Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Major-General Paul Kagame
Head of government: Bernard Makuza
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not signed

"Disappearances", arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions and torture and ill-treatment of detainees were reported. At least 40 individuals were sentenced to death for crimes committed during the 1994 genocide; no executions took place. There were approximately 112,000 individuals in detention at the end of 2002; around 100,000 were suspected of participation in the 1994 genocide. Many had been held for prolonged periods without charge or trial, in conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Trials of genocide suspects continued at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania. In eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwandese military and allied forces were responsible for the deaths of civilians; torture, including rape; "disappearances"; and the systematic harassment of human rights defenders. Many perpetrators of human rights violations, particularly state security agents, both within Rwanda and in the eastern DRC, continued to benefit from impunity. Grave human rights violations committed by state security agents were largely ignored. Several people were detained for their alleged connections with political opposition figures.


The security situation improved within Rwanda; there were no new incursions by armed opposition groups. Nonetheless, the continuing focus on security led to further human rights violations.

In July, the Rwandese and DRC governments signed a bilateral agreement. The Rwandese government pledged to withdraw its troops and the DRC government promised to round up, disarm and repatriate members of armed Rwandese opposition groups. The UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) confirmed the completed withdrawal of Rwandese troops on 4 October, which was verified by the Third Party Verification Mechanism on 24 October. There were numerous reports regarding the re-entry of Rwandese troops into the DRC.

A draft constitution was presented to the National Assembly on 7 November. A constitutional referendum was scheduled for March 2003. Presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for 2003. There was no indication that the new constitution would allow political opposition groups to participate effectively in these elections. The government continued to wield almost complete military, political and economic control over the country, silencing criticism or challenge to its authority.

Nearly all 23,478 Rwandese refugees in Tanzania had been repatriated by the end of the year. The repatriation of these refugees followed informal consultations between the governments of Tanzania and Rwanda and the UNHCR.

In August, the Rwandese government began to forcibly repatriate some of the more than 30,000 Congolese refugees, the majority ethnic Tutsi from the Kivu region, who had fled the DRC in 1995 and 1996 to escape persecution by Interahamwe militias. By mid-September some 8,500 refugees had been returned. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) protested against this forced repatriation. Local authorities in Rwanda and officials of the Rwandese-backed Congolese armed opposition group, the Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie-Goma (RCD-Goma), Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma, in the DRC were reported to be putting pressure on returning refugees to join RCD-Goma. Forced repatriation was continuing at the end of the year, albeit at a slower pace.


Tens of "disappearances" were reported. No independent investigations of these reports were carried out. Many of the "disappeared" had served in the security forces or were allegedly supporters of opposition political parties.

  • François Matabaro, a soldier in the 23rd Battalion of the Rwandese Defence Forces, "disappeared" on 29 October. He had apparently left the Military Camp of Kigali without permission and returned to his parents' home. He was apprehended at the home of his wife's parents by eight men in civilian clothes, some of them armed. François Matabaro was last seen being forced into a vehicle by an armed man. Military authorities in the Military Prosecutor's Office and the Military Camp in Kigali told family members that they knew nothing about the case.
Arbitrary detention

Several individuals suspected of criticizing the government or of being associated with critics of the government were detained without charge or trial.
  • On 24 April, 11 people were arrested in Gaseke district, Gisenyi province. This was followed in May by the arrest of 13 people in the city of Kigali, all seemingly held for their non-violent and legitimate connections with imprisoned former President and opposition politician, Pasteur Bizimungu (see below). All but six of the detainees had been released by the end of the year; two were released after reportedly signing forced confessions.
Torture and ill-treatment

People were beaten following their arrest or apprehension by the security forces. Individuals with alleged connections to various political opposition parties were particularly singled out for such abuses. Most were detained in desperately overcrowded and insanitary conditions, amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; some died as a result. Women were reportedly subjected to violence and sexual abuse, including rape. There were reports that people who confessed to crimes committed during the genocide or to being involved in illegal political activities did so under duress. Wives were reportedly subjected to electric shocks and rape to obtain incriminating evidence against their husbands.
  • Jean Kayiranga was arrested in February 1995 accused of killing a young boy, Kalisa, during the genocide. At his trial, which began in Gitarama on 24 July 2001, he retracted his confession, claiming that it was extracted under torture. Several eyewitnesses testified that Jean Kayiranga was not present at the killing. On 11 February 2002, the court acquitted him.
Genocide trials

Approximately 1,300 people were tried in connection with the 1994 genocide in 2002, about the same number tried in 2001. By the end of 2002, the Specialized Chambers, which became operational in December 1996, had tried about 7,700 individuals suspected of participating in the genocide. In many cases, trials did not meet international standards of fairness. At least 40 defendants were sentenced to death. There were no judicial executions.

The relatively low number of trials was attributed to the temporary stoppage in the assignment of cases to judges, the transfer of detainees to itinerant judicial seats, the progressive disengagement of Avocats Sans Frontières (Lawyers Without Borders) and other non-governmental agencies that had been assisting the courts, and the beginning of the gacaca jurisdictions.

For six weeks beginning on 6 April, some 254,162 gacaca tribunal lay magistrates received several days of instruction regarding basic principles of law, group management, conflict resolution, judicial ethics and trauma counselling.

The gacaca jurisdictions were inaugurated on 18 June but became operational in only 73 cells chosen as a pilot project for this community-based system of justice. On 25 November, gacaca tribunals became operational in another 673 cells. It was projected that another 8,258 tribunals would become operational in March 2003.

There are concerns that gacaca tribunals may fall short of minimum international standards of fairness, in particular with regard to whether or not the defence and prosecution will be treated equally; whether gacaca benches are competent, independent and impartial; and whether there will be adequate protection for all those involved in the gacaca sessions and hearings.

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Trials of leading genocide suspects continued at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). At the end of 2002, there were 61 detainees. Seven ongoing trials involving 22 defendants, two of which began in 2000 and three in 2001, had not been completed by the end of 2002. Two trials, one begun in 2000 and one in 2001, closed in June and August respectively but final judgments had not been rendered by the end of the year.

Angola, Cameroon, the DRC and Tanzania arrested five suspects and transferred them to the ICTR for trial. In 2000, the US Congress expanded its Rewards for Justice program to include the apprehension of individuals indicted by the ICTR. In June and July the program was extended to focus on such individuals in Kenya and the DRC. Two people were reported to have been arrested as a result of this program.

The ICTR initiated four reforms in July that promised to expedite procedures and ensure that important cases would be tried before its projected 2008 closure. The ICTR is now empowered to transfer those indicted to national courts for prosecution, to assign legal counsel to a case if it is in the interest of justice, and to accept written statements as well as oral testimony.

In June, the Rwandese government changed its travel regulations for witnesses giving evidence at the ICTR, allegedly in order to delay trials. Two ongoing trials were adjourned several times owing to the lack of witnesses. In August, the President of the ICTR wrote to the UN Security Council accusing the Rwandese government of failing to cooperate with the Tribunal. The government in turn accused the ICTR of "mismanagement, incompetence and corruption". The government further stated that it would not cooperate with the ICTR prosecutor to investigate alleged war crimes committed by Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) members during the genocide and the armed conflict that brought the current government to power.

International justice
Other states continued to try individuals in connection with the 1994 genocide under their national jurisdiction or to deport them.
  • In January, Belgium's final court of appeal rejected the appeals for a retrial by a Rwandese businessman and two Rwandese nuns sentenced to prison in Brussels on 8 June 2001 for war crimes committed during the 1994 genocide. In July, the two nuns lodged a petition with the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that Belgium had violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. The case was still pending at the end of 2002.
  • A Rwandese man arrested in the USA in December 2001 accused of genocide remained detained pending deportation at the end of 2002. This was the first case of its kind brought by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Freedom of expression

Members of the press, the political opposition and elements within civil society not aligned with the government, or critical of it, faced continuing infringements on their freedom of expression. Self-censorship was rife, with individuals, particularly journalists, unable to cover certain subjects. During the year, journalists were imprisoned, deported and driven into exile.
  • On 27 January and 2 February, three members of the Association Modeste et Innocent (AMI), the Modeste and Innocent Association, a Rwandese non-governmental organization promoting national peace and reconciliation which takes its names from its founders Modeste Mungwarareba and Innocent Samusoni, were arrested and detained in Butare. Ignace Ndayahundwa was released within hours of his arrest. Laurien Ntezimana and Didace Muremangingo were detained for nearly a month before a court determined that the charges against them were unsubstantiated. It was believed that their arrests related to the use in their bulletin, Ubuntu, of the word "ubuyanja" (renewal or rebirth), which is associated with the banned political opposition party, the Parti Démocratique pour le Renouveau-Ubuyanja (PDR-Ubuyanja), Democratic Party for Renewal-Ubuyanja. All three individuals remained under government surveillance at the end of the year and AMI was not allowed to operate.
Freedom of association and assembly

The Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) remained the only political party allowed to organize; all other political party activity remained banned.
  • Pierre Gakwandi, Secretary-General of the Mouvement Démocratique Républicain, Democratic Republican Movement, was detained on 4 January for giving a press interview considered to be "ethnically divisive". He remained detained in Kigali central prison at the end of the year.
  • Pasteur Bizimungu and his political ally, Charles Ntakirutinka, were arrested in April for illegal political activities relating to the May 2001 launch of the political party PDR-Ubuyanja. A Court of First Instance ordered their preventative detention. The Kigali Court of Appeal recognized that their first hearing had violated several provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, but still upheld their detention. Their trial, which began on 14 October on different charges, namely inciting civil disobedience, was continuing at the end of the year.
Freedom of religion

The situation with regard to religious freedom deteriorated. Local authorities harassed churches or religious organizations regarding requirements that they acquire legal status, that they hold their services in established places of worship and that they receive permission to hold evening services or meetings. There were also reports that local officials denied the rights of assembly and worship to and detained Jehovah's Witnesses.
  • Seven members of a congregation within the Association of Pentecostal Churches in Gikondo district, city of Kigali, were arrested and detained for 15 days in November. On 15 and 22 November members of the National Police Force and Local Defence Forces entered the church and attacked members of the congregation. No one had been held to account for these attacks by the end of 2002.
Abuses in the DRC

The Rwandese Patriotic army (RPA) and RCD-Goma continued to control large areas of the eastern DRC, in opposition to the DRC government and armed political groups which included Rwandese insurgents. The Rwandese forces and their allies were responsible for arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, unlawful killings of civilians, "disappearances", and torture, including rape (see Democratic Republic of the Congo entry).

There were numerous reports that the RPA and the Rwandese-backed RCD-Goma forces targeted Roman Catholic clergy for abuse. Abuses reported included arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, killings and "disappearances". There were also reports of death threats against religious leaders, pillaging and destruction of church property, and the use of armed soldiers to forcibly disperse religious services. Human rights defenders and civil society activists were also subjected to harassment, detention and ill-treatment.

Intergovernmental organizations

The UN Expert Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the DRC released its Final Report on 15 October. The report noted that the withdrawal of the RPA was having little or no effect on the economic exploitation of the DRC's resources by criminal groups linked to the RPA.

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