7 March 2018

Rwanda: Govt Won't Renew Cooperation Agreement With HRW, Says Justice Official

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has consistently been violating agreements it signed with the Government of Rwanda regarding cooperation in its reports, and, therefore, the Government will not continue to work with it if the status quo remains, the Ministry of Justice has said.

Speaking to The New Times on Tuesday, the Head of International Justice and Judicial Cooperation Department at the ministry, Providence Umurungi, said the Government had so far signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with HRW since 2014, but the same issues persisted as HRW reneged on the agreements.

Under the MoU, she said, they had agreed that before the global human rights watchdog publishes a report on Rwanda, it should contact the Government so that they discuss it "such that even if they are not satisfied with the explanations we provide them, they should include that, and the government's point of view in their publication. But, they (HRW) did not do that over all the past years."

"Instead, you find the reports they make are not researched, and have no proof. They rush to publish reports that tarnish the image of the country instead of recognising the efforts made in terms of human rights," she said.

"It is obvious that HRW's agenda is something else, other than defending human rights".

Controversial report on killings of people

On July 13, 2017, HRW published a report titled, "All Thieves Must Be Killed. Extrajudicial Executions in Western Rwanda", in which it alleged that Rwandan security forces had summarily executed at least 37 suspected petty offenders in Western Province between July 2016 and March 2017.

It also argued that soldiers arbitrarily arrested and shot most of the victims, in what appeared to be an officially sanctioned strategy to execute suspected thieves, smugglers, and other petty offenders, instead of prosecuting them.

It claimed that serious violations were committed by the security forces in Rubavu and Rutsiro districts, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and threats against family members and other witnesses to the violations.

On October 13, 2017, Rwanda's National Commission for Human Rights presented findings of its inquiry into the allegations and it disproved the claims.

It found that seven people reportedly executed in the HRW report were alive; four people that HRW claimed were executed died of disease; 10 people were unknown to local authorities or residents of administrative entities where they are said to have been living; while six people died as a result of various accidents.

Umurungi observed that other human rights organisations that work in Rwanda would carry on their work.

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