(New York) - Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) condemn the massacre of more than 130 refugees by armed insurgents at Mudende camp, Gisenyi prefecture, just before dawn on August 22. The refugees, mostly Tutsi who had fled from the Congo during the preceding year, were sheltered in a camp not far from the Congo border. The insurgents, many of them soldiers of the former Rwandan government army (FAR) or members of militia that had participated in the 1994 genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda, reportedly attacked across the border from Congo, where some of them have retained a base after their camps were dispersed some months ago by soldiers of the ADFL forces.
Authorities of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) have charged that local residents also participated in the killings at Mudende and have reportedly attacked or permitted Tutsi civilians to injure or kill these residents and to burn their homes.
The insurgents' predawn massacre of the refugees constitutes an inexcusable human rights abuse. The RPA attacks or permitting civilian attacks on local people in reprisal for the massacre violates international humanitarian law.
The number and scale of attacks that cost civilian lives in Rwanda have multiplied in the last several months. An August 7 report by the United Nations Human Rights Field Operation detailed the slaughter of more than 2,000 persons, most of them unarmed civilians killed by the RPA. August 8-11, RPA soldiers reportedly killed several hundred unarmed civilians, some by mortars fired into the market at Mahoko, others executed at jails in the communes of Rubavu and Kanama, all in Gisenyi prefecture. Armed insurgents also killed unarmed civilians during these incidents August 8-10 and attacked a school at Gisa on August 10.
Most attacks against civilians have taken place in the northwestern part of the country, but the international human rights organizations have just received reports of some thirty-nine persons killed at Muhazi in the eastern part of Rwanda. Human Rights Watch and FIDH deplore the continued delivery of arms to the region, including the recent resumption of arms sales to the Rwandan government by South Africa -- exacerbating the situation and facilitating the use of deadly force against unarmed civilians.
General Paul Kagame, Vice-President of Rwanda and Minister of Defense, went to investigate the August 8-10 incidents in Gisenyi. The Rwandan government has arrested a number of its soldiers, reportedly either thirteen or fifteen of them, including a lieutenant-colonel, in connection with these incidents.
To the insurgents:
- Order your troops to stop killing unarmed civilians immediately.
- Investigate the violation of international humanitarian law by members of your forces who commit such killings and hold them accountable in procedures that meet the minimum standards of due process established in international humanitarian law.
To the government of Rwanda:
- Order RPA troops to stop killings and other reprisals against the civilian population. Order them to prevent any such attacks by Tutsi civilians.
- Carry out a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of any killings of civilians and make public the findings. Continue to arrest and bring to trial as soon as possible all those apparently implicated in the incidents.
- Guarantee full access to U.N. and nongovernmental human rights monitors, to organizations providing humanitarian aid, and to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection officers.
- Ensure that RPA soldiers and police provide protection to refugees and displaced persons.
To the international community:
- Bring all possible pressure to bear on the insurgents and on the Rwandan government to halt the slaughter of unarmed civilians and to observe international humanitarian law. Condition financial and other assistance on a halt to these killings.
To the United Nations:
- Revive the International Commission of Inquiry (Rwanda) on arms trade to forces of the former Rwandan government and implement the important recommendations it made in 1996. Provide this Commission with a new mandate to investigate arms trafficking in the Great Lakes region (including Rwanda, Burundi and Congo) and propose to the Security Council specific and concrete measures aimed at curbing the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the area.
- The Human Rights Field Operation should publish immediately and fully all available information related to deliberate killings of civilians.