Take hard stance against HRW, legislators tell govt

Parliament has urged the Government to urgently revisit its relationship with the US-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) over what it described as “continued deliberate false' reports on Rwanda.

Parliament has urged the Government to urgently revisit its relationship with the US-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) over what it described as “continued deliberate false” reports on Rwanda.

This is one of the resolutions from yesterday’s consultative meeting between a joint session of both chambers of parliament and National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) that sought to devise the way forward on a ‘flawed’ July 13 HRW report titled “All Thieves Must Be Killed”.

The organisation has published many controversial reports on Rwanda, in which it has claimed extrajudicial killings, unlawful detentions, lack of political space and media freedoms, among others.

SEE ALSOHRW on the spot over false reports on Rwanda

But the National Commission for Human Rights, in a report it released last week after an investigation, debunked HRW’s latest report in which it published names of Rwandans who had allegedly been “summarily executed” by security organs over what they called petty crimes.

However, NCHR established that seven of those allegedly executed were actually alive, while others had died of natural causes or accidents.

Some of those alleged to have been killed attended a news briefing at the commission headquarters in Kigali and threatened to sue HRW for damages.

During yesterday’s meeting at Parliament Building, the Chairperson of NCHR, Madeleine Nirere, told lawmakers that based on the commission’s findings, they have called on international and national institutions to which the Human Rights Watch report was submitted to disregard its contents because the entire report was built on “fabricated information.”

“The Commission found major errors in the HRW report, which raises serious concerns about the way Human Rights Watch conducts its work,” Nirere said.

Legal redress

Established in 1978, Human Rights Watch’s role was to bring forth accurate fact-findings, impartial reporting and promote effective use of media, and targeted advocacy, often in partnership with local human rights groups but parliamentarians yesterday said the organisation’s biased reports on Rwanda amounted to a political campaign rather than human rights advocacy.

“The Parliament of Rwanda is convinced that HRW did not use professionalism, skills, truth and independence, which should be the basis of its work in order to win credibility as an international human rights organisation,” the House said in a statement released after the consultative meeting.

Alphonse Majyambere and Elias Habyalimana, two of those who were falsely reported by HRW to have been executed by the country’s security forces, have since asked the Government to help them seek legal redress.

“Someone should pay for declaring us dead,” Majyambere told The New Times.

MP Constance Rwaka Mukayuhi told the August House that for HRW to pronounce people dead yet they are alive constituted a shameful act on the part of the organisation and demonstrated its ill-motives on matters Rwanda.

“They must be called out and held accountable for peddling such serious falsehoods,” she said.

Senator Gallican Niyongana labelled the HRW report as “shocking” and “a disgrace”.

“The Government should revisit whatever relationship it has with HRW,” Niyongama said.

MP Samuel Musabyimana said that HRW is “working hard” to undermine the progress of Rwanda and discredit its government.

‘Anti-Rwanda propagandist’

He asked the organisation to withdraw the report and apologise to Rwandans.

Musabyimana’s sentiments were shared by MP Gabriel Semasaka, who said that, by deliberately and continuously publishing such falsehoods about Rwanda, HRW is pushing for an agenda.

“They (HRW) target security organs and the leadership of the country because they know they are the most trusted organs of our country. They simply want to incite the public and to lay ground for a leader of their choice. That is as simply absurd,” Semasaka said.

MP Ruku Rwabyoma described Kenneth Roth, the long-serving executive director of Human Rights Watch, as an “anti-Rwanda propagandist”.

In its resolutions adopted yesterday, the Parliament condemned HRW for its “ignominious acts” and misinformation campaign targeting Rwanda and its leaders and institutions.

“The Parliament requests the Government to re-examine the memorandum of understanding between the Government and Human Rights Watch,” reads part of the resolutions.

Parliament asked the government to report to the House within 30 days on measures taken to implement its resolutions.

The House’s resolutions will also be transmitted to UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Execution, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, they said.