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.
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.Top of page
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.
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.
Several media-related laws were approved by parliament and pending promulgation at the year’s end.
Victoire Ingabire, President of the United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), was sentenced to eight years in prison on 30 October. She had returned to Rwanda in January 2010 after 16 years in exile. She had hoped to register FDU-Inkingi prior to the August 2010 presidential elections, before she was first arrested in April 2010.
Despite international scrutiny, the trial was marred by violations of due process. The court failed to test evidence brought by the prosecution. Confessions of two co-accused incriminating Victoire Ingabire were made after a prolonged period of detention in a military camp where Amnesty International has documented allegations of the use of torture to coerce confessions. A defence witness claimed he had been held in military detention with one of the co-accused and alleged that the individual’s confession had been forced.
In the build-up to the trial, official statements were made by the Rwandan authorities which posed problems in relation to Victoire Ingabire’s presumption of innocence. The freedom of expression charges lacked a clear legal basis and certain charges were based on pieces of imprecise and broad Rwandan legislation punishing “genocide ideology” and “discrimination and sectarianism”. The accused was not treated fairly during the trial and was regularly interrupted and subject to hostility.Top of page
Certain political parties had still not been able to register. Members of political opposition parties reported being harassed and intimidated, and some were imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of association.
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Trial Chamber transferred its first case to Rwanda, that of former Pastor Jean Uwinkindi. Several other cases were also transferred in 2012. Two ICTR staff were assigned to monitor referral cases on a temporary basis, pending agreement on trial monitoring with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. They were required to file monthly reports through the Registry to the President of the ICTR, or the President of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, as appropriate.Top of page
Judicial proceedings against genocide suspects took place in Belgium, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands.
Impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity
The authorities did not investigate or prosecute allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Rwandan army in Rwanda and also the DRC, as documented in the UN Mapping Report.Top of page
The implementation of a cessation clause for Rwandan refugees, invoked on 31 December 2011 by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, was delayed until June 2013. Under the clause, refugees who left Rwanda up to and including 1998 would lose their status, but should be interviewed to establish any individual grounds for continued fear of persecution in Rwanda.Top of page