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Testimony of Lewis Mudge, Central Africa Director, Human Rights Watch

Since the genocide, which devastated the country and claimed more than half a million lives in 1994, Rwanda has made great strides in rebuilding its infrastructure, developing its economy, and delivering public services. But civil and political rights remain severely curtailed, and freedom of expression is tightly restricted. Those who dare to criticize government policy or President Paul Kagame do so at great risk – and even those who have fled abroad to escape persecution are not safe. In October 2023, Human Rights Watch released a report which outlined how the government of Rwanda keeps tabs on dissidents, both real and perceived, and how threats and acts of intimidation also happen across borders. The form of repression against Rwandans living abroad ranges from killings, kidnappings, beatings, and enforced disappearances to manipulated extradition requests, arbitrary detention, and attempted or successful renditions.[1]

The failure of the international community to recognize the severity and scope of the Rwandan government’s human rights violations, both domestically and abroad, as well as the ruling party’s growing hostility toward those it perceives as challenging its power, have left many Rwandans with nowhere to turn. Holding Rwanda accountable for its domestic human rights record is now a necessity to tackle the government’s extraterritorial repression.

Extraterritorial, or transnational, repression is the phenomenon of governments engaging in activities that involve or lead to the violation of human rights of specific targets outside of their territorial jurisdiction. Human Rights Watch, in this report, and drawing on decades of documenting individual cases of extraterritorial repression globally, is particularly concerned with systematic efforts by a country’s authorities or their proxies to prevent political dissent beyond their territorial borders by employing a range of tactics to silence and control refugees, asylum seekers, and other members of the diaspora. The tactics include physical abuse, online harassment, exploiting technological vulnerabilities, the misuse of international and domestic law enforcement, and the manipulation of family ties to threaten, pressure, and punish real or perceived dissidents living abroad. Although awareness of extraterritorial repression has grown in recent years, many of the tactics used by governments to silence citizens living abroad, as well as the level of coordination that is exercised to monitor and control their activities, have been underreported.

The control, surveillance, and intimidation of Rwandan refugee and diaspora communities and others abroad can be attributed in part to the authorities’ desire to quash dissent and maintain control. By refusing to return to Rwanda and through their ability to criticize the Rwandan authorities from exile, refugees and asylum seekers also inherently challenge the image the authorities seek to project—one of a country from which people do not flee.

Our research found that the authorities have created an environment where many Rwandans abroad, even those living thousands of miles away from Rwanda, practice self-censorship, refrain from engaging in legitimate political activism, and live in fear of traveling, being attacked, or seeing their relatives in Rwanda targeted.

Some of the cases detailed in the report expose the extraordinary lengths to which the government of Rwanda is willing to go, and the means at its disposal, to attack its opponents. The combination of physical violence, surveillance, misuse of law enforcement—both domestic and international—, abuses against relatives in Rwanda, and the reputational damage done through online harassment points to clear efforts to isolate the individuals socially and diminish their financial and professional prospects in their host country. The cases also illustrate the relentless nature of the attacks: multiple tactics are often used simultaneously and, if one fails, others will be used until the person they are targeting is worn down.

This research found that Rwandan embassy officials or members of the Rwandan Community Abroad (RCA), a global network of diaspora associations tied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, have monitored and pressured Rwandan asylum seekers and refugees to return to Rwanda or stop their criticism of the government. For criticizing the government or Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), many Rwandans overseas were subjected to online attacks by websites and social media accounts that are alleged to have ties to Rwandan intelligence services and generally defend the government. The accusations disseminated on those sites range from supporting armed opposition groups to genocide denial. Rwandans living abroad – including Tutsi who fled Rwanda during or after the genocide – said that just the prospect of being targeted by such media deters them from speaking out. Several genocide survivors living in exile told Human Rights Watch that they had been attacked online for having criticized the RPF and had witnessed or were afraid to see their family members forced to denounce them on pro-government YouTube channels.

Human Rights Watch documented over a dozen cases of killings, kidnappings and attempted kidnappings, enforced disappearances, and physical attacks targeting Rwandans living abroad.

The report also finds that the Rwandan government has sought to use global police cooperation, including Interpol Red Notices, judicial mechanisms, and extradition requests to seek deportations of critics or dissidents back to Rwanda.

In many cases, interviewees’ relatives in Rwanda have themselves been targets of arbitrary detention, torture, suspected assassinations, harassment, and restrictions on movements to exert pressure on their family members abroad to stop their activism. This has effectively reduced many to silence.

The victims all share a certain profile: prior to their attacks, many had been threatened by individuals who were part of, or close to, the Rwandan government. The context of broader persecution of government critics inside Rwanda provides credibility to the allegation that these attacks were politically motivated. It also raises serious and plausible concerns about the possibility of official state tolerance, acquiescence, or even collusion in these attacks.

In targeting actual or perceived dissidents abroad and their relatives, Rwandan authorities have violated an array of rights including life, freedom from torture, physical security, privacy, freedom of expression and association, freedom of movement, and the right to a fair trial.

On a global scale, extraterritorial abuses by governments and other actors against their own people have a particularly chilling effect, both at home and abroad. It is precisely the reason why some governments resort to these tactics: to send the message that nowhere is safe for those who criticize them.

Cases in the United States

In the US, on January 6, 2022, the FBI listed Rwanda as one of the foreign governments facilitating “transnational repression against US-based victims.”[2] According to a 2015 FBI report leaked to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a global network of investigative journalists, the tactics employed by the Rwandan authorities include “providing poison pen [intentionally false or misleading] information to U.S. law enforcement agencies concerning alleged criminal violations through the use of double agents, as well as attempting to manipulate U.S. government immigration law and the Interpol Red Notice System.”[3]

In addition, the leaked report confirmed that Rwandan intelligence services sought to plant “derogatory information” through an intermediary to discredit Rwandan National Congress (RNC) members and get them deported.[4] The intermediary confessed to working on some 40 individual cases. The person also provided false information alleging that RNC officials were plotting to kill Kagame in 2011 while he was on a visit to the US. Human Rights Watch interviewed five Rwandans who said they were in contact with the FBI, who had advised them to take measures for their security.

Human Rights Watch contacted the FBI to share information and seek information on its work on Rwanda’s extraterritorial abuse. The FBI referred Human Rights Watch to the Department of Justice. The US Department of Homeland Security wrote to Human Rights Watch on September 11, 2023, summarizing measures taken to tackle transnational repression more broadly and to strengthen Interpol’s ability to identify and respond to potentially abusive Red Notices. Both the Departments of Justice and of Homeland Security declined to comment on the cases raised below.

Eugene Gasana

“[Patrick Karuretwa] said: ‘we will stave off the criminal charges if [Gasana] comes quietly back to Rwanda. Kagame is understanding and forgiving and a good president.’”[5]

Eugene Gasana is a former senior RPF official who was part of Kagame’s close entourage, even before Kagame became president of Rwanda. He held high-profile portfolios in the government and strategic diplomatic positions, including as minister of state in charge of international cooperation. He was the Rwandan permanent representative to the UN in New York from July 2009 to August 2016. In 2016, Gasana fell out with Kagame over his decision to amend the constitution and run for a third term in the 2017 election. He was removed from his position as ambassador and summoned back to Kigali. He refused to return and applied for permanent resident status in the US. His application was approved on October 4, 2018.

Gasana’s refusal to return to Kigali marked the beginning of a series of attacks against him and his family, his professional life, his finances, and livelihood. Shortly after his dismissal, the authorities seized Gasana’s bank accounts and land in Rwanda. In the months that followed, allegations of rape and sexual harassment were brought forward by a former employee, Benita Uruhisho, who said Gasana assaulted her in 2014, while she worked at the UN mission.

Serious crimes such as sexual assault should be investigated without discrimination, and those responsible brought to justice and punished, through trials that respect due process and are fair for both complainants and accused. With respect to the veracity of these allegations, Human Rights Watch is not in a position to comment. However, as discussed further below, the evidence reviewed by Human Rights Watch during its year-long investigation into Gasana’s case reflects the involvement of senior Rwandan government authorities.

When the allegations first surfaced, a criminal investigation was launched by the New York County District Attorney’s Office Sex Crimes Unit, focusing on allegations of sexual assault and rape reported by Benita Uruhisho against Gasana. “After conducting an extensive investigation that started in late 2018 and ended in the fall of 2019, the NYCDA [New York County District Attorney] closed the case and did not file any criminal charges against Mr. Gasana,” Gasana’s criminal defense lawyer, Andrea Zellan, said in a January 8, 2021, letter.[6]

On June 14, 2019, Benita Uruhisho filed a civil complaint against Gasana to the New York State Supreme Court, New York County, seeking punitive damages for rape and gender-motivated violence.[7] That case was ongoing at time of writing.

On July 27, 2020, Rwanda’s Prosecutor General issued an international arrest warrant for Gasana on charges of “rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment.”[8] An Interpol Red Notice was issued on August 14, 2020, which Gasana challenged. On June 29, 2021, an Interpol commission reviewed Gasana’s request and concluded that “there is a predominant political dimension to this case and that the retention of the data would not be compliant with Article 3 of INTERPOL’s Constitution,” and ordered for his files to be deleted from Interpol’s database.[9] Human Rights Watch wrote to Interpol, which confirmed that the Red Notice for Gasana was withdrawn after review by the Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files (CCF).[10]

Involvement of Rwandan authorities

Brig. Gen. Patrick Karuretwa was Kagame’s personal principal private secretary from 2013 to 2021. He has been involved in running operations on behalf of the government of Rwanda in the US since at least 2013, when he signed Michelle Martin’s foreign agents registration statement on behalf of the Rwandan ministry of foreign affairs.[11] Since November 2021, Karuretwa has been head of the Rwanda Defence Force’s International Military Cooperation, a recently established body which runs Rwanda’s network of military and defense attachés in its embassies globally.

In 2017, Karuretwa approached Gasana’s immigration lawyer Michael J. Wildes, who was supporting Gasana’s application for permanent resident status in the US. Wildes said that in February, a private dinner was arranged by a friend, which Karuretwa attended.[12] “Patrick [Karuretwa] said that Gasana was involved in abuse in Congo and that he was ‘bad news,’ and that I should be careful in representing him,” said Wildes in an interview with Human Rights Watch, reading from detailed notes he had taken following the meeting. “He said: ‘we will stave off the criminal charges if he comes quietly back to Rwanda. Kagame is understanding and forgiving and a good president.’” In a letter dated April 14, 2021, and submitted as evidence in the civil case against Gasana, Wildes said “President Kagame even contacted me personally through one of his private secretaries, Mr. Patrick Karuretwa, asking me to end my representation of the Gasana family.”[13]

On January 18, 2022, according to communications submitted into evidence, Uruhisho’s then-lawyer Steven A. Cash wrote to Gasana’s lawyer, Charles Kambanda, confirming communication between Uruhisho and Karuretwa.[14] The content of the communications is currently restricted by a protective order requested by Uruhisho’s counsel. Human Rights Watch did not review the content of these communications.

On October 31, 2022, Cash resigned from the case. His resignation came days before the publication of an investigation by the OCCRP, which exposed the Rwandan government’s manipulation of Interpol Red Notices and law enforcement agencies, including in Gasana’s case.[15]

Human Rights Watch wrote to Cash’s then-law firm, Day Pitney LLP, and Rwandan authorities, to seek further information on the involvement of Karuretwa in the case and any other direct or indirect support Rwandan authorities are providing to Uruhisho. Day Pitney LLP responded to refer Human Rights Watch to Benita Uruhisho’s current counsel. Day Pitney LLP declined to answer Human Rights Watch’s inquiries, except to confirm that Steven Cash is no longer employed by Day Pitney LLP and to provide contact information for Uruhisho’s current counsel, Liston Abramson LLP. Liston Abramson LLP likewise declined to respond to Human Rights Watch’s inquiries, noting that it regards much of the information sought as privileged and confidential, except to state that Uruhisho is a victim of rape and that her civil action against Eugene Gasana is ongoing.

Following the publication of the report, Uruhisho’s counsel was ordered to disclose the invoices for her legal fees. These documents, according to court transcripts, are signed by the Rwandan government. During a December 21, 2023, court hearing, Uruhisho’s counsel said:

I can tell you that our invoices are sent via e-mail to our client and as the affidavit says, the invoices are sent to the Witness Services Victim Unit of the National Prosecution Authority as it said in the affidavit. […] At any rate, Your Honor, we're representing to you that the payments are coming from Rwanda, the National Prosecution Authority of Rwanda. Our payments are when -- when we receive our payment is from the Republic of Rwanda, so the issue about who is paying the fees, it is the Republic of Rwanda. We are not hiding that.

Attacks on Gasana’s reputation and targeting of family members

The Gasana case illustrates the wide array of insidious tactics that constitute the Rwandan government’s playbook to attack opponents, including targeting their family members. In August 2017, Gasana’s siblings in Rwanda were detained incommunicado for several weeks, and later transferred to Nyarugenge prison in Kigali and accused of fraud. To the best of Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, no independent judicial process took place, and no evidence was presented against them. They were released two months later but several of Gasana’s relatives’ passports have been confiscated and they have been prevented from leaving the country. Human Rights Watch requested information from Rwandan authorities on the cases against Gasana’s relatives and any evidence to support the accusations but received no response.

On June 27, 2021, Paul W. Butler, an American lawyer representing the government of Rwanda for the US-based law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, wrote to Kofi Appenteng, the president and CEO of the Africa-America Institute, regarding Gasana’s position on the Institute’s board. The letter, reviewed by Human Rights Watch, said that the government had “evidence” that “Gasana engaged in unauthorized and unacceptable collaboration with foreign governments at the detriment of the GOR [Government of Rwanda].”[16] The letter then lists a number of accusations, without presenting any evidence or citations in the letter, including “attempts by him to cast unauthorized votes in international organizations directly contrary to directions given to him by the GOR,” “an attempt to enlist a Rwandan US green card holder in a plan to transfer substantial dollar funds from a neighboring country through the international banking system under extremely problematic circumstances”, and “reaching out to foreign governments, including their intelligence services, in a manner directly threatening the national security of the state of Rwanda.”[17] Finally, it concludes that the government of Rwanda will be “taking any and all steps available to it within the framework of the international legal system to protect Rwanda and its people from the threat posed by Gasana.” Human Rights Watch wrote to Rwandan authorities and Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP to request further information on evidence to support the allegations against Gasana, but at time of publication, had received no response.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP also acted for the government of Rwanda in 2012, when the firm was retained to produce a report submitted to the DRC Sanctions Committee. Human Rights Watch reviewed the report, which questioned the methodology and integrity of the Congo UN Group of Experts Coordinator Steven Hege. In November 2012, the Group of Experts published a report accusing Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebellion in eastern Congo.[18] The shadow report stated that Hege is “sympathetic towards the FDLR genocide movement” and accused him of “downplaying . . . the danger posed by the FDLR,” “bias,” and “poor judgement.”

Similar accusations were lodged in the media by Rwandan diplomats, who for example accused the Group of Experts coordinator of being “sympathetic towards the FDLR genocide movement.”[19]

Hege told Human Rights Watch: “When I volunteered to provide the Rwandan minister of foreign affairs [then Louise Mushikiwabo] a private briefing on our extensive findings regarding Rwandan support to the M23 rebellion, she did not dispute any factual evidence but only advised me against publishing it because of potential consequences for my career. I later understood the Akin Gump report [the Rwandan government] commissioned as part of those veiled threats had already been set in motion.”[20]

On September 20, 2017, Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza, the permanent representative of Rwanda to the UN at time of writing, wrote to Steven Pfeiffer, the Chair of the Africa-America Institute, alleging, without providing citations or evidence, that Gasana had engaged in “illicit transactions with foreign governments and third parties,” including “targets of current international sanctions,” and was “actively engaging with intelligence services of some foreign governments in subversive activities against the interests… of Rwanda.”[21] Gasana resigned from his position on the board of the Africa-America Institute on July 7, 2019. Human Rights Watch wrote to Rwandan authorities to request further information on and evidence to support the allegations, but at time of publication, had received no response.

Gasana’s case is a stark example of the lengths to which the government of Rwanda is willing to go, and the means at its disposal, to attack its opponents. The use of international law enforcement mechanisms, targeting of colleagues and relatives, and the seizure of property, among other steps, appear to constitute efforts to isolate Gasana socially and diminish his financial and professional prospects. The case also illustrates the relentless nature of the attacks: if one tactic fails, others will be used until the individual it is targeting is worn down.

Leopold Munyakazi

Another case that exemplifies Rwanda’s misuse of the international law enforcement system is that of Leopold Munyakazi, a former trade union official and Hutu opposition member in Rwanda who arrived in the US in 2004, where he requested asylum. His asylum case was pending at the time of his deportation.

On November 10, 2006, an “international arrest warrant” was issued by the government of Rwanda, stating that Munyakazi was charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and negation of the genocide—a crime in Rwanda but not in the US.[22] On September 18, 2008, Rwandan authorities issued another “international arrest warrant.”[23] On October 20, 2008, the government of Rwanda issued an indictment in which it requested that the US arrest and extradite Munyakazi.

In a 2009 press statement, Human Rights Watch said, “At least one charge in the indictment failed to conform to known historical facts, i.e., Dr. Munyakazi was charged with involvement with the Interahamwe, a militia associated with the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (Mouvement révolutionnaire national pour le développement, MRND). Yet in Rwanda in the 1990s it was well known that Munyakazi was an opponent of the MRND, which was a political party that had opposed Munyakazi taking a position at the head of the Rwandan labor movement.”[24] A leaked 2015 FBI report stated that the investigation was “almost certainly” compromised by a Rwandan intelligence agent and cast doubt on the allegations.[25]

In 2016, after the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit denied Munyakazi’s appeal of his asylum denial, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities deported Munyakazi to Rwanda.[26] In Rwanda, in July 2017, he was first convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity, and genocide denial, and sentenced to life in prison. The first two charges were overturned on appeal, and he was sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2018 for genocide denial. The appeals court concluded that the witness testimonies were often contradictory and stated that it “saw no conclusive evidence that he has committed murders considered to be crimes against humanity or even evidence that he was complicit in commission of those crimes which are based on acts similar to those of the crime of genocide.” It maintained Munyakazi’s initial conviction of genocidal denial for a speech he gave at the University of Delaware in 2006 in which he said about the 1994 genocide: “I refer to it as civil war, not genocide; it was about political power.”[27] On February 18, 2021, Nyanza High Court Chamber of International and Cross-Border Crimes convicted Munyakazi of new charges of genocide denial and added another five years to his sentence. The conviction is based on statements he made ahead of the genocide commemorations in April 2017, in Muhanga prison. According to the verdict, Munyakazi said that the genocide was a consequence of the RPF’s attempted invasion of Rwanda in October 1990, and that if President Habyarimana’s plane had not crashed, there would not have been a genocide.

International human rights law prohibits hate speech that amounts to incitement of violence, discrimination, or hostility against a protected group. Such restrictions, however, must be consistent with what is “necessary” in a democracy. It is inconsistent with freedom of expression to criminalize hate speech without the requirement that the speaker be proven to have intended that their words incite violence, and that incitement was the foreseeable and imminent result of those words. Punishing criticism of government policies and prosecuting statements believed to be true by the speaker and made with no intention to incite violence, as in the case of Munyakazi above, represents abusive restrictions on free speech.

Human Rights Watch wrote to the Rwandan and US governments to ask what steps had been taken to ensure Munyakazi’s right to asylum, to freedom of expression, and to a fair trial had been respected. On August 22, 2023, the US Assistant Attorney General for National Security responded declining to comment on specific cases. The government of Rwanda did not respond.

Paul Rusesabagina

Paul Rusesabagina’s reappearance in Kigali three days after vanishing in Dubai, Kagame’s boastful remarks about the “flawless” operation that got him there, the fact that Rwandan authorities circumvented the legal process of extradition, and the highly publicized and flawed trial on terrorism charges, left a mark on many in the diaspora.[28] The case sent the message that no one—not even the recipient of a US presidential medal of freedom, a US resident, and an EU citizen—is out of reach for the Rwandan authorities. Many refugees interviewed for this report spoke of Rusesabagina’s case to explain their fear of traveling and of being detained or kidnapped while in transit. Some high-profile critics said they had been told by law enforcement agencies in the UK, US, and Belgium to keep them abreast of their travel plans, or simply advised to avoid travel.

Rusesabagina, whose story was immortalized in the Hotel Rwanda film, fled to Belgium in 1996 and is now a Belgian citizen. He was a green card holder living in the US, when he traveled from the US to Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on August 27, 2020. Rusesabagina was forcibly disappeared on the evening of August 27 until the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) announced it had him in custody in Kigali, on August 31.[29] During that time, Rusesabagina was detained in an ungazetted detention facility—often referred to as a “safe house”—where he was beaten and kept with his hands and feet bound. He was then transferred to Remera police station, where he was held for several weeks before being transferred to Nyarugenge prison in Kigali.[30]

In February 2021, as the trial of Rusesabagina and 20 co-defendants was set to begin, Al Jazeera broadcast excerpts from a call between then-Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye and two consultants from the British public relations firm Chelgate, which Al Jazeera said were “inadvertently” shared with them.[31] In the clips, Busingye prepares his responses to questions about Rusesabagina’s case with the consultants, and admits that Rwandan prison authorities intercepted privileged communications between Rusesabagina and his lawyers, in violation of his due process rights, and the government’s role in his August 2020 enforced disappearance and illegal transfer.[32]

In one of the clips aired on Al Jazeera, Busingye is heard asking the consultants: “So I should say, for example, I have no idea who paid [for the plane that transported Rusesabagina]?”[33] When confronted by the journalist, Busingye admitted that the government paid for the flight. An invoice issued by GainJet Aviation S. A. sent to the office of the Rwandan president shows that a private jet was chartered to fly from Dubai to Kigali on August 27, 2020.[34] Human Rights Watch contacted GainJet Aviation and Chelgate for comment. Due to pending litigation around these matters, GainJet’s representatives declined to provide comment to Human Rights Watch. Chelgate did not respond.

On September 20, 2021, Rusesabagina was convicted of murder, membership in a terrorist group, and other charges, and handed a 25-year sentence, after a flawed trial. As Human Rights Watch previously reported, Rusesabagina’s privileged communications with counsel were intercepted, he was denied access to his trial documents, and was interrogated by Rwandan authorities outside the presence of counsel.[35] His conviction was upheld on appeal in April 2022.[36]

On March 24, 2023, following high-profile advocacy on his behalf by the Belgian and US governments and Hollywood allies, Rusesabagina was released from detention. According to media reports, he was driven from detention to the home of Qatar’s ambassador to Rwanda by American diplomats.[37] Five days later her was reunited with his family in Texas, US.

Rusesabagina’s relatives actively campaigned for his release, regularly meeting government officials and others to press for his release. According to the Pegasus Project, an international investigative journalism initiative, in 2021, the phone of Carine Kanimba, Rusesabagina’s daughter, was “bombarded with Pegasus,” malicious software manufactured by Israeli tech firm NSO Group.[38] Analysis by Amnesty International’s Security Lab, which lent technical assistance to the project, found that Kanimba’s phone was successfully infected with Pegasus multiple times. Amnesty International’s analysis found that Kanimba’s phone was infected while she interacted with European, British, and US officials, and confirmed an attack on June 14, 2021, the day Kanimba met with then-Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès.[39] Rwandan authorities have denied using Pegasus to spy on dissidents.[40]

On August 21, 2023, the Belgian authorities responded to Human Rights Watch’s request for information and said they had raised Rusesabagina’s case with Rwandan authorities during his detention and underlined their concerns with regards to his right to a fair trial but did not respond to questions regarding steps taken to raise concerns about his treatment or the treatment of his family.[41]


The United States government should:

  • Provide effective physical and legal protection to Rwandans within its territory or under its jurisdiction, including by enhancing security for individuals who report experiencing threats, harassment, attacks, or other abuses while in the country of refuge that they believe were perpetrated by Rwandan government authorities or other agents from Rwanda.
  • In line with duties to protect refugees and to ensure public safety, thoroughly investigate, with a view to ensuring justice, all reported cases of threats, harassment, attacks, or other abuses perpetrated against Rwandan refugees, asylum seekers, or other members of the diaspora while in the host country’s territory. Compile information and regularly report on these cases. Additionally, seek to investigate any attack that takes place outside the US against Rwandans who are traveling, who have refugee or other resident status or citizenship.
  • Publicly denounce the Rwandan authorities’ tactics and patterns of repression and urge them to end their harassment of dissidents and perceived critics and respect their international human rights obligations. Call on the Rwandan authorities to ensure that all those facing criminal charges, including dissidents, benefit from full respect for their due process rights throughout the judicial process.
  • Conduct an independent review of funding to the Rwandan government to ensure that financial support to development, security, or refugee and diaspora-focused programs is compliant with human rights obligations and does not result in or contribute to surveillance of and abuse against Rwandans in Rwanda or abroad.
  • Impose targeted sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, on perpetrators of serious human rights abuses against Rwandans in the US.
  • Apply additional vetting to extradition requests and Interpol Red Notices from Rwanda to prevent abuse of law enforcement and judicial processes and urge Interpol to clarify how it prevents abuses of the Red Notice system by the Rwandan government and how it would ensure that suspects returned to Rwanda are not subjected to ill-treatment or torture and persecution.
  • Review extradition, legal cooperation, and intelligence sharing agreements with Rwanda. Identify agreements and processes that need additional oversight or that should be discontinued altogether to prevent abuse.

[1] Human Rights Watch, “Join Us or Die”: Rwanda’s Extraterritorial Repression, (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2023),

[2] “Foreign Government Officials Facilitate Translational Repression against US-based Victims,” Federal Bureau of Investigation Counterintelligence Bulletin, January 6, 2022.

[3] Israeli Spy Tech Used Against Daughter of Man Who Inspired ‘Hotel Rwanda,’” Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), July 19, 2021,

[4] Ibid. The Rwandan National Congress is a Rwandan opposition group in exile with reported ties to armed groups.

[5] Human Rights Watch, interview with Eugene Gasana’s immigration lawyer Michael J. Wildes, New York, US, November 7, 2022.

[6] Letter by Andrea Zellan regarding the criminal investigation into former Ambassador Eugene Gasana, dated January 8, 2021.

[7] Benita Urushisho v. Eugene-Richard Gasana, Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York, June 14, 2019.

[8] Commission for the Control of Interpol’s Files, Decision of the Commission on the request concerning Eugene Gasana, Ref. CCF/117/R130.21, 117th session, June 29, 2021.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Letter from Interpol’s Executive Directorate of Legal Affairs to Human Rights Watch, August 16, 2023.

[11] “Exhibit A to Registration Statement Pursuant to the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended,” US Department of Justice, June 12, 2013.

[12] Human Rights Watch interview with Michael J. Wildes, New York, US, November 7, 2022.

[13] Letter by Michael J. Wildes regarding his representation of former Ambassador Eugene Gasana, dated April 14, 2021.

[14] Email from Steven A. Cash, Attorney at Law representing Benita Uruhisho on behalf of Day Pitney LLP to Charles Kambanda, representing Eugene Gasana, Re: Uruhisho v. Gasana, Index No.155945/2019 | Identification of certain texts, January 18, 2022.

[15] “Rwanda Fed False Intelligence to U.S. and Interpol As It Pursued Political Dissidents Abroad”, OCCRP.

[16] Letter from Paul W. Butler, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, to Kofi Appenteng, President and CEO of the Africa America Institute, dated June 27, 2017.

[17] Ibid.

[18] “The Government of Rwanda continues to violate the arms embargo by providing direct military support to the M23 rebels, facilitating recruitment, encouraging and facilitating desertions from the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and providing arms, ammunition, intelligence and political advice.” United Nations, Final report of the Group of Experts on the DRC submitted in accordance with paragraph 4 of Security Council resolution 2021 (2011) (S/2012/843).

[19] Olivier Nduhungirehe, then-first counselor of Rwanda's permanent mission to the United Nations, quoted in: Armin Rosen, “After the Fall of Goma: The M23 Conflict's Western Front,” The Atlantic, November 20, 2012, (accessed September 26, 2023).

[20] Message exchange between Steven Hege and Human Rights Watch, April 26, 2023.

[21] Letter from Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza to Steven Pfeiffer, September 20, 2017.

[22] See Munyakazi v. Lynch, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Index No. 15-1735, Brief for Petitioner Munyakazi filed October 21, 2015; see also Munyakazi v. Lynch, 829 F.3d 291, 294 (4th Cir. 2016); id. at 302 (denying petition for review of asylum denial).

[23] Ibid.

[24] “Human Rights Watch statement on the Munyakazi case,” Human Rights Watch statement, February 2009.

[25] “Israeli Spy Tech Used Against Daughter of Man Who Inspired ‘Hotel Rwanda,’” OCCRP.

[26] “ICE removes Rwandan wanted for genocide,” US Immigration and Customs Enforcement press release, September 28, 2016, (accessed September 26, 2023).

[27] Martin Mbugua, “Rwandan prof says 1994 killings were not genocide,” University of Delaware Archive, October 25, 2006, (accessed September 26, 2023).

[28] See: “Rwanda: Rusesabagina Was Forcibly Disappeared,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 10, 2020, and “Rwanda: Paul Rusesabagina Convicted in Flawed Trial,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 20, 2021,

[29] “RIB Statement on the arrest of Paul Rusesabagina,” Rwanda Investigation Bureau statement, August 31, 2020, (accessed on September 25, 2023).

[30] Human Rights Watch phone interview with Paul Rusesabagina, August 3, 2023.

[31] “Rwanda paid for flight that led to Paul Rusesabagina arrest,” Aljazeera Up Front, February 26, 2021, video clip, YouTube, (accessed on September 25, 2023).

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Invoice by GainJet Aviation S.A. issued to Lt. Col. Innocent Gashugi, Director General of Finance and Administration at the Office of the President, Kigali, Rwanda, on August 31, 2020.

[35] “Rwanda: Paul Rusesabagina Convicted in Flawed Trial,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 20, 2021,

[36] “Court upholds 25-year sentence for ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero,” Al Jazeera, April 4, 2022, (accessed September 26, 2023).

[37] Declan Walsh, Michael D. Shear, and Abdi Latif Dahir, “How the U.S., Family and Hollywood Freed the ‘Hotel Rwanda” Hero,’” The New York Times, April 3, 2023, (Accessed September 26, 2023).

[38] Pegasus is a potent program that its developer, the Israeli company NSO Group, says it only sells to governments, and is capable of accessing a phone’s contact lists, reading emails and text messages, tracking calls, collecting passwords, localizing the target device, and hijacking its microphone and video camera to turn them into surveillance tools. For more information, see: Ronen Bergman and Mark Mazzetti, “The Battle for the World’s Most Powerful Cyberweapon,” The New York Times, January 28, 2022, (accessed September 26, 2023).

[39] “Israeli Spy Tech Used Against Daughter of Man Who Inspired ‘Hotel Rwanda,’” Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), July 19, 2021, (accessed September 26, 2023).

[40] Edmund Kagire, “Rwanda Reaffirms It Doesn’t Use Pegasus, Says Accusations Part of Smear Campaign,” KT Press, July 20, 2021, (accessed September 26, 2023).

[41] Email from the Belgian Foreign Affairs, External Commerce and Development Cooperation Federal Public Service to Human Rights Watch, August 21, 2023 (translated by Human Rights Watch).

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