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THE assassins came at night, when their target was alone, and knocked on his apartment door. They had been hunting him for weeks.
But it wasn’t Mossad who were after him. Nor was it the KGB or China. The killers, he claims, were from one of Britain’s closest African allies. Mr Mutabazi, who served for 20 years as President Paul Kagame’s bodyguard, said that the men who came to kill him were, like him, Rwandan. “Kagame has no mercy,” he told The Times. “He is a killer. He is a dictator. He can’t stand any opposition.” The gunmen shot twice but missed, and ran off into the night.
In a series of interviews in Kampala, Uganda, where Mr Mutabazi is seeking refuge, he described the ruthless regime he left behind _ one totally at odds with a government rewarded for its “vision, drive and delivery” by the pledge of 90 million ($142m) a year in British aid.
Mr Mutabazi said that Mr Kagame personally oversaw the systematic murder of thousands of Hutu refugees two years after the 1994 genocide that left at least 800,000 people dead. His allegations echoed and amplified a 2010 UN report, which Mr Kagame denied.
Mr Mutabazi said that he escorted Paul Kagame to a secret prison run by Rwanda’s Department of Military Intelligence in the outskirts of the capital, Kigali, on at least two occasions in 1996. Twice, he said, Mr Kagame, then Minister of Defence, was called out to inspect lorries carrying containers full of dead bodies that had broken down en route to mass graves.
The US, Sweden and The Netherlands suspended their aid to Rwanda earlier this year over allegations that Kigali is helping rebels behind a slew of human rights abuses in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. But Andrew Mitchell’s last act as British development secretary was to reverse a decision following suit, claiming that Rwanda was trying to resolve the conflict.
“He sings to the West about reconciliation, but it’s a lie,” Mr Mutabazi said of Mr Kagame. “Rwanda hasn’t learnt the lessons of the genocide. It’s a volcano and it’s going to burst and it will be worse than before.”
He accused Mr Kagame of running the country on tribal lines. “All of the soldiers in his bodyguard were Tutsi. If you married a Hutu woman, you were kicked out,” he said. Innocent Kalisa, a fellow member of Mr Kagame’s bodyguard, who also fled to Uganda last year, said that a corporal and two sergeants were fired for that reason between 2006 and 2008.
In Kampala, Mr Kalisa surveyed the cafe where we were due to meet from a nearby hillside, then changed the location at the last moment, fearing assassination. The last reporter to interview Mr Mutabazi, Charles Ingabire, was shot dead leaving a bar in Kampala in November. A few months earlier, Scotland Yard warned two Rwandan exiles living in Britain that “the Rwandan government poses an imminent threat to your life”.
Mr Kalisa, who was also trained by Israeli soldiers, said that he was abducted at gunpoint and forced into an unmarked car as he left a restaurant in Kigali in May. “Their first question was, ‘You are a Tutsi, why did you join the Hutu party?”’ he said.
He was driven to a secret prison close to Kigali airport, where he was pistol-whipped by an army officer and left in a cell with his left hand cuffed to his right ankle. “I saw blood and hair smeared on the walls and they said, ‘We are going to kill you.”’
He used his free hand to unpick the handcuffs with a piece of copper wire, kicked out a window and escaped.
Both of the former bodyguards, interviewed separately, also said that the regime’s Republican Guard stuffed hundreds of ballot boxes at their barracks two days before the 2003 elections. Mr Mutabazi said that they worked without sleep for two days: “Finger in ink, finger on Kagame. Finger in ink, finger on Kagame.”
Mr Mutabazi was arrested in April 2010 over allegations that he had supported an exiled Rwandan general, and interrogated three times over 17 months at the army base in Kami. For most of that time his hands were bound behind his back, 24 hours a day, and his feet were shackled. During one interrogation he was hooded and half-suffocated, and water was poured on his head. Later he was given electric shocks. “They told me something I will never forget for the rest of my life. They said: `Your family can’t save you. There’s no Human Rights Watch, no advocates. We can do what we want.”’ He was eventually released into house arrest and fled across the border.
In a report published today, Amnesty International says that it has documented 45 similar cases. It warns that the abuse was only made possible “because perpetrators expected their actions to go unpunished”.
The Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama, admitted that there had been a spate of illegal detentions in 2010 following grenade attacks. “They became overzealous,” he said of the security forces but added “the state would never condone torture. Not the state I serve.”
Source: JEROME STARKEY of The Times UK
Rwanda: Shrouded in secrecy: Illegal detention and torture by military intelligence Report by Amnesty International
Dozens of people in Rwanda suspected of threatening national security have been held in a network of secret detention centres
run by the military. In these camps, detainees were unlawfully held and were at risk of torture and other ill-treatment. Some are still held in secret detention. This report documents cases of unlawful detention and allegations of ill-treatment by Rwandan military intelligence in 2010 and 2011. Amnesty International is urging the government to end these practices, disclose the whereabouts of detainees, investigate torture allegations and bring those responsible to justice.
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 the Rwandan president Paul Kagame‘s battered reputation following allegations of persecuting opponents, gagging media and arming rebels in the 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 runup to the August 2010 presidential election, which Kagame won with 93% after two of his main challengers were jailed.
Three former detainees from the military 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’s researchers: “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. Former prisoners said they had items placed in their mouth to heighten pain and stop them screaming while they were beaten during interrogations.
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 individuals – Robert Ndengeye Urayeneza and Sheikh Iddy Abbasi – are still missing since their disappearance in March 2010, the NGO added.
Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s acting deputy Africa director, 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.”
Tito Rutaremara, a senator who has worked with Kagame for 25 years, told the Guardian: “Let Amnesty come and show us these ‘safe houses’. If they know all this, let them come and say it is here. Bring these witnesses.”
Louise Mushikiwabo, the foreign affairs minister, posted on Twitter: “Rwanda will act on all credible claims of torture but won’t engage in a shouting match w/ another NGO seeking headlines at Rwanda’s expense.”
This briefing documents 18 allegations of torture and other ill-treatment by Rwandan military intelligence and other security personnel. It also outlines cases involving enforced disappearance, unlawful detention, and lack of access to lawyers, family members and medical assistance in contravention to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. It is not an exhaustive submission on the prevalence of torture or other ill-treatment in Rwanda, but focuses solely on military detention facilities.
Find briefing documents here
NAIROBI — Amnesty International on Saturday called on Rwanda to stop using a law aimed preventing “genocide ideology” to stifle dissent and charge critics and journalists.
The London-based watchdog said it was “concerned that despite Rwanda?s recognition of the shortcomings of the genocide ideology law, the authorities continue to use it to prosecute government critics, including journalists.”
“Abductions, enforced disappearances and incommunicado detention — rare in Rwanda in recent years — increased in 2010 as the authorities investigated a spate of grenade attacks,” the statement said.
Earlier this month Amnesty asked Kigali to revise laws on “genocide ideology” and “divisionism”.
In response, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama said the legislation was aimed at avoiding a repetition of the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi, but that the laws were “undergoing revision”.
Amnesty said on Saturday that it wanted Rwanda “to ensure that legislative changes are accompanied by prompt reviews of past cases — including of opposition politicians and journalists convicted to lengthy prison sentences for merely expressing their opinions without advocating violence.
“Rwanda could demonstrate this commitment by re-opening investigations into the killing of journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage on 24 June 2010,” it said.
The group also called on Rwanda to respond “promptly” to communications from human rights organisations and family members regarding such cases.