Rwanda asks Uganda to probe death of torture victim

The Rwandan government has formally requested Uganda to initiate criminal investigations into the death of a Rwandan national who was severely tortured by Ugandan security operatives before he was deported and subsequently passed away.

In a letter dated September 11, 2019 addressed to Uganda’s Attorney General William Byaruhanga, Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye said Silas Hategekimana, 43, died as a result of alleged torture he was subjected to throughout his “illegal detention”.

“I am in receipt of a demand, hereto attached, dated 10/09/2019 for investigation into alleged torture, in Uganda, of one Mr HATEGEKIMANA Silas, a Rwandan citizen, that resulted into his death,” reads part of the letter whose copy was seen by Saturday Times.

In the letter, titled ‘Request to initiate criminal investigations on the death of Mr HATEGEKIMANA Silas, Busingye said the victim was on “25th May 2019 arrested by Ugandan state agents” before he was “dumped at the Kagitumba border on 12th June 2019.”

“During his incarceration he was not charged with any offence, was not allowed legal counsel, consular or family access. Upon his release he told our investigation authorities of severe torture that he was subjected to throughout his illegal detention,” the letter reads in part.

It adds that, right from his release, the late Hategekimana “felt increasing pain and other complications and sought medical attention. His condition deteriorated until he died on 31st August 2019.”

In his letter, Busingye said that a post-mortem report pointed to a “fractured rib and a lung abrasion.”

“Hon. Attorney General, our Principals (read Heads of State) have, before, directed that at the level of Ministers we can engage, even informally, and resolve issues before they become complicated.”

“You will recall that I was in touch with you on 11th, 16th, 17th and 20th June 2019 seeking for your intervention to have detained Rwandans access consular services and be freed from illegal detention or tried if evidence points to criminal wrongdoing.”

The AG added: “I write to you, again, to bring to your attention Mr HATEGEKIMANA’S family lawyers’ demand for justice and to personally seek your intervention to cause investigation into the alleged torture that broke Mr HATEGEKIMANA Silas’s rib and injured his lung that resulted in his death.”

“I seek to count on your full support so the late HATEGEKIMANA Silas gets the justice his family has demanded and rightly deserves.”

This newspaper reported last week that Hategekimana had succumbed to complications from weeks of torture he endured while in CMI detention. CMI stands for Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, Uganda’s military intelligence organ.

Hategekimana, who survived by his wife and three children, was part of a group of 20 torture victims – mostly ADEPR faithful – that was irregularly deported to Rwanda through the Kagitumba border post on June 12.

Upon arrival in Rwanda, he said he had spent 18 days in CMI detention facilities in Kampala having been arrested, along with several others, in the Kampala suburb of Kibuye.

He told journalists at the time that he had been subjected to severe torture throughout his detention, and later joined several other Rwandans in seeking justice by filing a case against the Ugandan government with the East African Court of Justice.

Speaking to The New Times last week, his widow, Annonciata Nyirahabimana, blamed his death on Ugandan authorities and demanded justice.

“CMI killed my husband,” she said Thursday last week. “I cannot rest until he gets justice, even if he’s no longer with us.”

Like hundreds of other Rwandan nationals believed to be held in mostly ungazetted detention centers across Uganda, Hategekimana and other Rwandan nationals who have been deported by Uganda over the last couple of months were accused of spying for Rwanda, a claim they rejected.

In his letter to Uganda’s Attorney General, Minister Busingye again asked his counterpart to allow “Rwandans still in illegal detention in Uganda” consular access, and have them “tried or freed, whichever option the evidence on the basis of which they have been in custody, for long, points to.”

“I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that hundreds of Rwandans still languish in arbitrary, illegal and incommunicado detention in CMI cells and other illegal detention centres.

“If your intervention gave them consular access, then caused their release or prosecution, it would be a major step not only in the respect of their fundamental rights but also in providing my government with explanation to give their families who daily demand for the same,” the letter reads in part.

This, Busingye wrote, “would also be an act, Hon. Attorney General, to prevent the spectre of the unending illegal detention of Rwandans ending up in more ribs, lungs, other vital limbs and organs intentionally shattered.”

Hategekimana’s family told this newspaper last week that, a few days after his return to Rwanda, he started complaining of chest pain for which he was admitted to Kacyiru Hospital. Later he was transferred to Rwanda Military Hospital-Kanombe for further examination before he succumbed to wounds of torture.

His widow says he particularly experienced excruciating pain in the chest and in his right abdominal side. “He was in great pain, it’s something he had never experienced in all the years I had known him.”

An autopsy report, whose copy The New Times obtained, concluded that Hategekimana “had a 5th right rib fracture associated with silent old hemothorax and right lung abrasion. There was also the presence of right kidney laceration and a punctiform spleen wound with mild old hemoperitoneum.”

The report, signed by five experts including two pathologists, describes the manner of his death as “unnatural” and states the cause as “severe chest and abdominal blunt trauma.”

“They damaged his internal organs and left him to die slowly,” Nyirahabimana said.

“My husband was accused of spying for Rwanda, which was a big lie because all he did in Kampala was preaching the gospel and operating a commercial motorcycle business, he had never been involved in politics and had no interest in it.”

The family first arrived in Uganda in 2009, from Rubavu in Rwanda. They first stayed in Masaka region for about two years before moving to Kampala, Nyirahabimana said.

For eight years, they lived in the Ugandan capital without anyone harassing them and even got citizenship.

But all this changed on May 25, 2019. That’s when armed plainclothes men abducted Hategekimana along with other ADEPR members. They were roughed up, blindfolded, bundled into a waiting vehicle, and driven to CMI Headquarters in Mbuya in Kampala, Hategekimana told journalists shortly after his return to Rwanda in June.

It soon dawned on them that their abductors included CMI operatives and agents of Rwandan terrorist outfit RNC of fugitive Kayumba Nyamwasa, he told journalists back then.

What followed was unbearable cruelty at the hands of Ugandan security agents, working closely with elements “who spoke Kinyarwanda fluently”.

He described as “horrific” his experience at the hands of CMI and RNC operatives.

In August, President Paul Kagame and his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Luanda, Angola to resolve the standoff between the two countries and a subsequent joint ad hoc commission comprised of senior officials from both sides is set to hold its first meeting in Kigali on Monday next week.

In March, Kigali issued an advisory against travel to Uganda citing continued harassment, illegal arrests, torture and irregular deportations of Rwandan nationals in Uganda; Kampala’s active support to dissident and terrorist groups bent on destabilizing Rwanda; and economic sabotage.

The Rwandan government has said it can only lift the travel advisory after Kampala has released all Rwandan nationals who were arbitrarily arrested and thrown into torture chambers.

A group of 32 Rwandans – mostly ADEPR faithful– is the latest to be released and deported to Rwanda. They arrived at the Kagitumba border on Thursday night.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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