News / Africa

Amnesty Reports Unlawful Detentions in Rwanda

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Amnesty International logo
Amnesty International logo
Gabe Joselow
Amnesty International is accusing Rwandan military intelligence of torture, unlawful detention and forced disappearance of civilians in their custody.  Rwandan officials are questioning the credibility of the rights group report.

In its report, Amnesty says researchers in Rwanda documented 45 cases of unlawful detention and 18 allegations of torture at Rwandan military prisons between March 2010 and June of this year.

The abuses took place as the military intelligence service, known as J2, investigated a series of grenade attacks in the country before the August 2010 presidential election.

Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s Acting Deputy Africa Director said civilians were rounded up, detained for months without access to lawyers or doctors and, in some cases, tortured.

“They reported that they were subject to serious beatings, to electric shocks and to sensory deprivation, bags placed over their heads, water poured over them, to force confessions during interrogations,” Jackson said.

Amnesty said it does not take a position on the guilt or innocence of those who were arrested in the security sweep.  Jackson explained that the concern is that J2’s actions violated Rwanda’s laws, as well as the rights of the individuals in their custody.

“The Rwandan authorities had an obligation to investigate the grenade attacks, but the way in which they did so violated the rights of the suspects and several people who were never charged, but were released after several months in detention,” she said.

In an interview with VOA, Rwandan Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama said the allegations are “blown out of proportion.”  The minister said he met with Amnesty’s team in June and conceded incidents of civilians being detained illegally without charge, and said those cases were all heard by Rwandan courts.

But he said the evidence of torture was provided by individuals living outside the country, seeking political asylum or looking to harm the Rwandan government.

“They have every motivation to talk ill of the government they have run away from," Karugarama said. "So the idea of torture in our cells is not correct.  It is a fabrication by these people and it is very unfortunate.”

Karugarama added that the country does not condone torture and that anyone with a credible case should take it up through the Rwandan legal system.

“I would say that anybody who has that kind of claim should be able to come forward, "file a suit against a government establishment," he said, "and we shall leave no stone unturned to hold people responsible for that to account."

The Amnesty report says some former detainees reported being too scared to file a case against the government and some of their lawyers are reticent to bring up allegations of torture in court.  The rights group says it is unaware of any investigations into the abuses documented in the report.

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