Trial of Rwandan government critic Diane Rwigara postponed

The human rights situation in Rwanda remains bleak. There are continued violations of citizens' fundamental freedoms, and the media and NGOs face various restrictions. Several cases of disappearances of political activists remain unresolved.

Association

The trial of former presidential candidate Diane Rwigara and her mother has been further delayed. Prosecutors have asked that four more people be tried alongside the Rwigaras.

As previously reported on the CIVICUS Monitor, Diane Rwigara and her mother, Adeline Rwigara, together with four others living abroad, were charged with “inciting insurrection or trouble among the population”. Diane Rwigara was also charged with “forging or alteration of documents” and “use of counterfeited documents”, and Adeline Rwigara faces an additional charge of “discrimination and sectarian practices”. Diana Rwigara believe the charges against her are politically motivated and she has been in detention since September 2017 - right after the presidential election. 

The trial which was set to begin in May 2018 has been adjourned till 24th July 2018 to allow the prosecution time to gather more evidence and locate the co-accused. The four individuals who allegedly assisted Diane have been identified as Tabitha Mugenzi, an aunt of Diane Rwigara who resides in Canada, Xaverine Mukangarambe and Jean Paul Turayishimiye in the U.S., and Edmund Musheija in Belgium.

Diane Rwigara is a human rights activist and a prominent critic of President Paul Kagame. She was barred from running in the August 2017 presidential elections.

According to Amnesty International, the charges brought against Diane Rwigara were based on comments she made publicly that were critical of the Rwandan state, including some made at a press conference to launch a new activist group, the People's Salvation Movement, on 14th July 2017.

Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, Great Lakes and the Horn Joan Nyanyuki said in regards to the case that:

“The Rwandan judiciary must ensure that this trial does not become just another means to persecute government critics, and Diane Rwigara and her co-accused must be guaranteed a fair and impartial trial…they must demonstrate that this trial is not being used to punish individuals for political dissent. Criticizing the government is not a crime”.

Peaceful Assembly

On 2nd May, 23 Congolese refugees at the Kiziba Camp were arrested after clashes erupted with Rwandan security forces. The violence left one protester dead and at least one other injured. Clashes began when refugees in the camp allegedly pelted visiting government officials with stones, prompting police to respond with tear gas and live ammunition. Refugees have reportedly been banned from interacting with the general public since 22nd February 2018, when protests over food rations left at least 11 dead.

Over 17,000 Congolese refugees live in the camp. Faced with dwindling assistance and food ration reductions, as humanitarian funding levels have hit a low point, camp residents began protesting in February 2018.