February 19, 2020

New Delhi

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) today called for an assurance from Rwandan authorities of an independent inquiry into the death of Kizito Mihigo, a popular Rwandan gospel singer and government critic, who was found dead in police custody on Monday.

“An impartial and independent inquiry is needed in accordance with procedure established by law,” said Alison Duxbury, Chairperson of CHRI’s International Advisory Commission, pointing to Rwanda’s obligations under Articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

While noting that the Rwandan government is awaiting the conclusion of a post-mortem before confirming its initial reports of suicide, CHRI called for the conduct of a full and independent inquiry into the circumstances leading to his death. “Time is of the essence so that valuable evidence is not lost and that the investigation meets the ends of substantive justice”, said Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director of CHRI.

Last week, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau tweeted that the security services had handed over Mr. Mihigo who was charged with “attempting to illegally cross into Burundi” in breach of the terms of his release from prison in 2018 “to join terrorist groups”, as well as corruption, for attempting to bribe people living near the border according to Rwandan authorities.

In 2014, Mr. Mihigo was arrested for releasing a prohibited gospel song in which he prayed for victims of the genocide and victims of other violence. The following year, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of conspiracy to murder or harm Rwandan President Paul Kagame and other senior government figures. He was also convicted of complicity to overthrow the government and conspiracy to form alliances with groups trying to destabilise the country. He was pardoned by Kagame in 2018 along with the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.

Kigali is set to host the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in June.

Headquartered in New Delhi, with offices in London and Accra, CHRI is an independent, non-government, international, non-profit organisation committed to protecting and promoting human rights in Commonwealth nations. CHRI works towards strengthening access to justice (through prison and police reforms) and building a culture of transparent governance (through the Right to Information). CHRI also monitors human rights-related trends and developments across the Commonwealth and makes formal submissions to treaty bodies and inter-governmental agencies, including the United Nations Human Rights Council.  

CHRI’s International Board consists of Prof. Alison Duxbury of Australia, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah of India, Ms. Joanna Ewart-James of the UK, Mr. Sam Okudzeto of Ghana and Mr. Sanjoy Hazarika.

For more information, please contact:

Sanjoy Hazarika, International Director, CHRI

Email: [email protected][email protected]