Open Letter to All Commonwealth Heads of Authorities
Civil society organizations around the globe are calling on the Rwandan authorities to permit an unbiased, neutral, and efficient investigation into the demise in custody of Kizito Mihigo, a well-liked gospel singer and peace activist. As your governments mark Commonwealth Day at this time and put together to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Authorities Assembly in Kigali in June, we’re writing to ask you to interact along with your counterparts within the Rwandan authorities in assist of this name.
On February 14, 2020, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) confirmed that Mihigo had been arrested near the border, accused of making an attempt to illegally cross into Burundi, becoming a member of “terrorist” teams and of corruption, as nicely breaching the phrases of his launch from jail in 2018. Simply days later, on February 17, 2020, Rwanda Nationwide Police introduced that Mihigo had been discovered lifeless in his police cell in Kigali at 5 am that morning, in an alleged suicide.
Nevertheless, there are causes to doubt this model of occasions. In Rwanda, dissidents and significant voices are sometimes the goal of threats, judicial harassment, and arbitrary arrest. In recent times, a number of opposition members and journalists have gone lacking or been discovered lifeless in suspicious circumstances. After he launched a music in 2014 expressing compassion for victims of the genocide and of different violence, understood as a reference to the crimes dedicated by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Entrance because it took management of the nation in 1994, Mihigo was threatened, detained incommunicado for 9 days and subsequently prosecuted for conspiracy in opposition to the federal government, amongst different prices. On 27 February 2015, he was discovered responsible and sentenced to 10 years. After his presidential pardon and launch in 2018, and as much as the times earlier than his demise, Mihigo knowledgeable contacts that he was being threatened to offer false testimony in opposition to political opponents of the federal government and wished to flee the nation as a result of he feared for his security.
The information of Mihigo’s demise induced shockwaves in Rwanda and past. Earlier than falling out of favour with the federal government in2014, Mihigo had performed a distinguished function in Rwandan public life together with serving to to compose the brand new nationwide anthem in 2001 and often acting at official capabilities. A genocide survivor himself, Mihigo’s work to advertise reconciliation acquired equally widespread recognition; in 2011, for instance, First Girl Jeannette Kagame introduced him with a Celebrating Younger Rwandan Achievers award in honour of his work.
In response to Basic Remark No. 3 on Article 4 of the African Constitution on Human and Peoples’ Rights, “the place an individual dies in state custody, there’s a presumption of state accountability and the burden of proof rests upon the state to show in any other case via a immediate, neutral and clear investigation carried out by an unbiased physique.” Likewise the Revised United Nations Guide on the Efficient Prevention and Investigation of Additional-legal, Arbitrary and Abstract Executions (the Minnesota Protocol), gives that there’s a normal presumption of state accountability for a demise in custody, except confirmed in any other case, and underlines that that is significantly so in instances “the place the deceased was, previous to his or her demise, a political opponent of the federal government or a human rights defender; was recognized to be affected by psychological well being points; or dedicated suicide in unexplained circumstances.”
On the day that Mihigo’s demise was introduced, and earlier than an unbiased investigation may have been performed, RIB spokesperson Marie-Michelle Umuhoza advised native media that Mihigo had “strangled himself” together with his bedsheets, had displayed “uncommon conduct” whereas in custody, and had refused to talk with investigators, his lawyer and his household. On February 26, citing an post-mortem report, the Nationwide Public Prosecution Authority concluded that Mihigo’s demise “resulted from suicide by hanging” and mentioned that it will not pursue legal prices.
Mihigo is one among a number of detainees to have died in suspicious circumstances whereas in detention in Rwanda during the last a number of years. Impartial, neutral and efficient investigations able to resulting in credible prosecutions are important to discourage future violations and to advertise accountability, justice, and the rule of regulation, and failure to conduct such investigations is a violation of the state’s obligations underneath the precise to life.
To make sure justice for Mihigo’s demise, Rwandan authorities ought to permit an unbiased physique to hold out an neutral, thorough and clear investigation.
Within the Commonwealth Constitution of 2013, member states reaffirmed their core values and rules, together with upholding human rights, freedom of expression, the rule of regulation and the function of civil society. Holding the CHOGM summit in Rwanda with out addressing the absence of progress by Rwandan authorities in the direction of accountability for human rights issues extra typically, and Mihigo’s demise particularly, casts severe doubts on the Commonwealth’s human rights commitments.
For the sake of human rights in Rwanda and the integrity of the Commonwealth, we urge you to assist the decision on the Rwandan authorities to permit an unbiased, neutral, and efficient investigation into Mihigo’s demise in custody.
Motion des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT-France)
African Little one Care Community ACCN
Article 19 Jap Africa
Asian Discussion board for Human Rights and Improvement (FORUM-ASIA)
Australian Centre for Worldwide Justice
Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)
Bytes for All
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
Defenders Coalition Kenya
Ethiopian Human Rights Defenders Middle (EHRDC)
FIDH inside the framework of the Observatory for the safety of Human Rights Defenders
Human Rights Defenders Community-Sierra Leone
Human Rights Watch
Humanitarian Improvement Group HDO
Maldivian Democracy Community (MDN)
Community of Civil Society Organizations for the Commentary and Monitoring of Elections in Guinea (ROSE)
Nile Initiative for Improvement NID
Ole Reitov, Inventive Freedom Knowledgeable
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains de l’Afrique Centrale
South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Community
Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Community (SAHRDN)
The Middle for Peace and Advocacy
The Daphne Caruana Galizia Basis (Malta)
The Voice Venture
World Organisation In opposition to Torture (OMCT), inside the framework of the Observatory for the Safety of Human Rights Defenders
Background on Kizito Mihigo’s earlier arrest
On February 27, 2015, Kizito Mihigo was sentenced to 10 years in jail for conspiracy in opposition to the established authorities or the President of the Republic, forming a legal gang, and conspiracy to homicide following a trial which relied on confessions alleged to have been obtained via torture.
He had been arrested on April 6, 2014 and held incommunicado for 9 days, throughout which period he mentioned senior authorities officers repeatedly questioned him a couple of spiritual music, Igisobanuro cy’Urupfu (The Which means of Demise), he had written in March wherein he prayed for all these killed together with victims of the genocide and victims of different violence. He mentioned in addition they questioned him about his alleged hyperlinks with the exiled opposition group, the Rwanda Nationwide Congress, and that law enforcement officials beat him and compelled him to admit to the offenses with which he was later charged in court docket. In a recording Mihigo made on October 6, 2016 whereas in jail, which was made public after his demise, he explains his conclusion that his prosecution was politically motivated in an effort to suppress the music.
Within the recording, Mihigo described conferences with a number of high-level authorities officers, who he mentioned advised him that the president didn’t like his music and that he ought to “express regret,” or threat demise. Within the recording, Mihigo additionally described his incommunicado detention from April 6 to fifteen, 2014, throughout which he mentioned he was overwhelmed and interrogated by Dan Munyuza, the then Deputy Inspector Basic of Police and present Inspector Basic of Police, who advised him to plead responsible and “express regret” or face a life sentence and demise in jail. These allegations recommend Mihigo was a sufferer of torture and different ill-treatment, in addition to different severe violations of his rights to a good trial, liberty, bodily integrity and safety.