Rights groups on Friday urged leaders attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) this month to pressure Rwanda to release dissidents and improve its “bad” record on freedom of expression.
The East African country, ruled by President Paul Kagame since the end of the 1994 genocide which left some 800 000 mainly ethnic Tutsis dead, has often come under fire for rights abuses.
AFP reports that twenty-three organisations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International, expressed concern about human rights in Rwanda. Reads their joint statement:
We express our grave concerns about the human rights situation in Rwanda as it prepares to host the meeting in June 2022.
The campaigners asked the Commonwealth, made up mainly of former British colonies comprising 54 countries, to insist that Rwandan authorities “immediately drop the charges against and release all of those currently detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression”.
Kigali should also “publicly commit and guarantee that civil society and media — including those from Rwanda — will be allowed to work freely and raise human rights issues without fear of reprisals during and after their participation in CHOGM.”
The campaigners also urged the CHOGM attendees to press Rwanda to allow an international investigation into high-profile cases involving rights violations.
Asked about the campaigners’ demands, government spokeswoman Yolande Makolo on Friday said “Rwandans have been working round the clock to ensure readiness for CHOGM, and we look forward to hosting leaders and delegates in our country.”
Rwanda has been cracking down on people using YouTube or blogs to speak out about sometimes controversial issues in Rwanda.