul Kagame run informal smear campaigns. Those operating outside of the country compliment formal Kagame agents by spreading rumors about the victim and using “innocent criticism” to fuel anti-victim sentiments. They often claim the victim is too radical and should temper their criticism of the government, meanwhile overlooking blatant governmental abuses of power. They feign support while spreading the idea that the victim will eventually be “punished” for speaking out and us the fear of punishment as their reasons not to speak out against the regime.

Channels withing the government of Rwanda such as The Rwanda Diaspora also known as The Rwandan Community Abroad (RCA), the Center for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) and Ibuka often spearhead these informal movements. Even though CNLG is an official govenrment entity, the RCA and Ibuka present themselves as unaffiliated with the government. These channels seem harmless and front as anti-genocide and genocide survivor advocates. However, their demonstrated commitment to the Kagame regime and erasure of Rwandan Genocide survivors who do not align with the regime prove otherwise. Ibuka and CNLG serve as attack dogs for the Kagame regime, often using the 1994 genocide as blackmail against the victims of their smear campaigns. Abroad, RCA and Ibuka members conduct community surveillance and are coordinated and financed by Rwandan embassies in countries they operate in. They harass critics globally and infiltrate with the intent to destroy groups that are critical of the government. This isn’t conspiracy talk, either. It is a well-known fact among Rwandans that this happens. Global journalists, such as those at the New York Times, are also beginning to pick up on these tactics. Kagame’s advisor, general James Kabarebe stated recently in a vitriolic speech that they conduct these types of activities abroad intending to destroy exiles and refugees or Rwanda.

These cover-ups work two ways. First, they distract the general population from the abuses of power under the Kagame regime, including the ongoing killings within the country and the Congo (including babies). Second, these slur campaigns scare others into refraining from discussing the issues for fear of what will happen to them. The cycle continues in Rwanda until the newest targeted victim is willfully disappeared by government agents, indefinitely imprisoned, assassinated, or a combination of one or more of these events.

About Aimable Karasira

Aimable Karasira is a survivor of the Rwandan genocide that took place in 1994. The RPF won the war during which the genocide occurred, and the party claimed to stabilize the country. However, during their “stabilization efforts,” the RPF massacred hundreds of thousands of people– including Karasira’s parents and two siblings who had survived the initial genocide. Talking about his family and what was done to them by the RPF after the genocide has brought the hammer of government newspapers, the groups mentioned above, agents, and sympathizers of the government onto Aimable Karasira’s shoulders.

Supporters of the Kagame regime have even accused him of denying the genocide, which he has openly talked about surviving. In Rwanda, denying the genocide is a crime. Misinformation and false rumors by RPF agents about his genocide denial increased calls for imprisonment across the country. This all culminated in Karasira being arrested on May 31st, 2021.

For three weeks, Karasira has been held without a single appearance in court. During this time, he has reportedly been held in the Kicukiro jail without contact with other inmates. Rwandan law states he is supposed to appear in court within three days of his arrest, so his detainment without court appearance is unlawful.

On the weekend of June 19th, Karasira was moved to an unknown location with the claim that he contracted Coronavirus. Readers and defenders of global justice worldwide should be worried about this. Karasira has been quarantined for the last three weeks in a jail cell by himself, begging the question of how and where he picked up the virus. Those who have a working knowledge of the injustices of the Kagame regime understand this news is likely grim. The government might have detained Karasira to a torture chamber. It’s also possible that they plan on assassinating him and covering up the death as a coronavirus death. His safety has been in danger for years now, but he may be in much greater danger of being assassinated with this claim.

This would not be the first of such inmate deaths at the hands of the government. Countless outspoken critics of the Kagame regime have been assassinated in Rwandan jails. Kizito Mihigo died in police custody, and the government of Rwanda claimed that he committed suicide. There are dozens of cases of prisoners who the government has shot, and the government attempted to cover up the deaths by claiming they were trying to flee jail or prison. Many of these victims were shot while handcuffed.

What Can Be Done To Stop This?

Citizens of donor nations are generally unaware of their governments supporting repressive regimes like the one in Rwanda. One thing they can do is to share this article widely to ensure the rest of the world or their networks are informed about this issue.

Knowing about the injustices and human rights violations done by the Kagame regime, donor nations such as the US and the UK must withhold aid to Rwanda and be wary of accounts about dissidents coming from the government. The Netherlands, in particular, funds Rwanda’s judicial system — a system that has been proven to be broken. Their withholding of aid would go a long way to spark change at the government level. When criminals such as Kagame are given resources, they commit more crimes. Holding off on aid sends a message that human rights violations will never be rewarded and begs the regime to change its standards.

Donor nations must call for an immediate release of Aimable Karasira and other prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. These include Paul Rusesabagina (the real-life hero of the Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda), Deo Mushayidi, Mitsindo Viateur and many more innocent Rwandans languishing in prisons. They must also produce poet Bahati Musa who has been missing since early February 2021.

https://www.blackstarnews.com