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Defending Human Rights
Rwandan authorities suspended the activities of the United Nations Human Rights Field Operation in Rwanda in May and in July refused to allow it to continue monitoring human rights. The Rwandan government wanted the field operation to limit itself to delivering technical assistance. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, who had firmly condemned abuses during a visit at the end of 1997, insisted that the monitoring was essential to the operation. Rather than continue with the mere semblance of a U.N. human rights presence, she ended it altogether.

In 1997, five members of the U.N. field operation were murdered in southwestern Rwanda. Several persons, described as

insurgents, were found guilty of the crime and sentenced to death in April 1998.

U.N. regulations prevented staff of the field operation from working in the areas of greatest insecurity. Until their activities were suspended, however, they managed to gather significant data on abuses by insurgents and the RPA. Their presence had also reassured Rwandan activists who were threatened by a general hostility towards critics of the government.

On March 9, 1998, the Rwandan human rights movement lost one of its earliest and most effective leaders. Abbé André Sibomana, formerly editor of the largest newspaper in Rwanda, a crusader against official repression since before the genocide, and one of the founders of the Rwandan Association for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Liberties (Association rwandaise pour la défense des droits de la personne et des libertés publiques ADL), died of a massive allergic reaction to an unknown substance. Because his earlier efforts to obtain a passport had failed, he was unable to leave Rwanda immediately for medical treatment that might have saved his life.

Father Vjecko Curic, a Croatian priest who had served in Rwanda for years and worked with Sibomana to document cases of human rights abuse, was shot to death in central Kigali on January 31. Although the alleged assassin, who was himself wounded by Father Vjecko, was reportedly treated soon after the attack in a Kigali hospital, he was never arrested.

Four Rwandan human rights activists went into exile in 1998, judging their lives to be at risk. Several were intimidated into leaving staff positions, but others persevered in their commitment to human rights and new recruits promised to add strength to the movement. Divisions within and among the local organizations over the appropriateness of open criticism of the government reduced their effectiveness.

A national human rights commission established by the government had not acted publicly at the time of writing.




The Democratic Republic of Congo







Sierra Leone

South Africa





Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Abduction and Enslavement of Ugandan Children

Human Rights Causes of the Famine in Sudan


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