Rwanda: Shocking death of gospel singer in custody must be effectively investigated

Following the Rwanda National Police’s announcement that singer Kizito Mihigo, has been found dead in police custody, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa Deprose Muchena said:

We are shocked and deeply saddened by the news of popular gospel singer Kizito Mihigo’s death.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Director for East and Southern Africa

“We are shocked and deeply saddened by the news of popular gospel singer Kizito Mihigo’s death. The Rwandan authorities have stated that he committed suicide. They must immediately launch an independent, impartial and thorough investigation to determine the cause of death – including whether it was natural or accidental, or a case of suicide or homicide.

“There must be no whitewash. The investigation should establish all the facts, including the possible involvement of others and whether prison practices and conditions caused or contributed to Kizito Mihigo’s death.”

There must be no whitewash. The investigation should establish all the facts, including the possible involvement of others and whether prison practices and conditions caused or contributed to Kizito Mihigo’s death.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International's Director for East and Southern Africa

Background

On Friday 14 February 2020, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau confirmed that Kizito Mihigo had been arrested in Nyaruguru district close to the border with Burundi. He was accused of attempting to illegally cross into Burundi, joining “terrorist” groups and of corruption, as well breaching the terms of his release from prison in 2018. 

Kizito Mihigo had previously been close to the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, but in April 2014 he was arrested after releasing a gospel song in which he prayed for victims of the genocide and victims of other violence.

In February 2015, he was found guilty of plotting against the government, forming a criminal group and conspiracy to commit an assassination, and was sentenced to 10 years in jail.

In 2018 he was released from prison by presidential pardon along with opposition politician, Victoire Ingabire, on condition that they report to the local prosecutor once a month, and to seek authorization before travelling abroad.