The trial of Ephraim Gahungu, former head of Rubavu prison in Western Rwanda, and his predecessors including Innocent Kayumba, has brought to light serious allegations of murder and torture within the prison system. The court in Rubavu heard charges that these officials were complicit in the deaths of seven inmates and the torture of many others.
A key case mentioned was the death of an inmate named Agahanze in 2019. The prosecution alleges that Agahanze was killed by fellow inmates, namely Mpakaniye Joseph and Charles Nkurunziza, following a meeting where Gahungu expressed his desire not to hear further reports of Agahanze’s violent behavior. Instead of investigating Agahanze’s death, Gahungu reportedly claimed it was due to natural causes, a point he maintained in court, asserting that he was away in Kigali at the time.
Gahungu’s defense argued that some of the accused killers had been transferred out of the prison at the time, but the prosecution countered this, suggesting that prisoner transfers were often used to facilitate torture in other prisons. This practice was allegedly perpetuated by Innocent Kayumba, who later transferred to Nyarugenge Prison in Kigali, taking with him prisoners known for their violent tendencies to ‘persuade’ other difficult inmates.
Another individual implicated in the case is Byinshi Emmanuel, accused of personally killing three fellow inmates. While Byinshi, who was in charge of internal security at the prison, denied these allegations, claiming he was merely following orders and lacked the authority to order killings, the prosecution argued that he had significant power within the prison, often acting with impunity due to the support of higher prison authorities.
The prosecution also highlighted efforts by prison management to cover up these crimes, such as sending deceased prisoners to Gisenyi Hospital and falsely claiming they were alive and in need of medical treatment not available in prison.
This trial sheds light on the alleged systemic issues within Rwanda’s prison system, raising serious concerns about human rights violations and the need for comprehensive reforms to ensure the safety and humane treatment of inmates.