Amnesty alleges widespread torture in Rwanda
SCORES OF civilians in Rwanda have allegedly been tortured into making false confessions after being detained illegally without charge or trial, an investigation by Amnesty International has found.
Former detainees claimed they were subjected to electric shocks, severe beatings and sensory deprivation while being held at a military camp and a secret network of safe houses in the capital, Kigali, according to Amnesty.
The report is the latest blow to Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s battered reputation following allegations that he had persecuted opponents, gagged the media and armed rebels in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. International donors have partially suspended aid but Britain in particular is under mounting pressure to go further.
Amnesty’s report, Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy, Illegal Detention and Torture by Military Intelligence, asserts a pattern of unlawful detention, enforced disappearances and allegations of torture carried out by operatives from a military intelligence unit known as J2.
Most of the detainees were rounded up by the military from March 2010 onwards after a series of deadly grenade attacks in Kigali and in the run-up to the August 2010 presidential election, which Mr Kagame won with 93 per cent of the vote after two of his main challengers were jailed.
Three former detainees from the military-run Camp Kami told Amnesty they were subjected to electric shocks during interrogations by J2 operatives. “I was taken to another office,” one recalled. “Everyone was there when they put this electric thing on my back and forced me to accept that I worked with the people throwing the grenades. When I got to the point of dying, I told them to bring me a piece of paper [to sign], but they continued to torture me.”
Another told Amnesty: “There are other rooms where they put you and you lose your memory. They ask you a question and when you find yourself again they ask you a question. When you return to normal, they sting you. The electric thing they use is like a pen and they put it under your arms. It is like charcoal. When they sting you, all your body is electrolysed and the entire body is paralysed.”
Amnesty said it had received three independent reports that some detainees at Camp Kami had bags placed over their heads during interrogations to restrict their breathing. Detention periods ranged from 10 days to nine months without access to lawyers, doctors or family members, Amnesty said. Many of these detainees were later charged with threatening national security. Two people – Robert Ndengeye Urayeneza and Sheikh Iddy Abbasi – are still missing since their disappearance in March 2010, it added.
Sarah Jackson of Amnesty said: “The Rwandan military’s human rights record abroad is increasingly scrutinised, but their unlawful detention and torture of civilians in Rwanda is shrouded in secrecy. Donors funding military training must suspend financial support to security forces involved in human rights violations.”
Amnesty said it had conducted more than 70 interviews and documented 45 cases of unlawful detention and 18 allegations of torture or ill-treatment at Camp Kami, Mukamira military camp and in safe houses in Kigali.
Rwandan officials dismissed the findings. Alphonse Hitiyaremye, the country’s deputy prosecutor general, told Amnesty: “There is no torture in our country and we can’t investigate on a false allegation.”