Trigger-happy Rwandan police mow down prisoners

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by Theophile Mpozembizi

Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS) spokesperson Hillary Sengabo says an investigation is underway of the killing of three prisoners allegedly for an escape attempt. – Photo: African Media

FDU-Inkingi, the United Democratic Forces of Rwanda, a coalition of groups opposed to the current Kagame regime, condemns the murder of five prisoners in Huye Prison in the night of Jan. 23, 2019, allegedly for their attempt to escape. It calls on the government to end this barbarism that has become common in detention at police stations and government prisons.

According to a police spokesperson, three prisoners were shot dead while trying to escape Huye Prison, while the local newspapers gave a number of five people dead and their names. There is no mention of any survivors among those who were allegedly trying to escape, which clearly indicates that the mission was not to restrain but shoot to kill.

According to the local media, most of them were petty thieves, with sentences as low as one and half years. This prison has been notorious for its harsh conditions. There is a record of demonstrations this year against inhuman and degrading treatment, and refusal to receive food that prisoners’ relatives bring to feed them. One local resident told a reporter that they probably preferred death by the bullet than by starvation.

According to a police spokesperson, three prisoners were shot dead while trying to escape Huye Prison, while the local newspapers gave a number of five people dead and their names.

We would like to call to mind some of the prominent cases where the trigger-happy Rwandan police have killed people in cold blood.

Eric Hakizimana was shot by the police on June 15, 2014, while in police custody and handcuffed, alleging that he attempted to escape the prison. However, the other prisoners testified that when he was brought to prison, he had already been assaulted. The police reportedly took him out during the night to shoot him just Behind The Prison.

Dr. Emmanuel Gasakure, President Paul Kagame’s former longtime personal doctor, was shot dead by a police officer on duty on Feb. 25, 2015. The police had no shame to allege that he was shot in a scuffle while he was trying to snatch a gun from the police.

Nsengiyumva Francois from the Eastern province detained at Kibungo police station for the crime of minimizing genocide, was shot dead on April 19, 2018, allegedly trying to escape. It is also alleged that he pushed aside an armed policeman on duty in order to run away from prison.

Donat Mutunzi, a prominent lawyer, disappeared on April 13, 2018, on his way to work. He was found dead in Ndera Police Station of Gasabo District. The deceased’s wife, Valentine Ugirimpuhwe, was called by Ndera Police on April 23, 2018, to pick his body. The family was told that he had committed suicide using his bed sheet in the police cell.

The enforced disappearance of Boniface Twagirimana, first vice president of our party, FDU-Inkingi, mysteriously disappeared from a maximum security prison of Mpanga on Oct. 8, 2018.

Once again, we call on the international community to put pressure on the Rwandan government to investigate these killings, bring the culprits to justice and end this barbarism.

We would like to recall that the U.S. State Department’s country report on human rights for 2017 accuses the Rwandan government of “arbitrary or unlawful killings, torture, harassment, security forces’ disregard for the rule of law.” Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have made similar reports.

What is shocking is not that the trigger-happy policemen act with impunity, but the lack of political will by aid donners to use their leverage to bring the Rwandan government to end this brutality.

Once again, we call on the international community to put pressure on the Rwandan government to investigate these killings, bring the culprits to justice and end this barbarism.

FDU-Inkingi Commissioner for Information and Communication Theophile Mpozembizi can be reached at infocominfo@fdu-rwanda.com or info@fdu-rwanda.com.  

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