Plea to stop attempt to deport Rwandan Refugees and government critics living in the Netherlands

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His Excellency Mark Rutte
Minister-president, Minister van Algemene Zaken
Postbus 20001; 2500 EA Den Haag
The Netherlands


Re: Plea to stop attempt to deport Rwandan Refugees and government critics living in the Netherlands

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned, send this letter to your Excellency, to express our deep concerns for the security of many Rwandan refugees who have sought asylum in the Netherlands. This urgent call by the leaders of Rwandan opposition groups FDU-Inkingi, Rwanda National Congress (RNC), Parti Social-Imberakuri, Amahoro People’s Congress, PDR-Ihumure and PDP-Imanzi is based on unrelenting threats to deport to their home country, without any due process, many Rwandan refugees accused of acts of genocide. We believe that the decision of Madam Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza (Chair, FDU-Inkingi) and Me Bernard Ntaganda (Founder and Chair, PS-Imberakuri) to take part in the presidential elections in 2010 and the subsequent flawed judicial process that they faced, should be an eye opener to the Netherlands authorities.

Those people have fled their homeland, leaving behind their families, their properties, their culture, their dignity and everything dear to them because of legitimate fears for persecution, torture, intimidation, arbitrary detention and kangaroo courts. They did not run away from justice because there is justice in the Netherlands. They are ready to defend their cases before any free and fair judicial institution. The Rwanda judicial system does not meet any of the prerequisites for a fair trial.
Political and civil rights are not guaranteed in Rwanda, as outlined in the recent statement of the UN Special Rapporteur on civil rights, freedom of speech and assembly [1]. Political opposition, human rights defenders, journalists and critics of the government in general, are subject to persecution, including threats, intimidations, arbitrary arrests and detentions, politically motivated trials, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings. Some of the leaders of opposition parties, human rights defenders and journalists critical of the regime have been killed and others are languishing in prison.
Several members of the opposition have been murdered inside and outside Rwanda while others are languishing in prison:

 Rwandan refugees have been targets of abortive and successful assassinations, abductions, disappearances in many countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Belgium and the United Kingdom. The former Chief of External Intelligence, Colonel Patrick Karegeya, was murdered in Johannesburg on December 31st, 2013. Seth Sendashonga, who resigned as a Minister of Interior in August 1995 in protest over massacres of innocent civilians, was assassinated in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998. Colonel Theoneste Lizinde was assassinated in Nairobi, Kenya in 1997. General Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Army Chief, has survived several assassination attempts in South Africa in 2010, 2013 and 2014. On 26 December 2010, agents of the government of Rwanda killed FDU-Inkingi member, Jerome Ndagijimana, in Kampala, Uganda. Charles Ingabire, journalist, was murdered in Kampala, Uganda in December 2011. The trial of the case against individuals responsible for the 2010 assassination attempt against General Kayumba is in its final stage and the evidence adduced implicates a considerable number of senior military and intelligence officers of the Rwanda government.

 Inside Rwanda, opponents and critics of the government of Rwanda have been murdered by unknown individuals: Andre Kagwa Rwisereka (Vice President, Democratic Green Party of Rwanda), journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage, John Rutayisire (Ministry of Finance official), and Major (Rtd) John Sengati, to mention but a few. As the annual human rights reports of the United States Department of State have consistently indicated, reports of disappearances and politically motivated abductions or kidnappings committed by agents of the Rwandan state are numerous to recount in this letter. Prominent Rwandans who have been victims of enforced disappearances include Major Alex Ruzindana, Captain Richard Isoke, Judge Augustine Cyiza and Member of Parliament Dr. Leonard Hitimana.

 Political prisoners who remain in detention include Madam Victoire Ingabire (Chair, FDU-Inkingi), Sylvain Sibomana (Secretary General, FDU-Inkingi), Deo Mushayidi (President, PDP-Imanzi), Dr. Theoneste Niyitegeka, and Lt. Col. Rugigana Ngabo, brother to General Kayumba Nyamwasa, Eric Nshyimyumuremyi (District President, PS-Imberakuri) and Jean-Baptiste Icyitonderwa (Secretary General in charge of Mobilization, PS-Imberakuri).

The current spate of wanton and arbitrary arrests, detentions and extrajudicial executions [2] of people allegedly connected to FDLR rebels is another glaring evidence of the lack of judicial due process in Rwanda. This situation has led some countries and human rights organizations to publically express their concerns:

 On June 4th, 2014, the U.S. government [3] said it was deeply concerned about the arrest and disappearance of several Rwandans in recent weeks, including journalists and government officials. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said that most suspects have been held incommunicado and without due process.

 On 10th June 2014, the British government echoed the US concerns, in an even stronger worded statement. After meeting a Human Rights Watch investigator who had been targeted by the government of Rwanda over his report, the British government said that it was very concerned by what appeared to be a succession of acts of violence against Rwandan oppositions members (Nous sommes très inquiets par ce qui apparaît comme une succession d’actes de violence contre des figures de l’opposition rwandaise.) [4]. The British Foreign Office went on to state that it was troubled by the wording used by Rwandan government officials. This was in reference to president Kagame’s statement in Nyabihu dated 5th June 2014, whereby he threatened to “ arrest more suspects and if possible shoot in broad daylight those who intend to destabilize our country.” in defiance to the above mentioned US warning and thereby confirming that in Rwanda there is no presumption of innocence for suspects and defendants. This “shoot on sight” anti-terror policy has already started in Rwanda, where, as said above, two suspects have been killed.

 In March 2014, South Africa expelled three Rwandan envoys [5] it believes were linked to the killing of Rwanda’s former chief of intelligence, Colonel Patrick Karegeya, and the 2014 attack against Rwanda’s former chief of defense staff, General Kayumba Nyamwasa. Both men had fallen out with the Rwandan regime.

 On 9th June 2014, Voice of America broadcast [6] a special editorial on the situation in Rwanda, saying boldly that “a disturbing pattern of arrests continues in Rwanda, where dozens of people have been detained by authorities for alleged state security offenses. Many were held without formal charges” and that “some individuals were held for over a month without charge and were unable to communicate with lawyers or their families.

 On May 16th2014, Human Rights Watch [7] denounced the spate of enforced disappearances in Rwanda since March 2014. “If the people who have been forcibly disappeared have been arrested, the authorities should immediately acknowledge their detention, reveal their whereabouts, and allow them access to their families and to a lawyer”, Human Rights Watch said. “The authorities should either release those being held or inform them of the charges against them and bring them before a court”. Human Rights Watch collected detailed accounts of 14 people who have been forcibly disappeared or who have been reported missing in Rubavu since March 2014 and has received credible accounts of several more cases in Rubavu and Musanze districts, as well as in the capital, Kigali.
– In an Op-Ed entitled “Why are Rwandans disappearing”, published in the New York Times on 17th June, 2014 [8], novelist Lara Santoro and Professor Suzan Thomson wrote:” Virginie Uwamahoro vanished in April. A primary school teacher, she was last seen settling in for the three-hour bus ride from the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi to Kigali, the capital. She called a friend once she got into town: Someone from the government wanted to see her. She would drop by his office before heading home. Ms. Uwamahoro’s name is now on a list of missing people included in a new Human Rights Watch report on a series of politically motivated detentions and disappearances in Rwanda since mid-March.”

Owing to this dark picture of the situation in Rwanda, the Netherlands government should join other western governments and organizations in condemning the Rwandan regime, rather than threatening to deport its critics. We call upon bilateral partners of Rwanda, including the Netherlands government, which give substantial funds to the Rwandan government, to take urgently the necessary steps to protect Rwandan refugees. Should there be any strong evidence about any refugees involvement in genocide or any other crimes against humanity, judicial due process should be undertaken in their host countries rather than resorting to deporting them back to a country they fled due to legitimate fear of persecution. We do not advocate for impunity; we advocate for free and fair justice.

Sincerely,

Munyampeta Jean-Damascène 
PDP–Imanzi
Secretary General
Brussels, Belgium
pdp.imanzi@gmail.com

Rusesabagina Paul 
PDR –Ihumure
President
San Antonio-TX, USA
rusesabagina@gmail.com

Ryumugabe Jean-Baptiste
PS-Imberakuri
Coordinator Brussels, Belgium
psimberakuri@yahoo.fr

Dr. Rudasingwa Théogène
RNC–Ihuriro
Coordinator
Washington DC, USA
ngombwa@gmail.com

Dr. Nkiko Nsengimana
FDU-Inkingi Coordinator
Lausanne, Suisse
Nkiko.nsengimana@bluewin.ch

Masozera Etienne
Amahoro People’s Congress
President
Gatineau, Québec, Canada
emasozera@hotmail.com

CC:

– Her Excellecy Navanethem Pillay
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10,
Switzerland

– His Excellency António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres,
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
P.O. Box 2500
CH-1211 Geneva 2
Switzerland

– His Excellency Frans Timmermans
Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken
Postbus 20061
2500 EB Den Haag
The Netherlands

– His Excellency Mr Ivo Opstelten
Minister van Veiligheid en Justitie
Postbus 20301; 2500 EH Den Haag
The Netherlands

– Her Excellency Lilianne Ploumen
Minister voor Buitenlandse Handel en Ontwikkelingssamenwerking
Postbus 20061 ; 2500 EB Den Haag
The Netherlands

– De heer Fred Teeven
Staatssecretaris van Veiligheid en Justitie
Postbus 20301; 2500 EH Den Haag
The Netherlands

– Mrs Eijsink, A.M.C.
Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal,
attn: Foreign Affairs Committee,
Postbus 20018, 2500 EA The Hague,
The Netherlands.

– Mrs Jadnanansing, T.M
Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal,
attn: Security and Justice Committee,
Postbus 20018, 2500 EA The Hague,
The Netherlands.

Notes:

1 http://freeassembly.net/rapporteurreports/rwanda/
2 During the last two months, the police shot dead 2 prisoners who were allegedly attempting to escape custody. Yet, the available evidence indicates that the prisoners were handcuffed.
3 http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2014/06/227087.htm
4 http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20140610-rwanda-grande-bretagne-inquiete-apres-vague-arrestations/
5 http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/07/us-safrica-rwanda-idUSBREA261BS20140307
6 http://editorials.voa.gov/content/arbitrary-arrests-threaten-legal-rights-in-rwanda/1933142.html
7 http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/05/16/rwanda-spate-enforced-disappearances
8 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/18/opinion/why-are-rwandans-disappearing.html?_r=0

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