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This article presents an overview of human rights in Rwanda.

During the Rwandan Genocide in 1994, 800,000 people were murdered.[1]

Subsequent governments, including the current government led by President Paul Kagame, have been accused by Amnesty International of numerous human rights violations, notably extrajudicial killings. According to Amnesty International, between December 1997 and May 1998, thousands of Rwandans "disappeared" or were murdered by members of government security forces and of armed opposition groups. Amnesty International states that the Rwandan Patriotic Army and armed opposition forces both "deliberately target unarmed civilians", including children.[2]

According to Human Rights Watch, Rwandan troops involved in the Second Congo War were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Congolese civilians.[3] At the time, Pasteur Bizimungu was President of Rwanda, while Paul Kagame was Vice-President and Minister of Defence.

Regarding human rights under the current government of President Paul Kagame, Human Rights Watch has accused Rwandan police of several instances of extrajudicial killings and deaths in custody.[4][5] In June 2006, the International Federation of Human Rights and Human Rights Watch described what they called "serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Rwanda Patriotic Army".[6]

According to The Economist, Kagame "allows less political space and press freedom at home than Robert Mugabe does in Zimbabwe", and "[a]nyone who poses the slightest political threat to the regime is dealt with ruthlessly".[7]

The United States' government in 2006 described the human rights record of the Kagame government as "mediocre", citing the "disappearances" of political dissidents, as well as arbitrary arrests and acts of violence, torture and murders committed by police. US authorities listed human rights problems including the existence of political prisoners and limited freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion.[8]

Reporters Without Borders listed Rwanda in 147th place out of 169 for freedom of the press in 2007[9], and reported that "Rwandan journalists suffer permanent hostility from their government and surveillance by the security services". It cited cases of journalists being threatened, harassed and arrested for criticising the government. According to Reporters Without Borders, "President Paul Kagame and his government have never accepted that the press should be guaranteed genuine freedom."[10]

In December 2008, a draft report commissioned by the United Nations, to be presented to the Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council, alleged that Kagame's Rwanda was supplying child soldiers to Tutsi rebels in Nord-Kivu, D.R. Congo, in the context of the conflict in Nord-Kivu in 2008. The report also alleged that Rwanda was supplying General Laurent Nkunda with "military equipment, the use of Rwandan banks, and allow[ing] the rebels to launch attacks from Rwandan territory on the Congolese army".[11]

In July 2009, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative issued a report[12] critical of the human rights situation in Rwanda. It highlighted "a lack of political freedom and harassment of journalists".[13] It urged the Rwandan government to enact legislation enabling freedom of information, and to "authorise the presence of an opposition in the next election".[14] It also emphasised abuses carried out by Rwandan troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and described Rwanda’s overall human rights situation as "very poor"[15]:

"The report details a country in which democracy, freedom of speech, the press and human rights are undermined or violently abused, in which courts fail to meet international standards, and a country which has invaded its neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo, four times since 1994. […] Censorship is prevalent, according to the report, and the government has a record of shutting down independent media and harassing journalists. It concludes that Rwanda's constitution is used as a ‘façade’ to hide ‘the repressive nature of the regime’ and backs claims that Rwanda is essentially an ‘an army with a state’."[16]

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