The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has discredited claims by Genocide convict Leon Mugesera to have been denied his rights to access medical treatment, meet his lawyer and that his family was not allowed to visit him.
This follows media reports in the Canadian publication called La Presse in which Mugesera’s family and lawyer claim he suffers from high blood pressure and has cataracts in both eyes with a risk of blindness and has been denied treatment.
Genocide ideologue Mugesera, 64, served as the deputy chairman and special advisor to the former ruling party, MRND that orchestrated the Genocide.
He was deported from Canada in 2012 after a long battle against his extradition to Rwanda to face Genocide related charges for which he was later tried and convicted to life sentence.
He is incarcerated at Mpanga Prison, an internationally accredited facility based in Nyanza District in the Southern Province.
According to a statement, the commission based on the reports in the Canadian media to launch an independent investigation into the claims and physically visited Nyanza prison early last month.
The statement indicates that the Commission met with Mugesera and held an open discussion with him on each of the human rights issues he was concerned about, in the presence of his lawyer Felix Rudakemwa.
According to the Commission, the visit also covered all the prison’s cells where non-Rwandan prisoners and Rwandans transferred from other countries are accommodated.
Besides Rwandans transferred from different countries to face justice, mainly for genocide crimes they committed, the facility houses convicts of the International Special Court for Sierra Leone.
The commission established that the inmate’s wellbeing is maintained, saying he had adequate food and accommodation.
The cells have self-contained rooms that meet minimum international standards with a toilet, running water, reading table and chair, proper bed and mattress, clean air, mosquito net and other sanitary installations, it added.
“The Commission established that contrary to the allegation of the alleged denied access to health services, including eight missed appointment with ophthalmologists at King Faisal Hospital (between March 2016-present) as well as other missed appointments with his internal medical doctor, Mugesera received medical treatment at King Faisal on the said date,” reads the statement
It added that the Commission also established that Mugesera is treated like any other prisoners at the facility health’s centre and received medical treatment eight times between June 2017 and December.
The practice is that all cases are first treated in the facility’s health centre before being referred to hospitals in accordance with referral procedure, but in some cases Mugesera wanted to immediately be rushed to King Faisal hospital for treatment.
Officials said that the transfer is not premised on the patient’s wish but when the service provider finds appropriate based on the case.
“On the allegation of denied contact with his family and lawyer, the Commission established through the prison visit registry that between June 16-24 December last year, Mugesera was visited 13 times by family, relatives and friends,” reads part of the statement.
The rights commission said that the same records show that for the period from May 2016 to December 2017 Mugesera had 28 meetings with his lawyer.
“Regarding the frequency and duration of the visits, the Commission found that existing national guidelines that allow one visit per week were properly followed.”
Among other things, the Commission recommended that Rwanda Correctional Service avails private booths facilities that can allow private conversation between inmates and their lawyers.
It also recommended that RCS should conduct awareness campaigns to inmates regarding prison rules and guidelines, including visit regulations, to provide Mugesera with dietary nutrition recommended by his doctor and to respect follow up appointments with his medical doctors.
When contacted, Rudakemwa, the lawyer to Mugesera said that despite all international prisoners being served with bread that is brought from Kigali, prison authorities have not heeded his client’s request for a special type of bread that was prescribed for him, saying that that bread is also available in Kigali.