Rwanda rejects HRW’s report on abusive prosecutions

On 16 March 2022 at 03:50

The Government of Rwanda has rejected the report of Human Rights Watch accusing the country of abusive prosecutions against opposition members, journalists and commentators on the basis of their speech and opinions.

The report is dubbed “Rwanda: Wave of Free Speech Prosecutions”.

HRW has been banned on Rwanda’s land four years ago after series of false reports accusing Rwanda of abusing rights of targeted groups of people.

Before halting partnership with HRW in 2018, the organization released a report dubbed ‘All Thieves Must Be Killed “alleging that 37 people were killed by police officers, soldiers, reservists and members of the District Administration Security Support Organ (DASSO) in the districts of Rubavu and Rutsiro.

It was latter established that all aforementioned individuals were alive following the investigation carried out by the National Commission for Human Rights.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has for several times been criticized for making false reports motivated by political reasons.

The recently released report dubbed “Rwanda: Wave of Free Speech Prosecutions” indicates that Rwanda’s Judicial authorities in Rwanda prosecuted opposition members, journalists, and commentators on the basis of their speech and opinions.

In the report, Human Rights Watch cited cases of Dieudonné Niyonsenga – alias Cyuma Hassan, the owner of Ishema TV YouTube channel who was sentenced to seven years after he was found guilty of charges including forgery, impersonation, hindering public works and humiliation of national authorities and persons in charge of public service. The ruling on his appeal is expected on 18th March 2022.

HRW has also raised alarm for Théoneste Nsengimana, the owner of a YouTube channel dubbed Umubavu along with five individuals arrested with him in October last year, majority of whom being members of unlicensed political party dubbed ‘Dalfa Umurinzi’ founded by Victoire Ingabire.

Their cases are being handled by Rwandan courts where the individuals are accused of crimes including spreading of rumours aimed at inciting chaos and protests among the public.

Aimable Karasira, a former lecturer at the University of Rwanda was also arrested in May last year accused of crimes including of Genocide denial and instigating divisions.

He is among individuals appearing on the list HRW is advocating for along with Idamange Iryamugwiza Yvonne who is serving 15-year sentence after she was found guilty of crimes including incitement of public disorder, providing false information using digital means, and trivializing the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch has said that Rwanda should be put on pressure to release these people mentioned in the report.

“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,” he said.

Responding to the report via Twitter handle, the Spokesperson of the Government of Rwanda, Yolande Makolo has rejected the report noting that it is biased.

“The sustained harassment of Rwanda by Human Rights Watch does nothing more than entrench negative stereotypes about justice and human rights in Africa,” she tweeted.

“The judicial system in Rwanda operates fairly and transparently in compliance with Rwanda’s laws, as well as our regional and international obligations. Everyone is equal before the law and no one is prosecuted for having political opinions,” Makolo added.

In September last year, HRW also released another report accusing Rwanda of abusing rights of transgender people, sex workers and street children.

At the time, Rwanda explained the rep-ort was a calculated attempt to harm a strategic sector of Rwanda’s economy with fabricated allegations.

The Spokesperson of the Government of Rwanda, Yolande Makolo has said that the judicial system in Rwanda operates fairly and transparently in compliance with Rwanda’s laws.