Crackdown on critics continues

General situation

On 25th January 2021, United Nations member states criticised Rwanda’s human rights record during the country’s third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, receiving 284 recommendations from 99 countries. A number of UN member states called on Rwanda to protect freedom of expression, including by reforming its media laws and allowing journalists and activists to work independently. Several CSOs, including DefendDefenders and CIVICUS, made stakeholder submissions to the UN Human Rights Council ahead of Rwanda's examination.


On 5th March 2021, YouTuber Yvonne Idamange Iryamukwiza was arraigned in a court in Kigali. She is facing six charges, including 'spreading rumours using technology', 'contempt for genocide memorials' and 'obstruction of the implementation of government policies', among other charges. She was arrested on 15th February 2021, reportedly in relation to a video in which she criticised the Rwandan government and president Paul Kagame. 


On 17th February 2021, the trial of the former manager of Kigali’s Hôtel des Mille Collines and government critic Paul Rusesabagina started. Rusesabagina is charged with 13 offences, including terrorism-related charges, and faces 25 years in prison if found guilty. Fears exist that Rusesabagina will not receive a fair trial. Controversy exists over how Rusesabagina, who lived in exile, arrived in Kigali before he was arrested. In an interview with AlJazeera, Justice Minister Johnston Busingye admitted that the Rwandan government paid for the flight that took Rusesabagina to Kigali. Additionally, in an excerpt accidently shared with AlJazeera, Busingye also admitted that prison authorities intercepted privileged communication between Rusesabagina and his lawyer.

On 21st February 2021, opposition politician Seif Bamporiki was shot dead in South Africa, where he had been living in exile. South African police suspect the motive for the murder was robbery, but Bamporiki's party, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), said that the killing resembled previous assassinations. Former Rwandan intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya was found strangled in a hotel room in Johannesburg in 2014. 

Tags: censorship