For Immediate Release
Amnesty International Condemns Pre-Election Attacks on Politicians and Journalists in Rwanda
lond - Amnesty
International condemns attacks on politicians and journalists in the run
up to the presidential election on August 9 and calls on the government
to ensure the poll is held in an atmosphere where Rwandans can freely express
The murder of a journalist and an opposition politician - both critical
of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) - in late June and mid-July
has created a climate of repression likely to inhibit freedom of expression
ahead of the vote, the organization said.
"In recent months killings, arrests and the closure of newspapers and
broadcasters has reinforced a climate of fear," said Amnesty International's
Africa program deputy director, Tawanda Hondora. "The Rwandan government
must ensure that investigations into the killings are thorough and reinstate
closed media outlets."
On July 14, André Kagwa Rwisereka, the vice president of the opposition
Democratic Green Party, was found dead in Butare, southern Rwanda. Amnesty
International has obtained photographs that show that his head was severed
from his body.
Rwisereka, who left the RPF to create the Green Party, had reportedly been
concerned for his security in the weeks before his murder. Other Green
Party members said they had also received threats .
Investigations into Rwisereka's death continue, but insufficient evidence
has been gathered to press charges, according to the prosecution.
None of the main opposition parties are able to stand in Monday's elections.
The Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and FDU-Inkingi have been obstructed
from holding the meetings required to register their parties.
The only new opposition party to secure registration - PS-Imberakuri -
was unable to stand after the party's leader, Bernard Ntaganda, was arrested
on June 24. Ntaganda was charged with "genocide ideology" and "divisionism"
under vague laws, ostensibly used to restrict hate speech, but often used
to silence legitimate dissent.
Opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire, has still not been brought to trial
on charges of "genocide ideology", and other charges following her arrest
in April. In May, the prosecution said that investigations may take up
to a year, ruling out a trial before the elections.
"Until an independent inquiry into Rwisereka's murder reveals the true
circumstances surrounding his death, Rwandans will fear that it was linked
to his opposition activities," said Hondora. "They may be reluctant to
express themselves as a result."
Jean-Leonard Rugambage, a journalist working for the Umuvugizi newspaper,
was shot dead on June 24 outside his home in the capital, Kigali. Rugambage
had been investigating the shooting in South Africa of the exiled former
general, Kayumba Nyamwasa. On the day of his murder, Umuvugizi published
a story alleging that Rwandan intelligence officials were linked to Nyamwasa's
Two suspects have been arrested for Rugambage's murder and are currently
Rwandan media critical of the government has effectively been dismantled
in the run-up to elections. In late July, the Rwandan High Media Council,
a regulatory body close to the ruling party, banned some 30 media outlets
arguing they failed to adhere to a 2009 media law. The law restricts media
Agnes Nkusi Uwimana, the editor of the Urubayo newspaper, was arrested
in July and charged with "genocide ideology."
Two other newspaper editors fled Rwanda in recent months after their
papers were suspended and they received repeated threats.
The United Nations, the European Union, the United States, France and Spain
have already publicly expressed concerns about the deteriorating human
rights situation in Rwanda ahead of the election. Amnesty International
calls on other countries to also express their concerns.
We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.