ENDING THE SILENCE ABOUT RWANDA : Amnesty International's report on Kagame's early Killings

Published on by KANYARWANDA

ENDING THE SILENCE ABOUT RWANDA : Amnesty International’s report on Kagame’s early Killings

ENDING THE SILENCE ABOUT RWANDA : Amnesty International's report on Kagame's early Killings (24.07.09)

RWANDA

 

Ending the silence

 

Ici, dans ce maudit pays, on n’a pas de projets. On pousse un ouf de soulagement quand 24 heures passent puis on s’inquiète pour les autres 24 heures qui suivront. On dirait un contrat de 24 heures.”

 

 

(”Here in this damned country, we have no plans. We breathe a sigh of relief when 24 hours go by then we worry about the next 24 hours. It is like a 24-hour contract.”) [1]

 

I. INTRODUCTION

 

At least 6,000 people - the majority unarmed civilians - are reported to have been killed in Rwanda between January and August 1997. The real figure is probably considerably higher [2]

 

By August 1997, killings were continuing on a virtually daily basis. The victims include many returnees who were among the hundreds of thousands of Rwandese refugees forcibly returned from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC - formerly Zaire) and Tanzania in November and December 1996. Soldiers of the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) and armed groups believed to be composed of or allied to members of the former Forces armées rwandaises(FAR) - the former Rwandese armed forces - are deliberately targeting unarmed men, women and young children, hunting them down in their homes. Many people have “disappeared” and their families do not know whether they are alive or dead.

 

Fighting between the RPA and armed opposition groups is reported to have intensified. Whole regions in the northwest of the country have become virtually inaccessible because of the insecurity and travel restrictions imposed by the authorities. Few independent human rights observers are able to go there; as a result, the perpetrators of human rights abuses are able to carry on killing without independent witnesses.

 

Within days of the return of the first wave of refugees from the former Zaire in November 1996, killings and arbitrary arrests were already being noted [3]. However, it was not until early January 1997 that the rate of killings escalated sharply, especially in the northwestern préfecturesof Ruhengeri and Gisenyi [4]. Killings and “disappearances” in other parts of the country have also increased. The level of arrests countrywide has continued to rise, reports of ill-treatment have become more frequent and prison conditions have continued to cause the deaths of hundreds of prisoners as the total prison population in acknowledged detention centres has exceeded 120,000. Trials of those accused of participation in the genocide began in late December 1996; by August 1997, more than 140 people had been tried, resulting in at least 65 death sentences, many of them imposed after unfair trials [5].

 

Once again, death has become almost a banality in the lives of ordinary Rwandese. The population of Rwanda is living in a state of fear, knowing that whatever their ethnic origin or their perceived affiliation, they may become targets of arbitrary violence by one side or the other. Most are too afraid to speak about the situation for fear of being killed. Those who are lucky enough to escape with their lives may face the prospect of arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and prolonged detention in life-threatening conditions. Staff working for international organizations have not been spared; several assassinations of foreign nationals as well as Rwandese employees of international organizations have meant that the essential work of humanitarian and human rights organizations has been severely disrupted and the populations most in need are not receiving adequate assistance.

 

The real level of human rights abuses continues to be played down both by the Rwandese authorities, who claim to have control over the situation, and, seemingly, by the international community. International media reports on the current human rights situation in Rwanda remain rare and most foreign governments appear to be turning a blind eye to the worsening human rights situation and continue advocating the repatriation of Rwandese refugees from neighbouring countries.

 

Amnesty International is publishing this report now to highlight the scale and gravity of the human rights abuses taking place in Rwanda and to bring this information to the attention of those who could bring about positive changes. The information included in this report is based in part on the findings of an Amnesty International delegation which visited Rwanda in January and February 1997 and in part on testimonies gathered from a variety of sources inside and outside the country in subsequent months. The case examples mentioned - most of which occurred between January and August 1997 - represent only a fraction of the total number of reported human rights abuses during this period.

 

II. PATTERNS OF KILLINGS

 

1996 was marked by a pattern of serious human rights abuses, including hundreds of extrajudicial executions by the RPA and deliberate and arbitrary killings by armed opposition groups [6]. The situation has deteriorated further in 1997. This can be attributed in great part to the mass forcible return of hundreds of thousands of Rwandese refugees from the former Zaire and Tanzania in November and December 1996. Most of these refugees are from the Hutu ethnic group. Many are suspected of having participated in the genocide in 1994; they include members of the former government and former army (known as ex-FAR) and their families, returning to areas where thousands were massacred during the genocide in 1994.

 

During 1997, both the RPA and armed opposition groups have been responsible for widespread killings of unarmed civilians. However, testimonies received from the northwestern préfecturesof Rwanda - where most of the violence is concentrated - consistently affirm that the majority of the killings of unarmed civilians in recent months have been carried out by the RPA.

 

In some cases, it is difficult to identify the perpetrators of killings. Eye-witnesses usually refer to “armed men in military uniform” but there are sometimes conflicting reports as to whether these were members of the RPA or ex-FAR. There is reason to believe that both sides are adopting a deliberate strategy of confusion so as to be able to blame attacks on each other, with little possibility of independent verification.

 

II.1 Killings in armed conflict - the undeclared war in the northwest

 

Frequent reports are emanating from the northwest of the country referring to battles between RPA forces and armed opposition groups, commonly referred to as “infiltrators” (infiltrés). These “infiltrators” are believed to be ex-FAR and interahamwemilitia, many of whom were responsible for massacres during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Some sources allege that there are also groups of people who have taken up arms to fight the RPA independently from the ex-FAR.

 

Many sources in Rwanda, both inside and outside the government, describe the situation in the northwest as a fully-fledged war. Others cast doubt on this analysis and claim that evidence indicates that most of the casualties - on both sides - are unarmed civilians. Whatever terms one uses to describe the current situation, it is clear that armed opposition groups have intensified their attacks during 1997 - sometimes attacking in groups of more than 100 - and that in turn, the RPA has adopted a tougher line to crack down on the insurgency, amounting in some cases to a “scorched earth” policy, using the legitimate need to combat the insurgents as a pretext for massacring unarmed civilians.

 

Increasingly, civilian populations living in areas affected by the conflict have been made to assist the RPA in its operations to search for insurgents. For fear of being killed by the army if they refuse, some residents of these areas have reportedly begun cooperating with the authorities in these operations; this in turn has exposed them to the risk of being targeted as “traitors” and attacked by armed opposition groups. Regional civilian and military authorities often gather the population in these areas to warn them against supporting or assisting the “infiltrators”, as well as to carry out identity checks - frequently resulting in mass arrests. Inhabitants of the area are effectively forced to attend these meetings; those who do not are immediately viewed with suspicion.

 

The authorities have used various tactics to play down the severity of the situation in the northwest. For example, on 15 July 1997, the Rwandese News Agency reported that conflicts in Ruhengeri over the previous days had claimed the lives of 100 militiamen and three RPA soldiers. A subsequent statement by the préfetof Ruhengeri mentioned that 40 civilians had also been killed in the cross-fire during the same period. On 1 August 1997, a senior government delegation, accompanied - at the government’s invitation - by foreign embassy officials, representatives of international organizations and journalists, visited Ruhengeri and presented its account of recent events in the region. Government officials claimed that 1,800 interahamwe or ex-FAR, 90 RPA soldiers and between 200 and 300 civilians had been killed during May and June. During this visit, government officials stated that the situation in the region was “calm and stable”[7].

 

Due to the insecurity characterizing the areas affected by armed conflict, Amnesty International has not been able to confirm the exact details of reports of armed clashes between the RPA and armed opposition groups, nor to estimate the total number of casualties among these respective forces. The organization’s concern is for the civilian victims during or following these clashes. In the days immediately after reported fighting, the civilian population living in the area is at great risk of being targeted indiscriminately by the RPA as it searches for “infiltrators”. These fears have been borne out by the pattern of military search operations in 1996 and 1997. The authorities have repeatedly warned the population not to shelter or assist the “infiltrators” in any way. However, there is no evidence that the unarmed civilians who have been extrajudicially executed were involved in supporting armed groups.

 

II.2 Extrajudicial executions during military search operations

 

Thousands of unarmed civilians have been killed during military “cordon and search” operations launched by the RPA after reported attacks by armed opposition groups or clashes between RPA soldiers and “infiltrators”. Reprisal killings are often carried out by the army during military operations - sometimes within hours of the attack by armed groups, sometimes in the following days. The vast majority of people killed during these military operations have been unarmed civilians who were not involved in the conflict and who posed no threat - for example elderly men and women and young children who have been killed in their homes, others in open spaces where soldiers had gathered them. The RPA’s counter-insurgency strategy is having the effect of terrorizing the civilian population living in areas where insurgents are rumoured to be hiding. In some cases, members of the RPA allegedly responsible for extrajudicial executions have been arrested but, to date, such cases have tended to be the exception. In most cases of reported extrajudicial executions, those responsible have continued to evade justice.

 

The préfecturesof Ruhengeri and Gisenyi have suffered the highest number of extrajudicial executions by RPA soldiers. Amnesty International has received countless reports of unarmed civilians being killed there by the RPA, in the wake of reported attacks by “infiltrators”.

 

During January 1997, massacres began to be reported with increasing frequency. For example, on 4 January 1997, at least 55 people were reportedly killed by RPA soldiers in Nkumbacommune, Ruhengeri, during a military search operation. The killings followed an attack the same day by alleged infiltrators in which one RPA soldier was reportedly killed. However, most of the victims of the reprisal killings by the RPA were civilians; eight alleged “infiltrators” were also killed.

 

On 20 January 1997, RPA soldiers reportedly rounded up unarmed local residents during a military search operation in Nyamugali communein Ruhengeri and killed 28 of them. 24 were reportedly killed after RPA soldiers herded them into a building and threw in a grenade.

 

During the following two or three days, scores of other people - possibly as many as 100 - were reportedly killed or “disappeared” in several other communesin Ruhengeri, including Kigombe, Mukingo and Nyakinama; many were shot dead as the RPA opened fire on those fleeing.

 

On 3 March 1997, at least 150 unarmed civilians, and possibly as many as 280, were killed by RPA soldiers in a military search operation in the communes of Kigombe, Nyakinama and Mukingo, in Ruhengeri, one day after an attack by an armed group in the town of Ruhengeri in which several people were reportedly killed. The RPA carried out large-scale “cordon and search” operations in several locations in the area; soldiers - reportedly assisted by gendarmes - reportedly rounded up local residents from their homes, led them away and shot them or beat them to death. The authorities recognized excessive use of force in these incidents and several officers allegedly involved in this operation were reported to have been arrested after the killings.

 

Between 9 and 11 May 1997, at least 1,430 civilians were reportedly killed by RPA soldiers in thesecteurs of Ryinyo, Kintobo, Gatore, Gatovu, Rukoma, Gitwa, Runigi and Mukamira in Nkuli commune, in Ruhengeri. Amnesty International has received a list, drawn up by local sources, of the names of around 525 victims of these massacres - including at least 90 children - primarily in Ryinyo secteur. In addition to those named, at least 553 were reportedly killed in Kintobosecteur,127 in Gatovu secteur, 120 in Rukoma secteurand 114 in Runigi secteur. These killings were reportedly preceded by several days of fighting between RPA forces and armed opposition groups around military camps in the area.

 

Around the same period, 423 people were reportedly killed in neighbouring Nyamutera commune; 123 of them are reported to have been burned alive in houses which were deliberately set on fire.

 

Between 3 and 17 May 1997, at least 82 people were reportedly killed by RPA soldiers in several locations in Karago commune,in Gisenyi préfecture during military operations. Following reported clashes between RPA soldiers and insurgents at the Kadahenda centre, in Mwiyanikesecteuron the morning of 3 May, in the afternoon RPA soldiers reportedly killed 26 peasants in the area. Two days later, on 5 May, in Rurambo, also in Mwiyanike, RPA soldiers reportedly killed another 10 peasants. During a subsequent military search operation on 10 May, 26 people were killed in Kinyanja and five in Cyamabuye, in Nanga secteur. On 17 May, 15 people were reportedly killed by soldiers near a school in Ruhigiro.

 

On 23 May 1997, around 170 civilians were reportedly killed by RPA soldiers following clashes with armed groups in the communesof Mukingo and Nyakinama, in Ruhengeri.

 

From mid-May to mid-June 1997, hundreds of killings were reported from Cyabingocommune,Ruhengeri. More than 300 people are believed to have been killed by RPA soldiers during search operations in the second half of May. On 6 June 1997, in Murambasecteur, more than 115 people were reportedly killed by unidentified assailants. A week later, on 13 June, 15 children under the age of 15 were reportedly shot dead and others burned alive, allegedly by RPA soldiers. Armed groups are believed to be active in Cyabingo commune; however, most of the victims of the killings by the RPA appear to have been unarmed civilians.

 

Scores of unarmed civilians have been killed in churches. For example, on 8 June 1997, one day after a reported confrontation between RPA soldiers and “infiltrators” in Birunga, RPA soldiers reportedly killed at least 120 people inside a Protestant church in Cyamabuye cellule, in Nanga secteur, Karagocommune, in Gisenyi. They went on to attack the houses of two community leaders and killed a further 38 people in their homes, including an 85-year-old man, Bagabo, and a 90-year-old woman,Kaje. Two other attacks on churches have also been reported: one in June 1997, on an Adventist church in Mwiyanike secteur(also in Karago, Gisenyi), in which scores of people were reportedly killed by soldiers; and another on 3 July 1997, in which at least 75 people were reportedly killed in a church in Gitera secteur, Nkumba commune, in Ruhengeri.

 

On 10 June 1997, at least 200 people were reportedly killed by RPA soldiers in the communesof Nyamutera, Kinigi, Ndusu and Gatonde, in Ruhengeri, following attacks by unidentified armed groups on several detention centres in the area; the number of people killed in the attacks by the armed groups is not known.

 

Reports from various parts of Ngororero sous-préfecture, in Gisenyi préfecture, indicate that during June and July 1997, as many as 984 people may have been killed. Sources from the area reported that on 11 June, 23 were killed in Ntobwe secteur, Kibilira commune;on 13 June, around 20 people were killed in Rucanosecteur, Satinsyi commune, including 10 children aged between 3 and 16 and an 8-month-old baby; on 29 June, 212 were killed near Ruhunga forest; on 2 July, nine people, seven of them children, were killed in Rucano secteur, Satinsyi commune; on 6 July, 349 people were killed in Musagara secteur, in Satinsyi commune; on 11 July, a market day in Ngororero, 19 were killed; on 12 July, 67 were killed in Rugarama secteur, Kibilira commune. In addition to these specific incidents, 149 people were reportedly killed in Gitaramasecteur, 36 in Ntaganzwa secteur, and around 100 in Sovu and Musenyi secteurs. All these killings have been attributed by local sources to RPA soldiers.

 

On 24 June 1997, at least 68 people were reportedly killed by RPA soldiers in Kitabe and Bitengacellules, Rukokosecteur, Kivumu commune,Kibuye préfecture. These killings were preceded by an attack the same day in which a vehicle travelling along the road from Gitarama to Kibuye was ambushed and four passengers shot dead by unidentified armed men who escaped from the scene. The four people killed in the ambush were Chen Ian, a Chinese engineer, two Rwandese mechanics,Théoneste Safari Rukundoand Jean-PierreHakizimana, and the Rwandese driver, Denis Ndutiye. According to local authorities, the perpetrators of the ambush were ex-FAR or interahamwe. RPA soldiers called to the scene rounded up a group of local young men and asked them to guard the vehicle and the spot where the ambush had occurred. Later that evening, a group of soldiers returned in a truck and opened fire on the men guarding the vehicle, killing at least 29 of them. The soldiers then reportedly killed more people in their homes in a nearby village, including elderly people and young children; the victims included members of the families of Ntagwabira, Habiyambere,MbanjingaboNgwabijeand Simpunga. In the case of Simpunga’s family, only his wife and her children were at home; they were all killed. Local residents who buried the bodies counted a total of 68 victims, all of them unarmed civilians. They believe that the real number of victims may be higher and that other bodies may have been removed from the scene.

 

Further killings took place in Nkulicommune, in Ruhengeri, in July 1997. On 13 July, Karekezi, an Adventist pastor, his wife, a visitor and two children were killed in Gitwa secteur, Nkuli commune. On 17 July, in Jena, also in Nkuli, a man named Ngirabuho,his wife and four children were all reportedly killed in their home. Another family - Rurandemba, his two children and his daughter-in-law - were killed in the same area on the same night.

 

Sources in Kanama commune,Gisenyi, have reported that on 8 August 1997, several hundred people, including many civilians, were killed in and around a busy marketplace at Mahoko. The killings - most of which have been attributed to the army - reportedly followed the arrival of a group of armed “infiltrators” who looted shops and stalls. The RPA intervened and many civilians were killed in the hours that followed as the RPA reportedly fired towards the market from two military vehicles stationed nearby. Some victims may have been killed in the cross-fire; however, others appear to have been killed indiscriminately by the security forces. The exact number of victims is not confirmed; one source estimated that around 300 bodies were counted. Some were shot in the marketplace, others in nearby streets. The victims included François Munyempame, the family of a trader named Védaste, a representative of a non-governmental organization Emmanuel Tuyisenge, and two inspecteurs de police judiciaire (judicial police inspectors). An unknown number of market traders were reportedly killed by RPA soldiers later that evening and on the following day. Between 8 and 10 August, at least 95 detainees at the communal detention centre (cachot)of the neighbouring communeof Rubavu and an unknown number at the cachotat Kanama were reportedly killed by government forces, following an attack by the “infiltrators” to try to release the detainees.

 

Amnesty International is seeking further information on these events of 8-10 August. On 16 August, Radio Rwanda reported that 13 members of the RPA, including six senior military officers, had been arrested in connection with the killings at Mahoko. Vice-President and Minister of Defence Paul Kagame, who visited the area on 15 August, was quoted as regretting the misconduct and calling for those responsible to face exemplary punishment.

 

Killings of civilians during “cordon and search” operations are not confined to the northwest. For example, on 5 February 1997, in the early hours of the morning, an unknown number of people were reportedly shot dead and others beaten to death by RPA soldiers during a search operation in Nyarubande secteur, Butamwa commune, in Rural Kigalipréfecture. Some were killed in their fields as they fled. The victims included Kanyagisaka, aged around 18, Albertand his 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, and Mulimanyi, aged around 26. RPA soldiers reportedly made the inhabitants of the area gather in specific locations and threatened them, especially those whose family members had served in the former Rwandese army. After the meeting, a number of people were led away to detention centres; others were ordered back to their homes. Local authorities were reportedly ordered to bury the bodies of those who had been killed.

 

II.3 Extrajudicial executions of ex-FAR and members of their families

 

In late 1996 and early 1997, a pattern of extrajudicial executions of ex-FAR and members of their families emerged, following the mass return of refugees from the former Zaire. Many ex-FAR played a leading role in the organization and execution of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. However, this does not mean that every individual who served in the former government forces and their relatives were responsible for taking part in the killings.

 

Even in cases where the individuals were involved in the killings, there is no justification for subjecting them and members of their family - including young children - to further human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions. In the cases below, the victims were summarily and extrajudicially executed apparently without any formal attempt having been made to investigate specific accusations against them or to bring them before a court of law.

 

On 18 January 1997, an ex-FAR major, Jean de Dieu Bizabarimana, his wife Perpétue, their children and several neighbours - 16 people in total - were killed in their home in Nyarutovu commune, Ruhengeri. They had been refugees in the former Zaire and had returned to Rwanda in November 1996. The following day, an ex-FAR captain and 11 members of his family - also returnees - were killed in Nkuli commune,in Ruhengeri. On 20 January 1997, an ex-FAR major, Bizavarande, four members of his family and seven other people were reportedly killed in Nyarutovu commune,in Ruhengeri.

 

On 21 January 1997, ten members of a family of returnees from the former Zaire were killed in their home in Rucanosecteur, Satinsyicommune, Gisenyi préfecture.The victims included Stanislas Hakizimana, an ex-FAR colonel, his wife Eugénie Mukandinda, their daughters Espérance Muyawamungu, aged 21, andJosiane, aged 15, their two sons, EricUkoyivuze, aged 19, and Gilbert Nshimiyimana, aged 17, and three sisters-in-law, MédiatriceMuhimpunduAlphonsine Nyiramahoroand Jacqueline Nyiramana, all in their 20s. 12 of their neighbours were reportedly also killed the same evening, including two young children,Alice andCatherine Kalimunda, aged 5 and 3.

 

On 21 January 1997, it was reported that two ex-FAR detainees - Lieutenant- ColonelAugustinNzabanita and Second Lieutenant Innocent Nsabimana, both returnees from the former Zaire - had committed suicide in a brigade detention centre in Rubavu, Gisenyi. According to the authorities, the two detainees were found dead after hanging themselves in the toilet. According to other detainees, the two men were led outside by soldiers and did not reappear; they were informed that they had committed suicide the following day. The timing of the events described by the detainees differs from that described by the authorities. A description of the scene in which the two men were found hanged - provided by individuals who were at the scene while the bodies were still there - was inconsistent with the official explanation of the circumstances of their death.

 

On 22 January 1997, an ex-FAR major, François Xavier Uwimana - also a returnee from the former Zaire - , his six children and a neighbour were killed in Nyamyumba, Gisenyi. On the same day, another ex-FAR major, Lambert Rugambage, was reportedly taken away from a military detention centre in Kibungo préfectureby soldiers and never returned. His body was found several days later in the morgue of Kanombe military hospital in Kigali, reportedly bearing signs of severe beatings. Around the same period, an ex-FAR captain and his family - around 10 people in total - were killed in Butaro commune,Ruhengeri.

 

II.4 Extrajudicial executions of detainees

 

Extrajudicial executions of detainees by members of the security forces have continued in various parts of the country, effectively replacing the judicial process. In some cases, detainees have been shot dead allegedly while trying to escape from detention; no attempts appear to have been made to apprehend them without using lethal force. In other cases, detainees have been taken away from detention centres and subsequently executed. There have also been reports of people being shot dead by RPA soldiers at the time of their arrest.

 

For example, on 14 January 1997, 12 detainees - who were returnees - were shot dead by RPA soldiers at Muyira detention centre (cachot) in the southernpréfectureof Butare, reportedly as they were going to the toilet. The soldiers claimed that the detainees were trying to escape. On 23 January 1997, RPA soldiers reportedly executed more than 20 detainees held in the cachotat Gisovu, Kibuyepréfecture, after leading them away, supposedly to transfer them to another detention centre. On 14 February 1997, six detainees in Runda commune, Gitarama préfecture, were shot dead by soldiers, allegedly as they were trying to escape. The detainees - accused of being “infiltrators” - had been arrested the previous day during a military operation in the area.

 

During the night of 7 May 1997, 10 detainees in Maraba detention centre (cachot) in Butare were shot dead and several others injured. The authorities alleged that a guard shot them because they were trying to escape; however, unofficial sources claim that the guard fired directly into the cell. The guard - an RPA soldier - was subsequently arrested. Representatives of a local human rights organization investigating the killings were reportedly prevented from speaking to the other detainees and from visiting injured detainees in hospital. On 8 May 1997, 15 detainees were reportedly killed in Gatondecommuneand on 10 May, another six killed in Ndusu commune, both in Ruhengeri.

 

Between 8 and 10 August 1997, at least 95 detainees at the communal cachotof Rubavu and an unknown number at the cachotat Kanama were reportedly killed by security forces, following clashes between RPA soldiers and armed groups on 8 August in which several hundred people were killed (see part II,2 above). Between 8 and 11 August 1997, eight detainees allegedly trying to escape from the cachotat Rutongo commune, in Rural Kigali, were reportedly shot dead by guards.

 

II.5 Public and summary executions

 

In December 1996 and January 1997, six cases of public summary executions of alleged murder suspects by RPA soldiers were reported. All of them took place on the order of military officers and in their presence.

 

On 10 December 1996, two men and a teenage boy were summarily executed in public by RPA soldiers in Mbuye secteur, Satinsyi commune, Gisenyi, after the population had denounced them as responsible for a murder committed two days earlier. On 21 December 1996, an ex-FAR who had been arrested soon after his return from the former Zaire and was accused of having killed four people, was tied to a tree and shot by RPA soldiers during a public meeting in Mubugacommune, Gikongoro préfecture.On 24 January 1997, two men were publicly executed by RPA soldiers in Karengera commune, Cyangugu préfecture,after being accused of the murder of a local official the previous day.

 

In a report dated 27 February 1997, the United Nations Human Rights Field Operation for Rwanda (UNHRFOR) reported that Ministry of Defence officials had stated that these incidents were regrettable and that orders had been given not to repeat such executions [8]. However, in an earlier report dated 24 January 1997, UNHRFOR reported that several civilian and military authorities had stated that the executions of 10 and 21 December 1996 were justified, given the circumstances of the case. One authority was quoted as saying that the killing of the three individuals could not be classified as a criminal offence [9].

 

II.6 Political killings and attacks on freedom of expression

 

Journalists and others who have criticized actions by government officials and the security forces have been victims of human rights violations in 1997; some have been extrajudicially executed, others arrested.

 

On 23 January 1997, the prison director of Gisovu prison - a newly-opened prison situated on the border of the préfecturesof Kibuye and Gikongoro - and his secretary were killed by armed men in Muko commune, in Gikongoro. The prison director had had various disagreements with the authorities; in particular, he had reportedly ordered the release of a number of detainees and had expressed his disagreement with plans by local authorities to fill the prison beyond its intended capacity.

 

On 27 April 1997, Appollos Hakizimana- a 28-year-old journalist working for an independent newspaper, Intego,and editor of a new publication, Umuravumba,which he had founded in January 1997 - was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Nyamirambo, in the capital Kigali, as he was approaching his house. Amnesty International believes that Appollos Hakizimana, who had previously been arrested, ill-treated and threatened on several occasions, was killed because of the critical views he had expressed as a journalist. His colleague Amiel Nkuriza, director of Integoand editor-in-chief of another newspaper, Le Partisan, was arrested a few days later, on 13 May, and is currently in prison in Kigali awaiting trial. He is reportedly facing charges of incitement to ethnic violence in relation to articles which he had been planning to publish in issues of Le Partisannewspaper which were seized by the authorities. He had also been arrested and threatened with death on several occasions in 1996 and 1997 [10].

 

The above events take place in a climate in which the media in Rwanda is routinely censored and criticism of government policies and practices rarely tolerated. A journalist told Amnesty International: “On est obligé d’écrire avec les mains qui tremblent” (”we have to write with trembling hands”). The three independent newspapers mentioned above are no longer being published.

 

Members of the National Assembly who have voiced criticisms of government policies have also been targeted. On 16 January 1997, Evariste Burakali, member of the Parti libéral(PL), Liberal Party, in his thirties, married with three children, was shot dead by an RPA soldier in Rutare, in the northernpréfectureof Byumba. Soldiers first surrounded his house but when they found that he was not there, went to find him in a nearby bar. When a woman working in the bar was injured during an argument with the soldiers, Evariste Burakali drove her to the local health centre for treatment. One of the soldiers followed him and shot him three times when they reached the health centre. Evariste Burakali died later that night after being transported to a hospital in Kigali. The soldier who killed him was subsequently arrested.

 

Evariste Burakali had reportedly requested a personal guard and escort after his house had been attacked three times. He had had a guard previously but this protection had been withdrawn; the reason given was that Evariste Burakali lived too far from the capital.

 

According to friends and acquaintances, Evariste Burakali was a well-liked person, described as a “moderate” and a person of integrity. He was known for speaking out against vengeance and extremism and in favour of forgiveness. Several people who knew him told Amnesty International that they believe his assassination was political. Evariste Burakali had been critical of various initiatives during debates in the National Assembly, including aspects of the law introduced in 1996 to govern the trials of those accused of participation in the genocide. He had also been a bourgmestre(mayor) in Rutare from April to August 1994 and may have witnessed killings by RPF troops in the area during this period.

 

On 17 June 1997, in the early evening, Eustache Nkerinka, a member of the National Assembly, escaped what appears to have been an assassination attempt in the centre of Kigali. As he was driving home, his car was ambushed by another vehicle carrying six men, at least two of whom were armed. They forced their way into Eustache Nkerinka’s car, beat him and stole his money. As the attack began attracting attention, one of the men was reportedly heard saying to his companions that they should not kill him on the spot but that he would not be able to escape them as they knew they could always find him again. Eustache Nkerinka has reported the attack to the police. Their response is not yet known.

 

Eustache Nkerinka, a member of the Mouvement démocratique républicain (MDR), Democratic Republican Movement, is known to have been critical of aspects of government policy and often outspoken during meetings of the National Assembly. His home had previously been attacked and searched on several occasions in 1995, 1996 and 1997. Despite his complaints in writing about these incidents to senior government authorities and a request for protection which was supported by the President of the National Assembly, Eustache Nkerinka was not provided with protection against the threat of future attacks.

 

II.7 Other killings attributed to the RPA

 

On 22 January 1997, Jean Boseniryo, a restaurant-owner in his sixties, was killed in Ruhengeri town. He was reportedly shot dead in the street. The identity of the perpetrators has not been confirmed but sources in Ruhengeri believe he was killed by RPA soldiers. Local residents reported that the assailants headed towards a local RPA post after the attack. They stated that an unusual number of soldiers were seen in the area just before the killing. The exact reason for the killing is not known. Some acquaintances have speculated that it may have been connected with a financial dispute with another businessman; they also mentioned that he was not well perceived among the Tutsi community as he was seen as sympathetic to “Hutu extremists”. Others allege that the killing was connected with a local meeting held earlier that day, at which he had reportedly asked a question perceived as critical of the RPA.

 

Euphrasie Nyiramajyambere, a former bank employee aged 37, and her four children, Arthur-Aimé Rugero, aged 14, Ange Rugwiro, aged 12, Nathalie Rugorirweraand Anatole Ruberangabo, twins aged 8, were killed, allegedly by RPA soldiers, in Mukirangwe secteur, Nyamutera commune, Ruhengeri préfecture, in June 1997. The exact circumstances of the killing are not yet known but it is thought to have taken place during a military search operation. The family had been refugees in the former Zaire; Euphrasie Nyiramajyambere’s husband had died in October 1996 during an attack on Kibumba refugee camp. She had returned to Rwanda with her children at the end of 1996. They lived in Ruhengeri but owned a house in Kigali. A few months before her death, Euphrasie Nyiramajyambere had gone to Kigali to reclaim her property, which had been occupied, but had failed to recover it.

 

On the evening of 5 July 1997, 16 people were killed in Nyakabanda commune, Gitarama préfecture. The victims included Thaddée Musabyimana,director of a private secondary school, aged about 30, and several members of his family; Jean-Baptiste Nkundabatware, in his late 40s, coordinator ofCompagnons fontainiers rwandais(COFORWA), a local non-governmental organization, his wife and five of their children - all killed in their home; Eric Basenge, a medical student, whose body was found near their house; Sylvestre Sebazungu, a primary school inspector, and a second man calledSebazungu who was accompanying him home. The authorities have blamed the killings on “infiltrators”. However, local residents believe RPA soldiers were responsible for the killings. Approximately 20 soldiers were reportedly seen near the places where the killings occurred. When local residents said they heard gunfire coming from the house of Jean-Baptiste Nkundabatware, the soldiers reportedly denied that this was the sound of gunfire and left.

 

II.8 Deliberate and arbitrary killings attributed to armed opposition groups

 

Since December 1996, armed groups believed to be composed of ex-FAR and interahamwemilitia have stepped up their attacks inside Rwanda. In some cases, individuals or whole families have been deliberately targeted and killed. In other cases, vehicles have been ambushed and their passengers killed by unidentified armed men. It is often difficult to verify the identity of those responsible for these attacks but they are generally believed to be members of armed opposition groups. Armed opposition groups are also increasingly aiming at military as well as civilian targets. Overall, the leaders and structures of these armed groups remain unidentified.

 

On 23 December 1996 and 5 January 1997, 20 people were killed in two separate incidents, both in Kazirabonde cellule, in Kagaramasecteur, Taba commune, Gitaramapréfecture. On 23 December 1996,Emmanuel Rudasingwawas killed in his shop, which was also a bar. Ten other people were also killed, including his 12-year-old daughter Aélique Mahoro, and nine men who were drinking in the bar. On 5 January 1997, nine other people were killed in a house in the same area, including a 3-year-old child killed in bed. The victims included a former teacher, Philippe Bajyagahe, his pregnant wifeValérie Mukakalisa, their sons Roger MwizerwaandSamuelNiyokwizera,their daughters Alice Nyirarukundoand Jocelyne Kwizera, two servants Nadine Mukamazimpakaand Ancille Ahiboneye, and Walter Mutoni, an orphan whose parents had died in the genocide and who was being looked after by Philippe Bajyagahe’s family. The assailants, who were heavily armed, reportedly threw a grenade into the house before leaving.

 

In both incidents, the perpetrators are believed to have been ex-FAR. There are various hypotheses regarding the motives behind these killings. Two of the victims had indicated their willingness to testify against a defendant at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania; some believe that they may have been killed to prevent them from testifying. Another theory is that some of the victims may have been viewed by the attackers as traitors: they were known to be collaborating with local authorities to identify and denounce members of the interahamwemilitia in their community.

 

On 11 January 1997, a group of around 60 armed men attacked a hospital in Kabaya, in Gisenyi. Three patients were reportedly killed. The same day, an attack took place on the nearby gendarmerie post, where there is an RPA position, and a local detention centre at Gaseke. On 14 January, the soldier who was on guard duty outside Kabaya hospital was killed by unidentified armed men.

 

On 25 January 1997, a group of armed men reportedly killed at least 24 Tutsi civilians - including children - from nine different families in Gikeri cellule, Musanzesecteur, Kinigi commune, Ruhengeri. Most of the victims were killed in their homes. They includedNibagwire,aged 70, Mukamanzi, aged 17,Muhorakeye,aged 13, Batamuliza, aged 13, Masengesho, aged 5, and Nayihikiand Dusabe, both aged 4. The following day, around 140 Hutu civilians were killed in a revenge attack by armed Tutsi reportedly assisted by RPA soldiers (see part II.11 below).

 

On 9 February 1997, three vehicles were reportedly stopped at an unofficial roadblock in Tarecommune, in Rural Kigali. The assailants reportedly asked the passengers to separate according to their ethnic origin and killed at least 11 Tutsi civilians, including three women -EspéranceUzamushakaChristine Irambonaand Jeanne Mukarwamba- and two RPA soldiers in civilian clothing.

 

On 19 May 1997, a vehicle carrying several members of the Rwandese security forces, including a regional police commander, was ambushed in Mabanza commune,in Kibuye. Three police officials including the commander were reportedly shot dead as they tried to escape. Moments later, a communal taxi carrying around 20 passengers was ambushed at the same spot. Only five of its passengers are thought to have survived. The rest were shot dead or burned inside the vehicle.

 

On 22 August 1997, at least 130 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire), most of them from the Tutsi ethnic group, were killed during an attack on Mudende refugee camp, in Mutura commune, Gisenyi, in the early hours of the morning; scores of others were seriously injured. Most of the victims were reportedly killed with machetes and clubs; some had gunshot and grenade wounds. The camp housed around 8,100 refugees who had fled the areas of Masisi and Rutshuru, in eastern DRC, to escape violence and human rights abuses there by armed civilians and former government forces in 1995 and 1996; they had continued to seek refuge in Rwanda while the situation in their home area remained unsafe. After the attack on 22 August, around 4,000 refugees fled the camp and dispersed. The perpetrators of the attack are believed to be members of armed Hutu groups operating inside Rwanda. They also attacked an RPA post close to the camp and reportedly killed at least three RPA soldiers. In a statement on the killings on 26 August, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Anastase Gasana, stated that former army soldiers andinterahamwemilitia, recently returned from the DRC, were responsible for the killings. He stated that appropriate measures were being taken to ensure the security of refugees remaining in Mudende camp. There have been reports that following the attack at Mudende, an unknown number of Hutu civilians died in reprisal killings by Tutsi civilians (see part II.11 below) and at least 17 alleged “infiltrators” were killed by RPA soldiers.

 

II.9 Attacks on educational institutions

 

There have been a number of attacks on educational institutions in which civilians have been killed. On the evening of 18 March 1997, six students - most of them girls - and one guard were killed with guns and grenades at Nyange primary school, in Kivumu commune, in Kibuyepréfecture. The attack has been officially attributed to ex-FAR or interahamwe. However, some local sources believe it was carried out by RPA soldiers, following an incident about two weeks earlier, in which a group of six or seven RPA soldiers had tried to take students away from the school, allegedly to rape or kill them. Staff at the school had managed to prevent the soldiers from entering the school. It is alleged that the soldiers then returned on 18 March in a revenge attack against the pupils and staff. Survivors of the attack on 18 March reportedly claimed that some of the assailants were RPA soldiers. Subsequently, four teachers - two men and two women - were reported to have been imprisoned. There are unconfirmed reports that one male teacher died as a result of ill-treatment. A woman who claimed to have identified some of the assailants was reportedly shot dead the day after the attack.

 

On the night of 27 April 1997, as many as 100 armed men reportedly attacked several educational and religious institutions and houses in Muramba, Satinsyi commune, Gisenyi préfecture, killing 22 people - most of them women. Sixteen female students were reportedly shot dead in the dormitory at the school of economics and commerce; a 14-year-old girl was killed in the convent of the Benebikira Sisters; and a 62-year-old Belgian nun, Griet Bosmans- one of the very few foreigners left in the region - was killed in the primary school of which she was the director. The assailants reportedly also attacked an RPA military post nearby. Local sources pointed out that despite the relative proximity of the RPA post, soldiers did not intervene to protect the victims during the attack. The identity of the perpetrators of the killings at Muramba has not been confirmed. Several people were reportedly arrested in connection with the attack on the school. On 2 May, Radio Rwanda reported that 19 people suspected of taking part in these killings had been killed by the security forces.

 

In the attacks on the schools at Nyange and Muramba, it was reported that the assailants first asked the students to identify themselves according to their ethnic origin but that the students refused to do so, and were subsequently shot at.

 

There have been other attacks and attempted attacks on schools since May 1997 and several cases of killings of school directors in unclear circumstances.

 

II.10 Attacks on staff of international organizations and other foreign nationals

 

Rwandese and foreign nationals working for international organizations - non-governmental organizations as well as UN agencies - have been among the victims of extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings. Some of these attacks appear to have been motivated by a desire to drive all foreign organizations out of Rwanda; the perpetrators of these killings have succeeded in creating a climate of such insecurity that these international organizations are no longer able to operate and human rights abuses can take place without any independent scrutiny. In some cases, representatives of humanitarian organizations appear to have been specifically targeted for allegedly favouring the needs of recent returnees over those of the rest of the population.

 

i) Killings of Rwandese nationals working for international organizations

 

On 18 January 1997, a driver working for the UNHCR was beaten to death by three people - one policeman, one soldier and a man in civilian clothes - in Kigombecommune, Ruhengeri.

 

On 19 January 1997, in Musanze secteur,Kigombe commune, Ruhengeri, two guards of the non-governmental organization Concern were shot by RPA soldiers. One of them, EpimaqueKuradusenge Habyarimana, was killed; the other was injured. The two guards had reportedly panicked at the sight of a military patrol approaching and were shot at as they tried to run away.

 

On 15 June 1997, Didace Nkezagera, an employee of the World Food Program (WFP) in Ruhengeri, his wife, young child and another relative were killed at night in their home in Rubange secteur, Kigome commune, in Ruhengeri. The family had been refugees in the former Zaire until the end of 1996. Just before his death, Didace Nkezagera had reportedly been questioned by RPA soldiers, on three consecutive days, about the WFP’s work in the region. He had allegedly complained previously about the diversion of food aid, claiming that it was not reaching the people for whom it was intended.

 

Another WFP employee, Jean de Dieu Murwanashyaka- also a returnee from the former Zaire - was arrested by soldiers on 9 June 1997 and led to an unknown destination. His mutilated body was found in the bush near Ruhengeri town, on 13 June. He had been shot through the head. His eyes had been gouged out and his ears and genitals cut off, apparently with bayonets. He left behind a young wife, pregnant with their first child. An unknown number of other people were also killed around the same date; their bodies were found scattered in the area, some had been buried, others burned.

 

On 19 June, Félicien Bucyekabili,a 28-year-old driver who had been working for the UNHCR since April 1997 and was previously director of a Catholic youth organization, was killed along with his wife, their son aged 7 and their daughter aged 6 when they were shot through the windows of their house in Kigombe commune, Ruhengeri.

 

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