Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, DC, on March 26, 2017. (AFP Photo/Andrew Biraj)
Rwanda denied Wednesday that its military used torture to extract confessions from detainees, calling a scathing report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) “baseless”.
In a 91-page report published on Tuesday, the rights watchdog said it had confirmed 104 cases of people being illegally detained and tortured in Rwandan military detention centres between 2010 and 2016, estimating the true figure to be much higher.
The report said victims were usually accused of collaborating with “enemies” of the Rwandan government, taken to unknown locations and tortured by asphyxiation, electric shock and mock executions until they signed a confession document or incriminated others.
Rwandan Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said in a statement that there was no “credible evidence” of the accusations.
“There’s no truth to the Human Rights Watch report. Rwanda is a party to, and observes the Convention against Torture as well as domestic laws,” he said.
“HRW has recycled old, discredited, baseless allegations, for which they have no credible evidence. They will, in time, be exposed. The ‘new’ report is rather a continuation of HRW’s entrenched, vindictive agenda against Rwanda.”
The US-based watchdog’s report came just two months after it accused Rwandan security forces, including soldiers, of executing at least 37 petty offenders instead of prosecuting them.
The group’s latest report found that most victims were detained on suspicion of being members of the FDLR –- a predominantly Hutu rebel group based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo -– with some of its members suspected of participating in the 1994 genocide that ravaged the country.
Others were suspected of having ties to the Rwanda National Congress, an opposition group in exile composed mainly of former members of Rwanda’s ruling party, or to the jailed Victoire Ingabire, president of a banned opposition party.
President Paul Kagame has been in power since 2000, winning a third term in August with nearly 99 percent of the vote, and critics have accused him of using of the military to scare potential opponents and rule the country through fear.