Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Rwandan government of engaging in a campaign of “extraterritorial repression,” which includes violence and threats against its critics outside the country’s borders. The report, released on Tuesday, highlights a pattern of alleged human rights abuses by the Rwandan government.
Rwanda has been under the de facto leadership of President Paul Kagame since the 1994 genocide, and the veteran president is planning to extend his rule in upcoming elections. HRW claims that to maintain its control, the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front has responded forcefully and violently to perceived threats to its power.
The HRW report, which included interviews with over 150 individuals, documents numerous cases of killings, kidnappings, attempted kidnappings, enforced disappearances, and physical attacks against Rwandans living abroad. These actions are not limited to critics and opponents within Rwanda itself.
In response to the allegations, Yolande Makolo, a spokeswoman for the Rwandan government, dismissed HRW’s claims, stating that HRW presents a distorted image of Rwanda.
The release of the HRW report coincided with the Supreme Court in London conducting hearings into an appeal by the British government against a ruling that blocked its plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.
HRW’s report emphasizes that these violent abuses are alarmingly frequent, particularly in African countries and in nations where the Rwandan government has an active presence, including a military presence. In some instances, countries have allegedly colluded with Rwanda or turned a blind eye to these acts happening on their soil.
While attacks on the Rwandan diaspora in Europe and North America are less common, their occurrence contributes to a climate of fear, even among those living thousands of kilometers away from Rwanda. To pressure or punish individuals beyond its reach, Kagame’s government reportedly harasses and threatens the relatives of critics in Rwanda.
HRW contends that countries with close ties to Rwanda, including the United Kingdom and United States, rarely raise human rights concerns in their interactions with the Rwandan government. This lack of international response has left many Rwandans feeling as though they have nowhere to turn.