KIGALI — Human Rights Watch says an increasing number of people have been reported missing or fallen victim to forcible disappearances in the Rubavu district of western Rwanda since March of this year.
The New York-based rights group has documented 14 cases of people who have been forcibly disappeared or reported missing from Rubavu, and received credible accounts of several similar recent cases elsewhere in the same region and in the capital, Kigali.
"In at least eight of the cases we documented in Rubavu ... there were indications of involvement of soldiers in several cases, and also a local government official, the executive secretary of the Gisenyi sector, who was seen taking away the people who have disappeared," said Carina Tertsakian, one of HRW's a senior researchers.
Tertsakian says none of the missing people has been located yet and their relatives are getting desperate. The missing include men and women, some in their 20s and others who are older, and one man in his 70s.
HRW has raised the issue with Rwandan authorities and said that if any of these people has been arrested they should be granted access to their families and legal resources.
"Human Rights Watch met the district police commander in Rubavu," Tertsakian said. "He actually knew about some of these cases because many of the families had reported them, had written letters to the authorities. He said that they were investigating, [but]] so far none of the families has been given any information about the results of these investigations."
Many of the people who have disappeared seem to have had contacts in the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo, and Human Rights Watch suggests they may be suspected of collaborating with a Rwandan rebel group in the Congo known as the FDLR.
In the past four years, Tertsakian says, there has been a pattern of suspected FDLR collaborators in western Rwanda who have been detained incommunicado for some time before being put on trial.
The FDLR is composed in part of people who took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
A spokesman for the Rwandan Police told VOA a statement would be released shortly in response to HRW's report.