Rwanda's police have called a Human Rights Watch report that documents an increase in the number of people missing in the country "false".
Rwandan police have dismissed a rights report accusing the state of forced disappearances, saying there were “no missing” people but that they had arrested dozens as part of anti-terrorism operations.
The US-based Human Rights Watch said on Friday it had documented an increasing number of people who have been forcibly disappeared or have been reported missing since March. But late on Saturday, Rwanda’s police called the report “false and unfounded”, and said that they had arrested more than 35 people alleged to be involved in a “conspiracy against established government and terror activities”.
“There are no missing persons and the accusations are false, baseless and have no evidence,” police spokesperson Damas Gatare said in a statement late on Saturday. “It took some time to crack down on members of this network but we have over 35 suspects who will be handed over to [the] prosecution,” he added.
Human Rights Watch said it had “detailed accounts of 14 people who have been forcibly disappeared or who have been reported missing” in Rubavu, a district in the Rwanda’s Western Province, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.
‘Involvement of state agents’
It also said there were “indications of involvement of state agents in the disappearance”. “Enforced disappearances are a heinous crime, not least because of the anguish and suffering they cause to family and friends,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Gatere admitted that security forces had shot dead one suspect, Alfred Nsengimana, when he tried to run from police on Friday as he was taken to show them a cache of guns. Nsengimana “tried to escape and he was shot and killed by a Rwanda Correctional Services guard,” Gatere added.
The allegations came as Rwanda continues to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide, but also amid mounting criticism of the alleged suppression of political dissent by Rwanda’s strongman President Paul Kagame. Kagame’s regime has also been accused of assassinating opposition figures and dissidents who are based abroad, charges the authorities in Kigali have strongly denied. – AFP.