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Report: Rwandan Military Subjects Detainees to Illegal Detention, Torture


FILE - Congolese M23 rebel fighters detain a man they suspect to be an FDLR (Force Democratique de Liberation du Rwanda) rebel returning from an incursion into Rwanda Near Kibumba, north of Goma, Nov. 27, 2012.

Human Rights Watch says Rwandan soldiers routinely tortured detainees, engaging in beatings, electric shock and mock executions to extract confessions.

The New York-based group issued a 91-page report Tuesday that reveals 104 confirmed cases of people who were illegally detained in Rwandan military detention centers between 2010 and 2016.

Many of those arrested were suspected of either being members of, or working with, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a predominantly Rwandan Hutu armed group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some members of the group are suspected to have taken part in the 1994 genocide.

When asked about the report, Rwandan Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said, "We no longer respond to Human Rights Watch."

"We in fact have no collaboration with them anymore," Busingye told VOA's Africa division via text message. "They make unsubstantiated claims that have no evidence or grounds to back them. This is not about Human Rights, it is about a motive against Rwanda."

Many of victims told HRW investigators that they signed false confessions because they could not take any more abuse, or believed they were about to die. The report says that systematic torture was often ignored by prosecutors and judges whenever the victims complained.

The group says the total number of victims is likely much higher than the number they have confirmed.

Human rights groups have accused President Paul Kagame's party of harassing opponents and using intimidation to stifle any dissent to his rule. Kagame has led Rwanda since 1994 and was re-elected to a third term in August.

Diane Rwigara, a women’s rights activist and vocal critic of Kagame who ran against the president, has been in detention since her arrest on Sept. 23 on charges of "offenses against state security and forgery." Her family believes the only crime she committed was challenging Kagame's authority by running for president.