HRW on the spot over false reports on Rwanda

Looking rather displeased, Alphonse Majyambere narrated to Saturday Times how he met officials from the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) asking for his details.
Majyambere (2nd R) with other witnesses who came to the commission to debunk claims by Human Rights Watch. Faustin Niyigena.
Majyambere (2nd R) with other witnesses who came to the commission to debunk claims by Human Rights Watch. Faustin Niyigena.

Looking rather displeased, Alphonse Majyambere narrated to Saturday Times how he met officials from the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) asking for his details.

He was a bit disturbed, he says, answering to strangers, at least until they identified themselves to him. “I told them my names and they asked for my identity card which I provided,” Majyambere, a resident of Rutsiro said.

An ID belonging to Majyambere, a Rutsiro resident whom HRW had claimed was killed. Athan Tashobya

He added that it is at this point he was told that some people had made claims that he was dead, and the NCHR officials were investigating the authenticity of the allegations, justifying the reason they wanted to see his ID.


“That was quite shocking and disturbing to hear because I would never know the person behind such kind of falsehoods.”


In July this year, US rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report titled, “All Thieves must Be Killed”; alleging execution of some dozens of Rwandans in Rubavu and Rutsiro districts.

The report alleged that some people were killed because they are suspected thieves, drug dealers, illegally crossing the border, illegal fishermen, among others.

The report also points out that some victims were killed by the army, police, Reserve Forces and DASSO while others were killed by individuals on the orders of local government authorities.

However, some seven persons reported executed in the HRW report were found to be alive, including Majyambere, Tharcisse Nsanzabera, Daphrose Nyirabavakure, Jovan Karasankima, Elias Habyalimana, Donati Nzamwitakuze and Emmanuel Hanyurwabake.

Majyambere holds his health insurance card yesterday. Athan Tashobya.

“I don’t understand why someone would claim that I had been killed by security organs that have done so much to restore peace and stability in the country. Who am I? Why would the government kill an ordinary farmer living in the remotest part of the country?” he wondered.

He says that he would take to court whoever made the outrageous claims, should he get legal representation.

His sentiments are shared by several others who were reported dead by the Human Rights Watch.

Pelagie Nikuze is a mother of two and wife to Elias Habyalimana, who was also among those claimed to have been executed by the HRW report.

“They asked me about my husband’s activities in Lake Kivu and I told them that my husband never engaged in any of such and he is not even in the country,” Nikuze narrates of her encounter with the NCHR researchers.

Nikuze (C) shares a testimony at the Commission offices. She said her husband is alive and pursuing further studies in Belgium and was not killed. Faustin Niyigena. 

Apparently, Habyalimana was among those fishermen killed because they used illegal fishing nets, which Nikuze says it was not true.

“My husband has no engagement related to fishing in Lake Kivu, he actually got a scholarship and is now pursing his studies in Belgium. We talked a little while ago (she displays mobile call log with a Belgian number saved as Papa Diyane.”

The resident of Nyarubuye cell in Rutsiro District said that she came to the commission headquarters in Nyarutarama, Gasabo District on instruction from her husband.

“He asked me to come here and tell the world that he is alive.”

Habyalimana was actually in the country last January and regularly communicates with his family, according to his wife.

“I actually got to know about the speculations about the alleged death of my husband after he had visited the family and returned to Belgium.”

She called on authorities to ensure that those that came up with the unfounded allegations are brought to account.

Madeleine Nirere, the Chairperson of NCHR, while announcing the commission’s findings following a forensic investigation of the HRW claims, noted that as much as the US-based body has a right to report on human rights, publishing falsehoods was absurd.

“Our investigations did not intend to respond to the report made by HRW but rather to find out the authenticity of such claims and if justice had been served to the victims and their families,” she said.

“That is how we ended up discovering that what was actually reported by HRW was not true.”

The findings

Besides the seven people who were reported dead but are still alive, the national rights commission’s findings further reveal that in the HRW report, there are “major errors”, including getting people’s names wrong, which further erodes its credibility.

For example, she said, in one instance, the report talks about Pascal Nsabiyeze while the correct names is Alias Nsabiyeze.

Four persons reported as having been killed were found to have died of natural diseases.

These include; Thaddé Uwintwali, Jean Kanyesoko, Innocent Habimana, and Jean Damascène Ntiriburakaryo.

HRW reported that six people were executed by the Rwanda Defence Forces, National Police or DASSO officers yet they died as a result of various accidents.

These include: Jean de Dieu Bihibindi, Samuel Minani, Amurani Bazangirabate, Djuma Ntakingora, Vedaste Renzaho and Emmanuel Ntamuhanga.

On two individuals, Jean Claude Barayavuga and Théoneste Uzamutuma, reported by HRW to have been killed by individuals on orders from local authorities, the Commission established that perpetrators were prosecuted and sentenced by courts as they were found to have committed the crime in their own capacities.

Furthermore, there are 10 persons reported to have been executed, but who are unknown to local authorities of administrative entities singled out in HRW report.

These are; Innocent Mbarushimana, Jean Damascène Ntahondereye, Emmanuel Niyigena, Nzabandora Ndayishimiye, Hakuzimana Basabose, Naftal Nteziriza, François Buhagarike, Bemeriki Alexandre, Jean de Dieu Habiyaremye, and Vincent Nshimiyimana;

“The allegation that 10 persons reported by HRW were executed by the Rwandan military or police officers after being accused of theft and executed on orders according to which all thieves must be killed is not true,” the Commission’s report reads in part.

For years, Human Rights Watch has published reports on Rwanda, in most cases littered with regurgitated and fictitious allegations which the government has always debunked as made up and politically motivated.

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