28 October 2017

Rwanda: UN Rights Team, Rwanda Disagree

Disagreement over visiting and interviewing jailed opposition politician Victoire Ingabire is at the centre of the standoff between Rwanda and the UN torture prevention body, sources have told The EastAfrican.

A delegation of the subcommittee against torture, wanted to meet the leader of the non-registered political organisation, FDU-Inkingi, and other incarcerated people and conduct private and confidential interviews, which did not go down well with the Rwandan authorities.

"We have been unable to carry out private and confidential interviews with some persons deprived of their liberty," said Arman Danielyan, the SPT head of delegation, in a communiqué announcing the suspension of their visit.

He did not provide details of those they wanted to meet.

Rwanda maintains that the five-member delegation conducted field visits to several institutions including prisons, police stations, transit centers, and a psychiatric hospital, interviewing staff, inmates, and patients.

A Rwanda government statement released just after the mission was cut short, accuses the delegation of violating their "own guidelines" by abruptly terminating the mission and turning to the media before discussing the matter with the host government.

"Rwanda considers the termination an act of bad faith," said Justice Minister Johnston Busingye.

No further comment

Despite the delegation denouncing "grave limitations imposed on granting access to certain places of detention, the government insists that "any technical issues that arose during the field visits were immediately resolved."

Sources said that the two sides disagreed right from the beginning, because government officials wanted the delegation to visit predetermined places and to interview people selected by government agents, a position that the delegation turned down.

The government was also angered by statements that many of those the committee managed to interview "have expressed fears of reprisals".

According to Mr Busingye "allegations of reprisals against any interviewee are baseless and inflammatory."

The government challenged the committee to make public the "alleged obstacles that compromised its mission."

The committee has not responded to Rwanda's requests and has refused to comment further on the incident.

"Considering the principle of confidentiality that, amongst others, rules the work of the SPT, the delegation has no other comments to make about the suspension of this visit than what is mentioned in its press release," said Joao Nataf, the SPT secretary; Human Rights Treaty Division.

The exchange between the two through press releases has left their future relationship clouded in uncertainty.

According to analysts, their future rapport could depend on how the incident will be handled, especially in the forthcoming review of Rwanda by the same committee, scheduled on November 4, 2017, in Geneva.

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