Human rights in Rwanda: what is the record of this East African country?

The British government has unveiled a £1.4billion plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda while their claims are processed by the Home Office, a move that has previously been called “cruel and nasty by the Refugee Council, “impractical, unethical and exorbitant”. by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper and “evil” by Ian Blackford of the Scottish National Party.

The policy comes in time for local elections next month, when the country’s Tory MPs will seek to court anti-immigration votes by getting tough on refugees arriving in the English Channel, with more attempts at dinghy crossings likely as they go. May the late spring weather improve. .

Responding to the government, Enver Solomon of the Refugee Council said: “Far from allowing people to rebuild their lives, we know where this has been done by other countries. [that] it only leads to high levels of self-harm and mental health issues, and can also lead to people ending up in the hands of smugglers.

Ms Cooper commented: ‘The Home Office is now a catalog of failures, from passport queues and Ukrainian visa delays to rising crime and falling prosecutions. Instead of mastering the basics, everything [home secretary] Priti Patel and Mr Johnson come up with wild and unworkable titles. Britain deserves better.

Former Tory minister Andrew Mitchell also opposed the policy, warning it amounted to the creation of a ‘British Guantanamo Bay’ and would cost the taxpayer £2m per migrant, arguing it would be cheaper to book them suites at luxury London. Hotel Ritz.

The ‘relocation’ deal with Rwanda, a country 4,300 miles away, will net the African nation £120million under the initial deal, although its human rights record man has already been mentioned as a source of major concern.

Rwanda signed a similar agreement with Israel between 2014 and 2017 which was not a success, with almost all of the 4,000 detainees sent there quickly leaving the country to undertake the perilous journey to Europe, some of whom would have fallen prey to traffickers en route, particularly in Libya.

Denmark also reached an equivalent deal with the country last year and was reprimanded by the African Union for “load shifting”.

MP Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, defended the policy on Sky News, where he was asked by presenter Kay Burley that Rwandan President Paul Kagame had been accused of human rights violations. human rights “on more than one occasion”.

“It’s true…”, he said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that their reputation, when it comes to migrants – and their economic progress – is phenomenal, so I don’t think we kind of want to forget that now.”

Mr. Kagame has been president of Rwanda since April 2000 and has been regularly accused of engaging in political oppression of his opponents.

He rose to power in the aftermath of the 1990-1994 Rwandan civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples, when he served as commander of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, which defeated the national army and the Hutu militias before finally establishing his own government.

This conflict was deeply bloody and saw Hutu extremists commit genocide, engaging in atrocities in which between 500,000 and one million Tutsis were murdered in 100 days, leading Jean Paul Akayesu, Hutu mayor of Tabathe, to become the first person in history to be convicted of the crime under the UN Genocide Convention by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on September 2, 1998.

29 other people have been found guilty of the same offense in a landmark decision.

But you don’t have to look that far back to find evidence of the British government’s concerns about Rwanda and Mr Kagame’s authoritarian regime.

On January 25, 2021, Julian Braithewaite, Director General for Europe at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland: “We remain concerned. .. by continued restrictions on civil and political rights and freedom of the media. . As a member of the Commonwealth and future President-in-Office, we urge Rwanda to embody the Commonwealth values ​​of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.

It recommended that Rwanda carry out credible investigations into “allegations of extrajudicial executions, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture”, protect freedom of the press and “screen, identify and provide support to victims of trafficking, including those detained in government transit centres”. .

The UK’s international human rights ambassador, Rita French, appeared before the same body on July 8, 2021 and expressed regret that the country had so far ignored Mr Braithwaite’s first and third suggestions .

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel

(PENNSYLVANIA)

The US State Department also raised numerous concerns about Rwanda’s human rights practices in its latest country assessment.

He cautions: “Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary executions by the government; enforced disappearance by the government; torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; politically motivated reprisals against individuals outside the country, including murder, kidnapping and violence; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, including threats of violence against journalists, unwarranted arrests or prosecutions of journalists, and censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of association, including overly restrictive laws on the organization, funding or operation of non-governmental organizations and civil society; severe and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; and severe government restrictions or harassment of national and international human rights organizations.

The international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) also states: “The ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front continues to target those perceived as a threat to the government. Several prominent critics have been arrested or threatened, and authorities routinely fail to conduct credible investigations into cases of enforced disappearances and suspected deaths of government opponents.

“Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and torture in official and unofficial detention centers are commonplace, and fair trial standards are routinely flouted in many sensitive political cases, in which security-related charges are often used to prosecute prominent critics of the government. Arbitrary detention and ill-treatment of street children, sex workers and petty vendors are commonplace. »

As for specific minorities, gay rights group Rainbow Migration warns that Rwanda has no legislation in place to protect LGBT+ people and says the UK government’s new deal “means that people LGBTQI+ who have fled life-threatening situations in their home country and have sought the safety and protection of the UK, will instead be sent to a country where it is not safe for LGBTQI+ people to be open about sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The situation for LGBTQI+ people in Rwanda is so bad that it is a source country for people seeking asylum in the UK because of their sexual orientation, albeit in small numbers.”

Rainbow Migration points to an HRW report from last year which alleged: “Rwandan authorities have arbitrarily arrested and detained more than a dozen gay and transgender people, sex workers, street children and other people in the months leading up to a major international conference scheduled for June 2021. .

“Interviewees who identified as gay or transgender said security officials accused them of ‘not representing Rwandan values’. They said other inmates beat them because of their clothes and their identity. Three other detainees, who were held in the “delinquents” room at Gikondo, confirmed that fellow detainees and guards beat people they knew to be gay or transgender more frequently and more violently than others.

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