19 November 2012

Rwanda: Officials Dismiss Quebec Reports Over Mugesera's Living Conditions

Photo: T. Kisambira/ The New Times
Leo Mugesera, far right, speaking to his lawyers in court.

In a special section of single and private rooms of the country's largest correction facility commonly known as 1930 that is based in Kigali lies a series of single private rooms where prisoners mostly detained for political related crimes are accomodated.

And in room two of this special block is where genocide suspect, Léon Mugesera, is housed. The room is furnished with a simple bed and mattress, a mosquito net, a cupboard, and a table.

In addition, he is provided with a laptop and printer for his use.

Mugesera, a former lecturer, is accused of having given an incendiary speech in 1992 that is said to have been one of the trigger factors to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

He was deported from Canada in January this year after he lost an almost two-decade legal battle against deportation.

The Quebecois newspaper, "Le Soleil" of 14th November 2012, accuses Rwanda of mistreating Mugesera, in an article entitled "Léon Mugesera serait maltraité en prison, affirment ses proches," that loosely translates to "Léon Mugesera mistreated in the prison, confirm his relatives"

The article claims that Mugesera faces death threats and eats food unfit for consumption that would easily lead to health problems. It further alleges that his room is infested with rats and bed bugs adding that he has also has difficulty to access his lawyers in private, among others.

When The New Times visited Mugesera in the prison, he was unwilling to be interviewed saying he was not ready to talk to the media.

"I am sorry, if you observe that it is my right not to talk to the media; accord me that right please. I talk with the prison authorities when I have any problem. I am not ready to talk to the media," Mugesera said.

The commissioner in charge of correction, social, human rights and cooperation at the Rwanda Correctional Service, Dativa Ngaboyisonga Mukanyangezi, dismissed the Le Soleil article terming it as baseless. She added that the writer had never consulted the prison authorities nor visited the prison in person.

"The article says he (Mugesera) wants to sue the Canadian government for deporting him to Rwanda for trial where he is being tortured which is not true. We are giving him the right he deserves as a prisoner. Sometimes we give him what he may not be getting because others (prisoners) don't get that," Mukanyangezi explained.

"The international laws are respected. He has his own computer that he uses to prepare his trial. He goes to church with others and gets treatment when he is sick," she said.

She noted that Mugesera had often confessed that he faces no difficulties and is provided with anything he asks for whenever he makes a request.

"The government pays for all that he consumes, he uses the same restaurant as the prison staff, he is also provided with a phone whenever he wishes to make calls, Mukanyangezi said.

Documents at the prison, which The New Times saw, show that Mugesera meets his lawyer at least five times a week and according to the prison officials, they talk freely.

The prison authorities further point out that Mugesera has been accorded the right to call his lawyer to set up appointments to prepare for his trial. They added that he consults his family at his own discretion.

The same article says that Mugesera is deprived of the right to talk to his four remaining family members but the prison officials say he had not given their contact when he gave other contacts.

The prison records show that he does not eat the same food as other prisoners. Instead, he gets his food from the prison canteen which is run by by Urwibutso Enterprise, a popular local food processor that runs a string of businesses.

The prison records further show that Mugesera takes breakfast, lunch as well as supper at the canteen. His diet varies from rice, French fries, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes, posho and meat among others.

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