Rwanda Denies Entry to Human Rights Watch Researcher, Citing Immigration Issues

Clémentine de Montjoye

Kigali, May 18, 2024 — The Rwandan government has issued a statement clarifying its stance regarding Human Rights Watch (HRW) and its operations within the country. This announcement follows HRW’s disclosure that Clémentine de Montjoye, a senior researcher with the organization, was denied entry into Rwanda.

According to the statement released by the Rwandan government on Saturday, May 18, 2024, a representative of HRW was refused entry after making a false declaration about the purpose of her visit to an immigration officer. The government emphasized that there has been no contact or agreement between Rwanda and HRW for many years, and thus, HRW is not authorized to operate in Rwanda. The statement further noted that HRW consistently produces biased reports and distorts the reality of the situation in Rwanda, making physical presence unnecessary for their activities.

On May 16, 2024, HRW published a communiqué titled “Rwanda: Une chercheuse de Human Rights Watch interdite d’entrée,” detailing the incident involving Clémentine de Montjoye. HRW stated that she was denied entry upon her arrival at Kigali International Airport on May 13, 2024, with immigration services informing her that she was “not welcome in Rwanda” for unspecified “immigration reasons.” Kenya Airways was instructed to transport her out of the country.

Tirana Hassan, Executive Director of HRW, criticized Rwanda’s actions, stating that the treatment of those investigating human rights abuses reveals the government’s deep hostility toward independent scrutiny. She called on the Rwandan authorities to allow de Montjoye to return and carry out her work without interference.

De Montjoye, who holds both French and British nationality, had informed the Rwandan government of her visit intentions, sending meeting requests to the Ministry of Justice on April 29 and May 7, which went unanswered. She also contacted the President of the National Commission for Human Rights, who was unavailable and did not respond to a proposal for a meeting upon her return to Kigali. Despite informing the authorities, de Montjoye faced no entry issues during her previous visits in June 2022 and August 2023.

Upon her arrival on May 13, de Montjoye’s passport was confiscated, and she was ordered to return to Nairobi, Kenya, that evening. Her passport was returned with a document stating that her entry was denied for “immigration reasons.”

HRW asserts that this denial is part of a broader government crackdown on human rights ahead of the 2024 general elections. The organization has been researching Rwanda’s human rights situation for over 30 years, documenting various abuses. De Montjoye is the fourth HRW researcher to be barred from entering Rwanda, following similar incidents in 2008, 2010, and 2018. In 2018, a Rwandan consultant for HRW was arbitrarily detained for six days after another HRW researcher was denied entry.

The incident follows the release of a comprehensive HRW report in October 2023, which highlighted Rwanda’s systematic targeting of critics and dissidents beyond its borders. During a parliamentary session discussing this report, a member of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, John Ruku-Rwabyoma, challenged HRW to visit Rwanda without a visa, suggesting that they would see the “real Rwanda” instead of tarnishing its image.

Rwanda has long sought to prevent independent critical examination, barring international journalists, disparaging local activists, and subjecting them to legal harassment. Several journalists and activists have faced suspicious deaths or disappearances.

International scrutiny of Rwanda’s human rights record has intensified, particularly concerning its military involvement in the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Despite this, the UK plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, claiming it will ensure independent monitoring of their conditions—a claim contradicted by the denial of entry to human rights investigators like de Montjoye.

HRW remains committed to dialogue with Rwandan authorities and seeks access for its staff to conduct their work. Tirana Hassan stressed the need for the international community to reassess its approach to Rwanda’s deteriorating human rights record and to apply greater pressure on the government to halt its repression.

“The refusal to allow Clémentine de Montjoye entry illustrates the necessity for a stronger international stance on Rwanda’s human rights practices,” Hassan stated. “Blocking a key human rights organization from operating is a blatant attempt to prevent scrutiny of Rwanda’s compliance with its international human rights obligations.”