Open Letter to All Commonwealth Heads of Authorities
Civil culture businesses all around the earth are contacting on the Rwandan authorities to allow an impartial, neutral, and helpful investigation into the loss of life in custody of Kizito Mihigo, a common gospel singer and peace activist. As your governments mark Commonwealth Day nowadays and put together to go to the Commonwealth Heads of Govt Meeting in Kigali in June, we are crafting to ask you to have interaction with your counterparts in the Rwandan federal government in support of this connect with.
On February 14, 2020, the Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) verified that Mihigo experienced been arrested close to the border, accused of attempting to illegally cross into Burundi, becoming a member of “terrorist” groups and of corruption, as properly breaching the terms of his launch from prison in 2018. Just days afterwards, on February 17, 2020, Rwanda Countrywide Law enforcement announced that Mihigo experienced been uncovered lifeless in his police cell in Kigali at 5 am that morning, in an alleged suicide.
Even so, there are good reasons to doubt this version of occasions. In Rwanda, dissidents and important voices are usually the focus on of threats, judicial harassment, and arbitrary arrest. In modern many years, various opposition associates and journalists have long gone missing or been uncovered lifeless in suspicious circumstances. Soon after he released a track in 2014 expressing compassion for victims of the genocide and of other violence, understood as a reference to the crimes fully commited by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front as it took regulate of the nation in 1994, Mihigo was threatened, detained incommunicado for 9 times and subsequently prosecuted for conspiracy from the authorities, among the other charges. On 27 February 2015, he was discovered responsible and sentenced to 10 years. Immediately after his presidential pardon and release in 2018, and up to the days right before his dying, Mihigo knowledgeable contacts that he was staying threatened to give false testimony versus political opponents of the authorities and required to flee the nation because he feared for his safety.
The news of Mihigo’s death brought on shockwaves in Rwanda and outside of. Before falling out of favour with the government in2014, Mihigo experienced performed a popular function in Rwandan general public lifetime including serving to to compose the new nationwide anthem in 2001 and frequently carrying out at official capabilities. A genocide survivor himself, Mihigo’s do the job to advertise reconciliation received equally widespread recognition in 2011, for example, Very first Woman Jeannette Kagame presented him with a Celebrating Younger Rwandan Achievers award in honour of his do the job.
According to Basic Comment No. 3 on Short article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, “where a man or woman dies in state custody, there is a presumption of condition obligation and the stress of evidence rests upon the point out to prove usually by way of a prompt, neutral and clear investigation carried out by an unbiased entire body.” Similarly the Revised United Nations Guide on the Productive Prevention and Investigation of Excess-authorized, Arbitrary and Summary Executions (the Minnesota Protocol), gives that there is a common presumption of state duty for a demise in custody, until confirmed or else, and underlines that this is specifically so in cases “where the deceased was, prior to his or her death, a political opponent of the authorities or a human legal rights defender was known to be suffering from psychological wellness troubles or dedicated suicide in unexplained situation.”
On the day that Mihigo’s death was declared, and in advance of an unbiased investigation could have been performed, RIB spokesperson Marie-Michelle Umuhoza told area media that Mihigo had “strangled himself” with his bedsheets, had displayed “unusual behavior” while in custody, and had refused to discuss with investigators, his law firm and his family members. On February 26, citing an autopsy report, the Nationwide Public Prosecution Authority concluded that Mihigo’s loss of life “resulted from suicide by hanging” and stated that it would not go after criminal costs.
Mihigo is just one of several detainees to have died in suspicious situations although in detention in Rwanda over the final a number of a long time. Impartial, neutral and helpful investigations capable of main to credible prosecutions are necessary to discourage foreseeable future violations and to boost accountability, justice, and the rule of regulation, and failure to perform these types of investigations is a violation of the state’s obligations underneath the right to existence.
To make sure justice for Mihigo’s demise, Rwandan authorities should permit an impartial human body to carry out an neutral, comprehensive and transparent investigation.
In the Commonwealth Charter of 2013, member states reaffirmed their main values and principles, like upholding human rights, independence of expression, the rule of regulation and the job of civil society. Keeping the CHOGM summit in Rwanda without having addressing the absence of development by Rwandan authorities to accountability for human legal rights issues more frequently, and Mihigo’s demise in particular, casts really serious doubts on the Commonwealth’s human legal rights commitments.
For the sake of human rights in Rwanda and the integrity of the Commonwealth, we urge you to support the contact on the Rwandan authorities to permit an unbiased, neutral, and effective investigation into Mihigo’s loss of life in custody.
- Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT-France)
- Africa Human Legal rights Community (AHRN)
- African Baby Care Network (ACCN)
- Amnesty International
- Write-up 19 Japanese Africa
- Artirial Community
- Asian Discussion board for Human Rights and Growth (Discussion board-ASIA)
- Australian Centre for Worldwide Justice
- Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM)
- Bytes for All
- Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
- Defend Defenders
- Defenders Coalition Kenya
- Ethiopian Human Legal rights Defenders Center (EHRDC)
- FIDH in the framework of the Observatory for the protection of Human Legal rights Defenders
- Hammerl Arts Rights Transfer (HART)
- Human Legal rights Defenders Network-Sierra Leone
- Human Rights View
- Humanitarian Progress Group HDO
- Maldivian Democracy Community (MDN)
- Network of Civil Society Companies for the Observation and Checking of Elections in Guinea (ROSE)
- Nile Initiative for Progress NID
- Ole Reitov, Artistic Freedom Specialist
- PEN America
- PEN Intercontinental
- PEN Uganda
- Quill Basis
- Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
- Réseau de Défenseurs des Droits Humains de l’Afrique Centrale
- South Sudan Human Legal rights Defenders Community
- Southern Africa Human Legal rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN)
- The Middle for Peace and Advocacy
- The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation (Malta)
- The Voice Project
- Vanguard Africa
- Globe Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within just the framework of the Observatory for the Security of Human Rights Defenders
Track record on Kizito Mihigo’s past arrest
On February 27, 2015, Kizito Mihigo was sentenced to 10 a long time in jail for conspiracy versus the recognized governing administration or the President of the Republic, forming a felony gang, and conspiracy to murder subsequent a demo which relied on confessions alleged to have been obtained through torture.
He had been arrested on April 6, 2014 and held incommunicado for nine times, through which time he reported senior governing administration officials continuously questioned him about a religious track, Igisobanuro cy’Urupfu (The This means of Dying), he experienced created in March in which he prayed for all those people killed like victims of the genocide and victims of other violence. He said they also questioned him about his alleged backlinks with the exiled opposition group, the Rwanda Countrywide Congress, and that law enforcement officers beat him and compelled him to confess to the offenses with which he was afterwards charged in court docket. In a recording Mihigo manufactured on Oct 6, 2016 while in prison, which was made public following his loss of life, he explains his summary that his prosecution was politically determined in an effort to suppress the tune.
In the recording, Mihigo explained conferences with many significant-stage authorities officers, who he stated told him that the president did not like his song and that he need to “ask for forgiveness,” or threat loss of life. In the recording, Mihigo also explained his incommunicado detention from April 6 to 15, 2014, in the course of which he claimed he was crushed and interrogated by Dan Munyuza, the then Deputy Inspector Common of Police and current Inspector Common of Police, who explained to him to plead guilty and “ask for forgiveness” or confront a daily life sentence and demise in jail. These allegations recommend Mihigo was a victim of torture and other ill-treatment method, as very well as other serious violations of his rights to a honest trial, liberty, physical integrity and protection.