Persons Accused of Supporting Insurgents or the Congolese Government
Even after the risk of insurgent attack was considerably reduced in late 1998, RPA soldiers continued to arbitrarily arrest persons accused of association with insurgents and sometimes to torture them, supposedly in an effort to obtain information. Soldiers detain these persons on their sole authority, without following anyformal procedure. They may hold them for months, sometimes shifting them from one illegal place of detention to another, and without giving any notification to anyone of the detainee's whereabouts or the reasons for his or her detention. Except in cases where others have witnessed persons being taken away by soldiers, family and friends have no way of knowing that they are in the hands of authorities or where they are being kept.
Given the importance of the RPA presence in the Congolese town of Goma, just across the border from Gisenyi, RPA soldiers find it easy to shift detainees from one side of the border to the other, thus making it more difficult for family or friends to trace them. The RPA detained one person whom they suspected of connections with the Congolese government for a period of six months without charge, moving the prisoner back and forth from the Congo to Rwanda to the Congo and then again to Rwanda as it pleased them. RPA soldiers moved a group of fifteen persons, some of whom had been detained in Goma, across the border to Gisenyi in mid-September 1999. Some detainees were shifted as many as three times to different locations in Gisenyi during a three month period of detention. One detainee was transferred to a place of detention that was once a chicken coop because his family suspected that he was at a better known place of detention and had made inquiries there.49
RPA soldiers confined some of the Rwandans taken at the border or in the Congo in a place known as Bureau II in Goma. The facility was clearly under the command of soldiers. In addition to Rwandan civilians, it also housed military prisoners. According to a person imprisoned there several months ago, Bureau II held eight civilian detainees in one room and ten in another, as well as an unknown number of soldiers in a third room.50
RPA soldiers accused the Rwandan civilians of being insurgents and subjected some of them to torture in an effort to obtain information or confessions from them. One detainee told Human Rights Watch researchers that he was hung upside down by his ankles every day; he showed marks on his ankles that had apparently been caused by the pressure of being so suspended. Former detainees also said that soldiers burned several detainees with an electric coil used for heating water and forced others to take hold of an electric wire.51
Soldiers of the RPA and of its ally, the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie (Congolese Union for Democracy, RCD), detain Congolese in Goma at a place called "Chien Méchant" or "Vicious Dog." There too they reportedly beat prisoners accused of links with the Congolese government and torture them with electric current. According to one detainee, there were twenty-one prisoners at "Chien méchant" in mid-1999. Two were women and were subjected to repeated sexual advances by soldiers. After one such incident, three RPA soldiers beat one of the women who had refused to have sex with them.52
RPA soldiers have imprisoned civilians in at least two illegal places of detention in the town of Gisenyi.53 One is a structure formerly used as a chicken coop, located between the veterinary hospital and the police brigade. Another, known as MILPOC, is a pleasant yellow stucco house located on the palm-lined street alongthe shore of scenic Lake Kivu. The house is next door to a hotel and just behind the prefectural offices. Once a United Nations office and still displaying the blue-and-white U.N. sign over the door, MILPOC is now in the hands of the RPA. When Human Rights Watch researchers entered the compound in early December, 1999 and tried to mount the stairs to the building, they were intercepted by several RPA soldiers who informed them that it was a military facility.
Like the Bureau II in Goma, MILPOC houses detained RPA soldiers as well as civilians. Someone who knew the building well prepared the sketch below. It indicates that there were two rooms, each about three meters square, set aside for male detainees and another far smaller room where women and children were confined. Military prisoners were confined in a room apart from the civilians. Military guards lived in an adjacent small house and a small kitchen building was located behind. According to a former prisoner, the number of civilian detainees, about forty in September and October, increased to seventy-eight by late November or early December, 1999. Two former burgomasters were among the number, as were two women, one of them elderly, and six children aged between ten and fifteen years old.
According to former prisoners, RPA soldiers interrogated some of the detainees in the main room that was used for meetings or in their office. During these sessions, they sometimes beat the detainees with sticks or with the butts of their rifles. A professor named Habimana was supposedly so seriously beaten that he went crazy.54
Detainees had no beds or furniture and were obliged to sleep on the cement floor. In the men's rooms, the floor was flooded with several inches of water when soldiers used the shower in the bathroom next door. Civilian detainees were not allowed to use the shower. One prisoner was given water with which to bathe twice in two and a half months of confinement. In order to prevent their presence from becoming known, detainees were instructed to remain seated or squatting below the level of windows and to never speak in a voice that could be heard outside the house. The windows in the room which housed the women were boarded up and the only light came through a piece of plastic on the roof. Detainees were fed once a day, usually beans or corn, which they ate from empty tin cans. Most detainees were not allowed to use the toilet outside, except some women who were allowed to do so at night. Otherwise they used buckets in their rooms. In the men's rooms, the buckets were emptied once every three days. Detainees suffered frequently from intestinal illnesses and from diseases of the skin but received no medical attention. One detainee who was ill was just propped up outside under a tree in the inner courtyard where he remained, even in the rain. When the witness who saw this left MILPOC, the detainee was still leaning against the tree, but he did not know if he were still alive.55
In another part of the northwest, witnesses report that soldiers from a nearby military post took four farmers from their homes in Ruhengeri prefecture in October 1999. Both soldiers and their officers at this post beat the detainees, accusing them of supporting the insurgents. After local civilian officials came to the post to vouch for their conduct, the detainees were permitted to leave. One had been so badly injured by the beating that he was hospitalized for more than two months. Human Rights Watch researchers were able to examine his injuries and to see that he had suffered permanent damage to his arm as a result of the beating. In another similar case, a civilian was detained by soldiers near a military camp from the end of September until sometime in December 1999. Another man who works in the town of Ruhengeri was arrested at the end of Decemberand held in the military camp until late February. He was accused of supporting the insurgents. He received little to eat during his imprisonment but was not otherwise mistreated.56
Many of those charged with supporting the insurgents deny the accusation and say that they were falsely accused by soldiers, local officials, or others in their communities with whom they had problems in the past.57
Persons Accused of Supporting the King
The largely Hutu population of northwestern Rwanda bitterly fought the extension of royal power over their region at the start of the twentieth century and rapidly joined the revolution to overthrow the monarchy in 1959. Yet supporters of the king are now found in that region, including some who previously backed or who still back the insurgency.
Several persons resident in the area told Human Rights Watch researchers that they believe the insurgents who attacked Tamira in December 1999 were part of the "army of the king." In the national news broadcast on Radio Rwanda on December 21, Kagame was reported to have deplored the presence of troublemakers who were recruiting people to leave the country and join the "army of the king." He asked local authorities in Ruhengeri and Gisenyi particularly to help eliminate this problem.58
Even before this directive, local authorities in the northwest had been calling people to meetings to warn them not to support the king and to tell them specifically that insurgents might return to Rwanda and claim to be fighting for the king. RPA soldiers delivered even sterner warnings not to show any interest in the return of the king.
Several informants told Human Rights Watch researchers that many people see the king as an alternative to the current government. As one said:
People can't talk about the king out loud. They talk, but not out loud because if they [the authorities] catch you, they would put you in prison.59
Other informants confirmed this information by recalling a warning delivered at the Mahoko market in Kanama commune, Gisenyi. They said that on a market day in December, an RPA officer known as Effendi (Sergeant) Zachary said that:
You had better be careful, because when two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets killed.... If you dare side with the king, you risk serious trouble. Prison will not be good enough. We are going to make you suffer like we did the last time.... We will use bullets and, when we run out of bullets, then we will come at you with machetes.60
This was presumably a reference to a previous massacre at Mahoko market in 1997.
An elderly woman from a nearby commune told Human Rights Watch researchers that she had heard ofsoldiers at Mahoko market listening to conversations among people and threatening them if the talk seemed to be about the king. "They have total control," she said.61
In addition to cautioning people not to talk about the king, civilian and military officials have warned them about lodging any people from other communes or prefectures because "they might have been sent to stir up support for the king." An informant reported that a local official had refused to allow a medical worker to establish a health center in her community because he feared the man might have brought royalist ideas with him.62
Government officials went beyond warnings in the commune of Ndusu and detained some forty people who were accused of supporting the king. On December 17, 1999 soldiers arrested three teachers, Daniel Gahinda, Christophe Kagiraneza and Eugene Nkurikiyinka, and detained them at the Ndusu communal lockup. On December 29, the accused persons denounced dozens of others at a public meeting conducted by the burgomaster of Ndusu and Lieutenant j.g. Kagaba. Nineteen were arrested at the meeting or soon after. They were detained for three days and all except two released. The two who remained, Joel Rutamujyanye and Pierre-Céléstin Kagaba, along with the original three were taken from the communal lockup in a RPA pickup truck on February 4, 2000. They were transported to an unknown destination, perhaps to the police brigade in the town of Ruhengeri. In the days following the first arrests, other persons were detained for periods ranging from a few days to a month.63
The matter was considered so serious that the prefect summoned local officials and people to a meeting on February 8 at which officials again described a popular organization in support of the king. They told the people that the inquiry was continuing.
The majority of the detainees were teachers. A number of them supposedly belonged to a self-help association, a common mechanism for people trying to maximize the benefit from the limited capital available in a desperately poor economy. They supposedly had each contributed five thousand Rwandan francs to the group. One of the accused also operated a small bar at his home where others often came to drink. According to local people, it was circumstances such as these which were taken as proof of the existence of an association in support of the king. The people of the commune denied the report. As one later told Human Rights Watch, "We know nothing about the king. These are just stories that fall on us from above."64
In the commune of Kayove, Paul Uwanzavugaye was reportedly detained in the communal lockup for four days in mid-February for having spoken about the king.
Out on the hills as in the capital, the king has become a symbol of potential opposition to the government. Although most who talk of such a ruler are referring to Kigeli V Ndahindurwa, an actual person who could conceivably return to Rwanda, others in the northwestern prefecture of Gisenyi talk of a mythical ruler Kabandana. Clearly there is some support for a return to a monarchy but it is difficult to evaluate its extent. In some cases, authorities-whether national or local-and even private citizens have falsely accused political or personal enemies of being monarchists, thus possibly giving the impression that loyalty to the king is more widespread than it actually is.
Detention for Unspecified Reasons
A well-known political leader, Bonaventure Ubalijoro, was released on April 20, 2000, after more than a year in detention. has now spent more than a year in detention. Ubalijoro, formerly president of the MDR, the largest political party in Rwanda was initially arrested on unspecified charges and was subsequently said to be under investigation for crimes ranging from embezzlement to involvement in the killing of Tutsi in 1963. His attorneys tried for months without success to obtain information about the charges against him. He was finally released without trial and without further clarification of the reasons for his arrest, which appears to have been motivated more by politics than by concern for justice.65
Ordinary citizens, too, continue to suffer from detention for unspecified reasons. A pharmacist was taken into custody by authorities in Kigali and held officially incommunicado for more than eight months in 1999. He was walking home with his wife in the early evening. They were stopped by two men in civilian dress who had gotten out of a car with private license plates and had insisted that he must go with them, purportedly to help in an urgent medical case. When the pharmacist tried to refuse, one of the men threatened him with a firearm and he then agreed to go with them. His wife watched as the car sped away and then crashed, an accident caused by the pharmacist as he tried again to resist being taken away. The wife immediately went to the police station and reported the abduction and the accident, but the police refused to investigate before the next morning. By the morning, the cars involved in the accident had been towed away, supposedly by the police. But when relatives and friends of the pharmacist sought information about the abduction from the police, they were told that the authorities knew nothing of the case.
Despite frequent and public appeals to many civilian, military and police officials, including to the president and vice-president, those concerned about the man's "disappearance" could learn nothing. Only after three weeks did they receive a message smuggled out of a police brigade in Kigali letting them know that the pharmacist was detained there. He had at first been taken to the headquarters of the police intelligence division (Services de Renseignements de la Gendarmerie) located in a private house in Remera and was later transferred to solitary confinement in the police brigade. About six months after his abduction, the Ministry of the Interior finally acknowledged that he was confined at the Remera police brigade. Three months after that the pharmacist was released without charge and without explanation.66
49 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, December 8, 1999; Kigali, December 11, 1999 and February 17, 2000.
50 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, December 8 and Kigali, December 11, 1999.
51 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, December 8, 1999; Kigali, December 11, 1999 and February 17, 2000.
52 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, December 8, 1999; Kigali, December 11, 1999 and February 17, 2000.
53 According to the Military Prosecutor, the military prison at Mulindi, near Kigali, is the only place where the military can legally detain civilians. Human Rights Watch interview, February 9, 2000.
54 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, December 8, 1999; Kigali, December 11, 1999 and February 17, 2000.
55 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, December 8, 1999; Kigali, December 11, 1999 and February 17, 2000.
56 Human Rights Watch interviews, Ruhengeri, February 8 and 24, 2000 and Gisenyi February 25, 2000.
58 National news in Kinyarwanda, Radio Rwanda, December 21, 1999.
59 Human Rights Watch interview, Gisenyi, March 3, 2000.
60 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, March 3 and 4, 2000.
61 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, March 3, 2000.
62 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, March 4, 2000.
63 Human Rights Watch interviews, Gisenyi, March 3 and 4, 2000.
65 A hearing scheduled for April 6 did not take place because of the absence of the judge, the second time such an absence has forced a postponement in the case. Human Rights Watch interview, by telephone, April 10, 2000.
66 Human Rights Watch interviews, Kigali, March 20, 2000.