(Hong Kong) – The Chinese government should immediately abolish a secretive detention system used to coerce confessions from corruption suspects. The Communist Party-run system, known as shuanggui, has no basis under Chinese law but is a key component of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

“President Xi has built his anti-corruption campaign on an abusive and illegal detention system,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “Torturing suspects to confess won’t bring an end to corruption, but will end any confidence in China’s judicial system.”

The Chinese government should immediately abolish a secretive detention system used to coerce confessions from corruption suspects.

The 102-page report, “‘Special Measures’: Detention and Torture in Chinese Communist Party’s Shuanggui System,” details abuses against shuanggui detainees, including prolonged sleep deprivation, being forced into stress positions for extended periods of time, deprivation of water and food, and severe beatings. Detainees are also subject to solitary and incommunicado detention in unofficial detention facilities. After “confessing” to corruption, they are typically brought into the criminal justice system, convicted, and sentenced to often lengthy prison terms.

The report is based on 21 Human Rights Watch interviews with four former shuanggui detainees, as well as family members of detainees; 35 detailed accounts from detainees culled from over 200 Chinese media reports; and an analysis of 38 court verdicts from across the country. While there have been commentaries and analyses on the shuanggui system, the Human Rights Watch report is the first to contain firsthand accounts from detainees, as well as drawing on a wide variety of secondary, official sources.

Shuanggui not only further undermines China’s judiciary – it makes a mockery of it.

Sophie Richardson

China Director, Human Rights Watch

The Chinese Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) oversees the shuanggui system, to which all of the party’s 88 million members are subject. The CCDI and its lower-level offices, local Commissions for Discipline Inspection (CDIs), typically target government officials, but those detained also include bankers, university officials, and entertainment industry figures, among others. Bo Xilai, a former member of the party’s powerful Politburo, was reportedly held under shuanggui, where he said he confessed under “improper pressure” and was later sentenced to life in prison.

The start of a shuanggui investigation is often marked by an individual’s disappearance – family members are given no notification of the person’s detention or location, no information about the alleged infraction, or the length of detention. Detainees have no access to lawyers. Although there are time limits for shuanggui, CDI investigators can seek repeated extensions, permitting detainees to be held indefinitely, often until they confess. Shuanggui facilities are typically rooms in hostels with special features, such as padded walls or a lack of windows, to prevent suicides or escapes. Detainees are guarded round-the-clock by shifts of officials, often put together in an ad hoc fashion for this purpose, and subjected to interrogations by CDI officers.
 

© 2016 Human Rights Watch

A former shuanggui detainee told Human Rights Watch, “If you sit you have to sit for 12 hours straight, if you stand then you have to stand for 12 hours as well. My legs became swollen, and my buttocks were raw and started oozing pus.”

While President Xi has characterized the fight against corruption as a “matter of life and death” for the Communist Party, the same is true for shuanggui detainees: there have been at least 11 deaths in shuanggui custody reported by the media since 2010. In most cases, authorities claimed these were suicides, but family members often suspected mistreatment, and the lack of comprehensive, impartial investigations into these deaths deepens these suspicions. While former detainees reported that the harsh conditions in shuanggui prompted suicidal thoughts, they also said the constant surveillance and the room’s modifications, designed to prevent suicide attempts, made it difficult to put such thoughts into action.

Some CDIs, concerned about the reputational damage caused by deaths in custody, have partnered with hospitals and doctors to provide medical care for detainees whom the CDIs know will be subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.

CDIs are supposed to hand over evidence of crimes to the procuratorate, the state investigators and prosecutors who are responsible for investigating official crimes. Instead, Human Rights Watch found that procurators work together with CDI officers and participate directly in shuanggui. Such “joint investigations” extract confessions during shuanggui – where detainees have no procedural protections – and then use those confessions in formal legal proceedings. If in those proceedings detainees retract their confessions, claiming that they were made under duress, the procurators typically threaten to send them back to shuanggui. Judges commonly reject detainee objections in court on the grounds that shuanggui and its practices are outside of the scope of the judicial system.

“In shuanggui corruption cases, the courts function as rubber stamps, lending credibility to an utterly illegal Communist Party process,” Richardson said. “Shuanggui not only further undermines China’s judiciary – it makes a mockery of it.”

The shuanggui system has been a highly effective tool for Communist Party investigators: once they obtain a confession, there is little suspects can do to exonerate themselves. Acquittals are extremely rare, and, except in cases of detainee deaths, few investigators face punishments for abuses. Some interviewees told Human Rights Watch that those who tormented them and their families were promoted for their “effectiveness” in handling corruption cases.

China has a serious problem with corruption, but successfully combating it requires an independent judicial system, a free media, and robust protections for the rights of suspects, Human Rights Watch said. A crucial step is the abolition of shuanggui.

“Eradicating corruption won’t be possible so long as the shuanggui system exists,” Richardson said. “Every day this system threatens the lives of party members and underscores the abuses inherent in President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign.”
 

 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Dakar, September 4, 2015) – The trial of the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and torture will begin in earnest on September 7, 2015.

The long-awaited trial of Hissène Habré, was adjourned almost as soon as it was opened, as an outburst from the former dictator of Chad caused a scene in the courtroom.

When the landmark trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system formally opened on July 20, Habré had to be removed from court after an outburst. Habré’s lawyers then refused to appear and the trial was adjourned, giving new court-appointed lawyers time to study the case.  

“After 25 years of campaigning and 45 days waiting patiently, the survivors will finally get their day in court,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the victims since 1999. “Hissène Habré may try to create more disturbances, but he does not get a veto on whether he should be tried, or if the victims get justice.”

Habré has refused to communicate with the court-appointed lawyers, and it is expected that he will try to have them taken off the case. The president of the court, Gberdao Gustave Kam, has made clear, however, that in keeping with Senegalese law and international practice, the lawyers are needed to safeguard the rights of the accused and the integrity of the proceedings.

Habre is accused of tens of thousands of political killings as well as systematic torture during his rule, from 1982 to 1990. The trial is the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecute the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes.

Habré is standing trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system. The chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habré ruled Chad. Judge Kam, of Burkina Faso, president of the Trial Chamber, will hear the case along with two senior Senegalese judges.

The trial is expected to last two months, with about 100 witnesses and victims expected to testify.

“If I get a chance to look Hissène Habré in the face, I will do it without fear,” said Fatimé Sakine, 53, a secretary who was subjected to electroshocks and beatings during 15 months in prison from 1984 to 1986 and who is in Dakar for the trial. “I want to know why we were kept rotting, why so many of my friends were tortured and killed.”

“This case is a milestone in the fight to hold the perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes, in Africa and in the world,” Brody said. “It's taken many years, and many twists and turns, but in the end a group of tenacious survivors have shown that it was possible to bring their dictator to justice.” 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Dakar, July 17, 2015) – The trial of Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré is a victory for the victims of his government. The trial began in Senegal on July 20, 2015, almost 25 years after he was overthrown.  

The trial of Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré is a victory for the victims of his government. The trial will begin on July 20, 2015, almost 25 years after he was overthrown.

 
“The opening of Hissène Habré’s trial, 25 years after he fled Chad, is a tribute to the survivors of his brutal rule who never gave up fighting for justice,” said Reed Brody, counsel at Human Rights Watch who has worked with the victims since 1999. “This case warns despots everywhere that if they engage in atrocities they will never be out of the reach of their victims.”

Habré is charged with crimes against humanity, torture, and war crimes. The trial will be the first in the world in which the courts of one country prosecute the former ruler of another for alleged human rights crimes.

 
Habré will stand trial before the Extraordinary African Chambers in the Senegal court system. The chambers were inaugurated by Senegal and the African Union in February 2013 to prosecute the “person or persons” most responsible for international crimes committed in Chad between 1982 and 1990, the period when Habré ruled Chad. Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam of Burkina Faso, president of the Trial Chamber, will hear the case along with two senior Senegalese judges.

The trial is expected to last three months, with about 100 witnesses and victims expected to testify.

Habré, through his lawyers, has said that he does not want to appear in court. Under Senegalese law, however, the court president can require his appearance. 

“I have been waiting for this day since I walked out of prison almost 25 years ago, “ said Souleymane Guengueng, who nearly died of mistreatment and disease in Habré’s prisons, and later founded the Association of Victims of Crimes of the Regime of Hissène Habré (AVCRHH). “I want to look Hissène Habré in the face and ask him why I was kept rotting in jail for three years, why my friends were tortured and killed.”

Habré is accused of thousands of political killings and systematic torture. After he was deposed by the current president, Idriss Déby Itno, in 1990, Habré fled to Senegal. Habré was first arrested in Senegal in February 2000, but Senegal refused to prosecute him then or to extradite him to Belgium in 2005. It was only in 2012, when Macky Sall became president of Senegal and the International Court of Justice, acting on a suit by Belgium, ordered Senegal to prosecute or extradite Habré that progress was made toward the trial with the creation of the Extraordinary African Chambers. The chambers indicted Habré in July 2013 and placed him in pretrial custody. After a 19-month investigation, judges of the chambers found that there was sufficient evidence for Habré to face trial.

“This case is a milestone in the fight to hold the perpetrators of atrocities accountable for their crimes, in Africa and in the world,” Brody said. "It's taken many years, and many twists and turns, but in the end a group of tenacious survivors showed that even a dictator can be brought to justice." 

On March 25, a court in Chad convicted 20 top security agents of Habré’s government on torture and murder charges. 

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

I was held down by six men and raped by five of them. First, they [shot and] killed my brother … then they threw me to the side and one man tore my lungi [sarong], grabbed me by the mouth and held me still. He stuck a knife into my side and kept it there while the men were raping me. That was how they kept me in place. … I was trying to move and [the wound] was bleeding more. They were threatening to shoot me.

 

-Fatama Begum, Balukali refugee camp, Bangladesh, October 2017

Since August 25, 2017, Burmese security forces have committed widespread rape against women and girls as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine State.

Killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests, and mass arson of homes by Burmese security forces in hundreds of predominantly Rohingya villages have forced more than 600,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. Rohingya women, men, and children have arrived in Bangladesh in desperate condition—hungry, exhausted, and sometimes with rape, bullet, or burn injuries. The humanitarian crisis caused by Burma’s atrocities against the Rohingya has been staggering in both scale and speed.

The Burmese military’s brutal campaign follows attacks on 30 police posts and an army base by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on the morning of August 25, 2017 in northern Rakhine State. The government reported that 11 security force personnel were killed. While the government had a duty to respond to the attacks, the Burmese military, supported by Border Police and armed ethnic Rakhine villagers, not only pursued those responsible, but immediately launched large-scale attacks against scores of Rohingya villages under the guise of counter-insurgency operations. Human Rights Watch has found that the violations committed by members of Burma’s security forces against the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State since August 25 amount to crimes against humanity under international law.

This report is based on 52 interviews with Rohingya women and girls, including 29 survivors of rape, who fled to Bangladesh since these operations began. Rape survivors were from 19 different villages in Burma’s Rakhine State, mostly in northern Buthiduang and Maungdaw Townships. They described similarly brutal circumstances of the rapes. Human Rights Watch also spoke to 17 representatives of humanitarian organizations providing health services to women and girls in the refugee camps, including representatives of United Nations agencies and international and national nongovernmental organizations. We also interviewed two Bangladeshi government health officials. 

Human Rights Watch found that Burmese security forces raped and sexually assaulted women and girls both during major attacks on villages but also in the weeks prior to these major attacks sometimes after repeated harassment. In every case described to us, the perpetrators were uniformed members of security forces, almost all military personnel. While it is difficult to estimate the numbers of rapes that occurred, humanitarian organizations working with refugees in the camps in Bangladesh have reported receiving dozens or sometimes hundreds of cases.

These likely only represent a proportion of the actual number of women and girls who were raped. Some witnesses reported seeing women raped and then killed. Others do not report rape because of the deep stigma that makes survivors reluctant to seek assistance. Fear of having to pay medical fees that they cannot afford, or the lack of confidence in ever obtaining redress, also are factors. Of the survivors that Human Rights interviewed, almost two-thirds had not reported their rape to authorities or humanitarian organizations.

Burmese security forces have committed widespread rape against women and girls as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Rakhine State.

All but one of the rapes reported to Human Rights Watch were gang rapes, involving two or more perpetrators. In eight cases women and girls reported being raped by five or more soldiers. They described being raped in their homes and while fleeing burning villages. Human Rights Watch documented six cases of “mass rape” by the Burmese military. In these instances, survivors said that soldiers gathered them together in groups and then gang raped or raped them. Ethnic Rakhine villagers, acting alongside and in apparent coordination with government security forces, were also responsible for sexual harassment, often connected with looting.

The rapes were accompanied by further acts of violence, humiliation, and cruelty. Security forces beat women and girls with fists or guns, slapped them, or kicked them with boots. In two cases women reported that their attackers laughed at them during gang rapes, and more frequently attackers threatened their victims either verbally or through actions like putting a gun to their heads. Some attackers also beat women’s children during the attacks.

Rape survivors spoke of enduring numerous abuses at once. In addition to being gang raped, three women described with great distress seeing security forces murder their young children. Other women and girls said they witnessed killings of their elderly parents, their husbands and other family members and neighbors. Many reported witnessing cruelty toward those especially vulnerable, such as a soldier killing a 5-year-old girl who could not keep pace with her fleeing family, or security forces pushing older persons who could not flee back into burning houses.

For those able to flee, the journey toward relative safety in Bangladesh was fraught with pain and hardship. Gang-rape survivors reported days of agony walking with swollen and torn genitals through jungle to Bangladesh. Women in late stages of pregnancy described walking up and down steep hills slippery from monsoon rains, through rivers and dense vegetation, often with little to eat and on sore hips and swollen legs. Three women told us about giving birth during their journey without basic medical supplies or skilled health assistance.

None of the rape survivors we interviewed received post rape care in Burma. They missed access to urgent interventions that must take place within days of the rape, like emergency contraception (120 hours) and prophylaxis against HIV infection (72 hours). The Burmese government obstructs humanitarian access to much of Rakhine State.

Women continued to suffer even after reaching Bangladesh. Human Rights Watch spoke to 10 women who continued to experience physical injuries, including vaginal tears, bleeding, or infections as a result of rape, without accessing care. Many of the women we spoke to reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression.

The Bangladesh government, together with international partners, has provided sanctuary and have allowed Rohingya refugees access to health facilities around the camps as well as specialist care further afield. But a lack of knowledge and chaos in the overcrowded refugee camps together with stigma and shame has prevented many women from obtaining post-rape care.

Burmese authorities have rejected the growing documentation of sexual violence by the military against Rohingya women and girls. With an eye to future accountability and for use in investigations and prosecutions, Bangladesh and all humanitarian medical agencies should ensure women receive medical certificates of rape as part of their care and that copies are kept securely by medical organizations.

After years of persecution and denial of basic services, all Rohingya, including rape survivors, need a basic level of safety and security.

While Bangladesh and international donors have promptly provided desperately needed funds and services to assist the refugees, little has been done to date to reimpose targeted sanctions and other measures against senior military officials responsible for the worst abuses. The UN Security Council should urgently implement a full arms embargo on Burma and individual sanctions against leaders responsible for grave violations of human rights. The UN Security Council should also refer the situation in Rakhine State to the International Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes.

Attention to the specific abuses suffered by Rohingya women and girls, including sexual violence, should be integrated into every aspect of the international response to this human rights and humanitarian crisis. This includes efforts to fully investigate the scope of sexual violence and other crimes against the Rohingya, putting in place measures to protect displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh from gender-based violence in refugee camps, and promoting their full participation and leadership in consultations with the Rohingya community.

Recommendations

To the Government of Burma

  • Cease the campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State, and issue clear orders to security forces to stop all sexual violence.
  • Investigate and appropriately punish members of security forces and others responsible for sexual violence, including as a matter of command responsibility.
  • Ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian aid organizations in Rakhine State, including organizations assisting sexual violence survivors.
  • Cooperate fully with international investigations into alleged crimes in Rakhine State, including the UN Fact-Finding Mission established by the UN Human Rights Council.
  • Comply with the UN Security Council November Presidential Statement, which called on the Burmese government to “implement measures in line with UN Security Council resolution 2106 [2013] to prevent and respond to incidents of sexual violence and… work with the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict.”

To the Government of Bangladesh

  • Keep open the border for Rohingya asylum seekers from Burma, recognize Rohingya who have fled Burma as refugees, and fully respect the principle of nonrefoulement.
  • Continue the accurate biometric individual registration of Rohingya women, men, and children to ensure their full participation and equal access to protection.

To the Government of Bangladesh with the support of international partners responding to the humanitarian crisis

  • Provide long-term post-rape care, including health care and psychosocial services, and monitor these services for quality.
  • Create outreach programs to the Rohingya refugee community to reduce stigma around sexual violence and to inform individuals about available, free, and confidential medical and mental health services, including for post-rape care. Ensure assistance for associated costs, such as transport for access to services.
  • Introduce protocols so that health clinics and other facilities that treat women and girls who report rape provide them with a medical certificate, and that they store a copy of the certificate in a secure physical or digital location.
  • Ensure the full participation of Rohingya women in all consultations with the Rohingya community, and ensure such consultations for the design of refugee camps, distribution of aid, and measures to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence.
  • Support efforts to document, investigate, and prosecute sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls, including by immediately deploying specialist capacity, and ensuring provision of adequate training and witness protection measures.

To the UN Security Council

  • Impose individual sanctions on Burmese military leaders responsible for human rights abuses, including sexual violence and the failure to prevent or punish sexual violence. Sanctions should include travel bans, asset freezes, and restrictions on access to financial institutions.
  • Impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Burma, including a ban on transfers of arms, equipment, technical assistance, training, financial or other assistance, including the maintenance of any arms and related material, and establish a panel of experts to monitor and report on implementation of the embargo.
  • Insist that persons responsible for rape and other grave abuses be held accountable for their crimes, including under command responsibility, through a referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court and other avenues, such as universal jurisdiction.
  • Draw attention to perpetrators of sexual violence and attacks on children by requesting public briefings from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict.

To UN Member Countries

  • Impose bilateral arms embargoes on Burma, and create and implement sanctions regimes—including travel bans, asset freezes, and restrictions on access to financial institutions—that target individuals responsible for human rights abuses and companies owned by individuals and institutions responsible for human rights abuses.

To the UN Secretary-General

  • Add the Burmese military to the list of parties suspected of committing or being responsible for patterns of rape or other forms of sexual violence in situations of armed conflict on the agenda of the Security Council.
  • Expand the reasons underpinning the inclusion of Burma’s military on the secretary-general’s “list of shame” for violations against children in armed conflict to include the killing and maiming of children, sexual violence against children, and the denial of humanitarian access for children.

To the UN General Assembly

  • Resume scrutiny of Burma's human rights record at its Third Committee.
  • Pass a resolution condemning the violence, supporting accountability and urging access for the UN Fact-Finding Mission and reauthorizing the mandate of a UN envoy or special advisor for Burma.

To the UN Human Rights Council

  • Request regular updates from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Fact-Finding Mission on Burma, and the secretary-general’s special representative for sexual violence in conflict for consideration of appropriate action, including through urgent debates or special sessions as needed.
  • Request that the Fact-finding Mission on Burma gather information on individual perpetrators and identify command responsibility where possible, including with regard to sexual violence; include recommendations on an appropriate accountability mechanism in its final report; and transmit the final report to the UN Security Council.

Methodology

A Human Rights Watch researcher conducted research for this report in Rohingya refugee camps, both official and informal makeshift settlements, in Cox’s Bazar district, Bangladesh, between October 3 and 13, 2017. It builds on other investigations by Human Rights Watch researchers into what transpired in western Burma following the ARSA attacks in late August, including multiple visits to the Bangladesh refugee camps by staff in September, October, and November 2017.

In researching this report, Human Rights Watch identified and conducted interviews with 52 women and girls who were the victims of serious violations during Burmese security forces operations in Rakhine State in late August and September 2017. Many of those interviewed were identified with the help of a Rohingya assistant and humanitarian organizations providing services to the refugees. Of those interviewed, 29 reported being raped after the start of “clearance operations” on August 25, 2017. Three women were raped by security forces in the months before the “clearance operations” and were raped a second time after they had begun. Rape survivors came from 19 different villages, mostly located in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships. Other interviewees described witnessing killings of family members or fleeing while pregnant.

We also conducted two focus group discussions on access to sexual and reproductive health care. Each focus group consisted of four women.

Human Rights Watch only learned of one case of sexual violence directed against men or boys. However, because of deep stigma regarding such violence, it may be much underreported.

Human Rights Watch makes every effort to abide by best practice standards for ethical research and documentation of sexual violence, including with robust informed consent procedures, measures to protect the interviewees’ privacy and security, and interview techniques designed to minimize the risk of retraumatization. Interviewees were explicitly told that they could end the interview at any time and could choose not to answer particular questions. In some cases at the request of the interviewee or because of her distress, the Human Rights Watch researcher did not ask the survivor to describe incidents of sexual violence in detail.

Most women and girls were interviewed individually, although sometimes, at the request of the interviewees, in groups of two or three. Efforts to establish privacy for interviews included renting a closed shelter for a few hours at a time. Most interviews lasted approximately one hour. Time constraints on interviewees, especially related to child care, meant that some interviews had to be conducted in shorter timeframes. In a few cases, interviews were concluded early to accommodate distress or exhaustion of the interviewee.

Interviews with victims were translated from Rohingya by a female Bangladeshi translator into English. In over half of the interviews a second female translator from the Rohingya community was present, always with the permission and often at the request of the interviewee.

For reasons of security and privacy, all survivors are identified by pseudonyms. Nongovernmental organization representatives also requested anonymity, including to protect the security of their organizations’ programs in Burma.

Human Rights Watch provided referrals for post-rape medical services and in three cases transport to a clinic. Human Rights Watch provided snacks and water during the interviews but did not provide any compensation to interviewees.

Human Rights Watch also spoke to 17 representatives of humanitarian organizations working to provide health services to women and girls in the refugee camps, including representatives of major UN agencies and international and national nongovernmental organizations. We also interviewed two Bangladeshi government health officials. 

In this report, we refer to all the areas where we conducted interviews as refugee camps. This includes both official Rohingya refugee camps that predate the current crisis and the sprawling informal camps nearby.

Human Rights Watch uses the following definition of rape:

Rape includes any physical invasion of a sexual nature without consent or under coercive circumstances. A “physical invasion” occurs when there is penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim [or of the perpetrator by the victim] with a sexual organ, or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or any other part of the body.

The term “gang rape” is used in any case where a person is raped by two or more perpetrators.

In this report, “child” refers to anyone under the age of 18, consistent with the term’s meaning in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. “Girl” refers to a female child.

Crimes Against Humanity by Burmese Security Forces Against Rohingya

Human Rights Watch field research and analysis of satellite imagery has found that serious violations committed by members of Burma’s security forces against the Rohingya Muslim population in northern Rakhine State since August 25, 2017 amount to crimes against humanity.[1] Crimes against humanity are defined under international law as specified criminal acts “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack.”[2] The crimes against humanity alleged include a) forced population transfers and deportation, b) murder, c) rape and other sexual violence, and d) persecution as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the ad hoc international criminal courts.[3]

Burmese security forces targeted women and girls for rape, gang rape, and other forms of sexual violence and sexual harassment during their campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.[4] Women and girls were also subject, along with men and boys, to killings, expulsions from their homes, and other forms of persecution. Women recounted seeing their children, husbands, and neighbors killed in front of them. Rape survivors fleeing Burma often had to walk for days in severe pain from injuries sustained from gang rapes. Pregnant women who fled also recounted terrible hardship during their journeys, including giving birth en route to Bangladesh.

The Burmese security forces’ brutal campaign followed coordinated attacks on August 25, 2017 by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) that targeted 30 police posts and an army camp in northern Rakhine State. The government reported that ARSA militants killed 11 security force personnel during those attacks. The Burmese military, supported by Border Police and armed ethnic Rakhine villagers, immediately began large-scale attacks on Rohingya villages ostensibly as part of counter-insurgency operations. These operations involved killing, rape and other sexual violence, looting, and mass arson, amounting to a full-scale campaign of ethnic cleansing that has forced more than 600,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. Satellite imagery analyzed by Human Rights Watch along with interviews with over 150 refugees led to the finding that Burmese security forces burned down at least 288 predominantly Rohingya villages by September 23, 2017.

While there have also been numerous reports of abuses committed by ARSA militants, Human Rights Watch has not been able to independently verify those accounts, in part because the Burmese government continues to deny independent human rights investigators and journalist access to northern Rakhine State, where most victims and their families would be located.

The government’s ethnic cleansing campaign follows a similar pattern to the military’s response to ARSA attacks in late 2016. After ARSA attacked three police border posts in Rakhine State on October 9, 2016, Burma’s security forces carried out large-scale attacks against the Rohingya population as part of “clearance operations.” Human Rights Watch documented extrajudicial killings, rape and other sexual violence against women and girls, and the burning of at least 1,500 structures.[5] The attacks forced an estimated 87,000 Rohingya to flee from northern Rakhine State to Bangladesh.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented many of those earlier abuses in a “flash report” released on February 3, 2017, finding that the Burmese security force operations involved: extrajudicial killing; enforced disappearance; torture and other ill-treatment, notably rape and other crimes of sexual violence; arbitrary arrests and detention; forced displacement; and destruction and looting of homes, food, and other property.[6] The report concluded that the 2016 attacks against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity.[7]

The United Nations and others found that in 2012 local authorities and local Rakhine residents with the backing of security forces committed numerous serious abuses against the Rohingya population. Human Rights Watch found that the 2012 abuses amounted to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.[8]

On March 24, 2017, the UN Human Rights Council authorized a Fact-Finding Mission to Myanmar to focus “in particular” on the situation in Rakhine State.[9] In November 2017, Burmese authorities had not yet allowed the investigators to travel to Burma.

Since August 25, 2017, an estimated one-half of Burma’s Rohingya population, which were estimated at slightly more than one million prior to the violence,[10] fled to Bangladesh, joining hundreds of thousands who had fled Burma for Bangladesh because of prior government repression or during earlier violence. Thousands more are believed to be internally displaced, along with members of other ethnic groups. At the time of writing this report, many of these displaced people are without basic humanitarian assistance. The Burmese government has obstructed aid to many Rohingya areas since October 2016.[11]

A November 6, 2017 UN Security Council Presidential Statement expressed “grave concerns about reports of human rights abuses and violations … including by the Myanmar security forces, in particular against persons belonging to the Rohingya community, including those involving the systematic use of force and intimidation, killing of men, women, and children, sexual violence, and including the destruction and burning of homes and property.”[12] In the statement, the Security Council called upon the government of Burma to end excessive use of military force in Rakhine State, to implement measures in line with Security Council resolution 2016 (2013) to prevent and respond to sexual violence, to cooperate with the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, and to ensure unhindered access to humanitarian aid in Rakhine State.[13]

The Rohingya have faced decades of discrimination and repression under successive Burmese governments, including restrictions on movement and access to education and health services. Effectively denied citizenship under the 1982 Citizenship Law, they are one of the largest stateless populations in the world.

Sexual Violence in the August and September 2017 Attacks

They were all in green uniform.… One grabbed me around the mouth, one man held me down and then they all raped me, one by one.

 

-Nura Naha, 27, rape survivor and mother of five, Bangladesh, October 2017

Gang Rape

Human Rights Watch research found that gang rape and other forms of sexual violence by the Burmese military against Rohingya women and girls since August 2017 has been a widespread and at times systematic practice. It was often accompanied by killings, beatings, and other abuses against both the victim and other family members. Burmese soldiers stripped, raped, and otherwise sexually assaulted women and girls during the ethnic cleansing campaign that began on August 25, but also engaged in repeated violence and harassment in the weeks prior to the military operations.[14]

Human Rights Watch interviewed 29 survivors of rape and heard accounts of many other rapes including group rapes. Three of the rape survivors were girls. These women and girls were from 19 different villages, mostly in Buthiduang and Maungdaw Townships. Many described the rape occurring under similar circumstances, suggesting a pattern. Human Rights Watch also learned of three Rohingya women, including one who spoke to us, who was raped by Burmese security force personnel in earlier incidents over the past year. We identified other rape survivors but were unable to interview them because of resource constraints.

All but one of the rapes documented by Human Rights Watch were gang rapes, involving two or more perpetrators. In eight of the cases women and girls reported being raped by five or more perpetrators.

In every rape case described to Human Rights Watch, the perpetrators were uniformed members of Burmese security forces. In two cases, victims said the perpetrators were dressed in grey-blue camouflage uniform, probably that of Burma’s Border Guard Police. In the other cases victims said those responsible were members of the Burmese military. Survivors said the men wore either green camouflage uniforms or plain dark green uniforms. Groups of soldiers sometimes included men in both types of uniform.

The rapes were accompanied by other violence or threats of violence, humiliation, and cruelty. Soldiers beat women and girls with fists or guns, slapped them, or kicked them hard with boots. In two cases women reported that their attackers laughed at them during the gang rapes. More frequently attackers threatened their victims either verbally or through actions like putting a gun to their heads. In two cases women said the perpetrators bit their breasts.

Leila Nur, 20, described passing out after being raped twice and then being slapped awake by a third soldier who then also raped her.[15] Azara Younus, 28 years, from Kyein Chaung village, known locally as Boli Bazar, in Maungdaw Township, was dragged to a school toilet by a soldier after a group of soldiers had beaten her. The single soldier raped her, she said, “on the filthy water on the floor.”[16]

Several women remarked during interviews that during the rapes they feared they would also be killed. "I thought I would be shot," said Sumera Ishak, 40.[17]

Fatama Begum, 33, said she was raped the day before her village of Chut Pyin, known locally as Shoppara, in Rathedaung Township, was burned on August 27.[18] She said:

I was held down by six men and raped by five of them. First, they [shot and] killed my brother … then they threw me to the side and one man tore my lungi [sarong], grabbed me by the mouth and held me still. He stuck a knife into my side and kept it there while the men were raping me, that was how they kept me in place. … I was trying to move and it was bleeding more. They were threatening to shoot me.[19]

Human Rights Watch interviewed a Rohingya refugee who said that, before he fled for Bangladesh, he saw soldiers rape a man in Chut Pyin.[20] "My friend was shot in the leg and he couldn’t walk. They found him and they put bamboo in his ass,” he said. “They put a big stick in his ass."[21] This is the only case of male rape Human Rights Watch documented, but because of deep stigma regarding such violence, it may be underreported.

list

Rabia Abdul told Human Rights Watch that she miscarried after a brutal gang rape by at least four of the roughly 20 soldiers that entered her home. “After the fourth rape I went black,” she said. “After the rape I woke up … there was so much bleeding and then two hours later the baby came out. It died right after.” She said the attack took place two or three days before her village, close to Buthidaung town, was burned in the last week of August.[22]

Rama Faisal, 25, was raped three days before fleeing her village, Tin May in Buthiduang Township, in late August. "There was a normal routine [in the days before the attack]. They [the soldiers] would come and look around the house and take whatever they wanted," she said.[23] “They came into my house, they asked for water, I did not understand so they kicked me so hard I fell onto the bed. At least two raped me before I went unconscious. One bit my breasts.”[24]

In some cases, soldiers conducted gang rapes in public. Most of the women and girls interviewed by Human Rights Watch were raped in their houses but in two cases they said they were dragged outside. Fifteen-year-old Hala Sadak, from Sin Thay Pyin village (known locally as Hathi Para) in Maungdaw Township said that large areas of scarring on her right leg and knee were from where soldiers had stripped her naked and then dragged her from her home to a nearby tree where, she estimates, about 10 men raped her from behind.[25] "They left me where I was,” Hala Sadak said. “When my brother and sister came to get me I was lying there on the ground, they thought I was dead."[26]

Other women and girls were raped as they fled their villages, headed for the relative safety of the hills or jungle. Akash Abdul, 14, said that after the security forces killed the other members of her family, she and a younger sister fled. "As we got to the edge of the village two soldiers grabbed me,” she said. “They threw me to the ground and then they both raped me."[27] 

In several cases, rape survivors said that during the rapes, soldiers struck or beat their children.

Shaju Hosin, a 30-year-old mother of three, from “Tami” or Tin May village in Buthiduang Township, said that 12 men entered her home on the morning of the arson attack on her village in late August.[28] She said at least five soldiers raped her before she passed out:

I was crying but they tore off all of my clothes.… They hit my children while raping me.… I went unconscious. The first thing I remember when I woke again was my children screaming that their mother was dead.... I was 4-months’ pregnant [and] I bled so much I was afraid that I would lose the baby.[29]

Rawida Zowir, 35, said that some of the 10 soldiers who entered her house beat her children before she was stripped of her clothes and raped by “at least five” of the soldiers. "The kids were clinging onto me … I would not let go of them so they began beating me with their guns,” she said.[30] Like many victims, Rawida Zowir emphasized how she had attempted to resist the attack.

Nura Begum, 35, from a village in Maungdaw Township, tried to protect her four children from having to see her being slapped, stripped, and then gang raped. "I kept screaming and saying not to rape me in front of the children," she said. “But they did what they wanted to my body.” [31]

Other rape survivors, as described below, also witnessed the killing of their children by Burmese security forces.

Mass Rapes

Human Rights Watch documented six cases of “mass rape” by the Burmese military, five during the “clearance operations” that began on August 25. In these instances, survivors said that soldiers gathered them together in groups and then gang raped or raped them.

Interviewees described the horror of witnessing other women being beaten and gang raped during a massacre in the village of Maung Nu in Buthidaung Township on August 29, which Human Rights Watch documented.[32] "They came to the women's building, they were pulling off our clothes, lungyi, all the women in the room were raped, even me,” said Someera Kamal, 40, who survived the massacre. “The women were all over, everywhere there were women being raped."[33]

Daulu Osman, a 15-year-old girl, said she fled her home after her village of Shwe Zarr (known locally as Gunapara) in Maungdaw Township was burned at the end of August. She said she witnessed the killing of five family members, managed to swim across a river, get two villages away, and evade multiple dangers before a group of soldiers forcibly gathered her and other women and girls who were fleeing and raped them. “There were women being grabbed, there were 10 or 12 of us, being grabbed and raped on the ground,” Daulu Osman said. “That is what they did to me.” She said that two soldiers raped her. [34]

Also in late August, Mamtaz Yunis, 33, and other women and men fled to the hills from their village of Mee Chaung Zay (known locally as Ming Gizi) in Buthidaung Township. Burmese soldiers trapped her and about 20 other women for a night and two days without food or shelter on the side of a hill.[35] She said the soldiers raped women in front of gathered women, or took individual women away, and then returned them to the group, silent and ashamed. "The men in uniform, they were grabbing the women, pulling a lot of women, they pulled my clothes off and tore them off,” Mamtaz Yunis said. “There were so many women … we were weeping but there was nothing we could do." [36]

Rape, Sexual Harassment, and Looting Leading Up to the Attacks

The “clearance operations” that began in August took place in the context of a long history of persecution and abuse of ethnic Rohingya by the Burmese government, including sexual abuse of Rohingya women and girls. Three of the women interviewed said they had been raped twice by Burmese soldiers—both during the recent attacks but also during earlier operations or visits in their villages prior to the ARSA attacks. Many others reported longstanding sexual harassment and other forms of harassment.

Interviewees said that soldiers had harassed them in their homes in the weeks and even months before the attacks on their villages began in August. “They came to my house and took money,” said 21-year-old Munara Amir Hussein from Maungdaw Township. “I never left the house I was so scared of them.”[37]

Many interviewees reported that before the arson attacks in August, some local Rakhine sexually harassed and robbed them and other women of money or gold jewelry and stole chickens and other animals. Human Rights Watch heard nearly a dozen accounts of soldiers and Rakhine villagers grabbing or fondling Rohingya women’s breasts when ostensibly searching for money. In every case reported, the soldiers and Rakhine villagers stole any money they found.

More than half of the women interviewed complained of harassment and looting before or during military-led attacks on their villages in late August and September. Hala Sadak, a 15-year-old gang rape victim from Sin Thay Pyin (known locally as Hathi Para)in Maungdaw Township, said, “They were coming and harassing us before [the attack]. They were taking whatever they wanted. They touched me, pulled my clothes and felt my breasts and then they took all our money and they took my gold earrings.”[38]

Numbers of Reported Cases

Humanitarian organizations assisting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have together reported receiving hundreds of recent rape cases. These likely represent only a small proportion of the actual number of women and girls raped because they do not include those who were raped and subsequently killed, because the deep stigma attached to sexual assault makes survivors reluctant to seek assistance, and because various other factors discourage reporting, including concern about paying fees for medical care and lack of confidence in future criminal investigations.[39]

UN humanitarian reports also indicate that sexual violence has been widespread in the recent attacks against Rohingya, with a cumulative total of 1,644 incidents reported since August 27, 2017, including, but not limited to, sexual forms of violence. Between October 22 and 28 alone, 306 gender-based violence cases were reported, 96 percent of which included emergency medical care services.[40] These UN figures aggregate different organizations’ cases. One Bangladeshi organization that does outreach work with survivors of sexual violence said they had received hundreds of new cases of rape and other sexual violence since the August 25 attacks.[41] Another organization said they were currently providing services to 58 survivors of rape and 12 survivors of sexual assault that had arrived since August 2017.[42] A third organization said they had identified 50 recent rape survivors.[43]

Representatives of humanitarian agencies, national and international nongovernmental organizations working with survivors, as well as Bangladesh government officials have said that they believe that only a small proportion of recently arrived refugee rape survivors had reported their rapes to medical providers, in either Bangladeshi government or humanitarian facilities. Of the survivors that Human Rights interviewed, almost two-thirds had not reported their rape to authorities or humanitarian organizations. Only one of the women we contacted independently without the assistance of a humanitarian organization had sought appropriate health care or reported their rape.

Human Rights Watch and other organizations have previously documented sexual violence, including brutal gang rapes, against Rohingya women and girls by Burmese military and other security forces.[44] Abusive security operations conducted in Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State in late 2016 featured rape and other forms of sexual violence.[45] A report released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) found that more than half of the 101 women they interviewed in January of 2017 who had fled those abusive operations said they were raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence. The UN report said that rape seemed to have been “widespread as well as systematic.”[46]

Killing of Women and Family Members

Killing of Women

The Burmese security forces’ ostensible counterinsurgency operations since August have not spared Rohingya women from extrajudicial killing. One interviewee said that her friend, Shona Mer, about 40, died while they both fled Shoppara village in Rathedaung Township: “She was shot in the stomach, she ran to the other village with us but she died as soon as we got there.” [47]

"I saw a woman being shot as she fled,” Hamida Amir, a rape survivor from Maungdaw Township said about her neighbor called “Dolu.” “Her father was running in front of her. He stopped and ran back and took [Dolu’s] child."[48]

Shaju Hosin, a rape survivor from Tin May village in Buthidaung Township, said that she saw the shooting of her neighbor, Shamsung Naher.[49] Security forces shot both Shamsung Naher and her husband as they tried to flee their house.[50]

Killing of Children and Other Family Members

My child has died, my husband has died, I just want to die. I have no idea about my future. Why ask me about my future?

-Hadija Jamal, 25, survivor of Chut Pyin massacre, Bangladesh, October 2017

Many rape survivors and other women and girls interviewed said that the Burmese security forces’ killing of their family members was the most traumatic part of the attacks. One woman, for example, said she was haunted by having seen her cousin’s brain after he was shot in the head and witnessing a soldier picking up and tossing part of his skull over a wall.

Especially devastating were the killing of spouses and children, including infants and toddlers. In 13 interviews women or girls said they had seen soldiers murder close family members, often in cruel ways. In another five cases women and girls had heard that their close family members had been killed. In one case a woman said two of her children were missing. Others reported that they had heard that neighbors, or others with whom they were close had been killed or were missing.

Three of Toyuba Yahya’s six children were killed just outside her house in Sin Thay Pyin village (known locally as Hathi Para) in Maungdaw Township before seven men in military uniform raped her, she said. She said that two of her sons, 2- and 3-years-old, were killed when soldiers beat their heads against the trunk of a tree outside her home. The soldiers then killed her 5-year-old daughter. "My baby … I wanted him to be alive but he slowly died afterwards,” Toyuba Yahya, who is 30 years old, said. “My daughter, they picked her high up and then smashed her against the ground. She was killed. I do not know why they did that."[51]

Shaju Hosin, saw one of her children killed when she fled their home village of Tin May (known locally as Thami) in Buthiduang Township.[52] She said:

I have three kids now. I had another one—Khadija—she was 5-years-old. When we were running from the village she was killed, in the attack. She was running last, less fast, trying to catch up with us. A soldier swung at her with his gun and bashed her head in, after that she fell down. We kept running.[53]

Isharhat Islam, a 40-year-old woman who said she had been raped twice over the past year by Burmese soldiers, said she lost her two young adult sons in the shootings in her village, Sin Thay Pyin.[54] She did not witness the killings. "There were other men who went back to the village afterwards,” she said. “They saw a pile of bodies and saw the faces of my two sons." She added that she had been told that local Buddhist residents of the village stopped Rohingya returnees from burying the bodies.

Dilda Abdulrahmin, a survivor of the Chut Pyin massacre in Rathedaung Township, said that soldiers threw her daughter Yasmina, a toddler, onto a fire. "I was shot in the arm, I fell backwards. It was like I was unconscious,” Dilda Abdulrahmin said. “Then my child was crawling on me, I remember she was on me and then they snatched her and threw her into the burning house."[55]

Hadija Jamal, another survivor of the same massacre and 25 years old, showed Human Rights Watch a severe injury on her left arm, near her wrist, where she said a bullet grazed her before striking her baby. “As we were fleeing my son kept trying to stay alive, he kept opening his eyes and then they would close again,” Hadija Jamal said. “We buried him in Ure [a nearby village].” [56]

In the chaos of the attacks and because they often had several children to try and rescue, some women were forced to leave one or more children behind as they fled. Although women agreed in interviews that there was nothing they could have done otherwise, interviewees expressed feelings of guilt, as well as intense grief, about these losses.

Sakina Khatum was alone in her home in Sin Thay Pyin village when it began burning during a security force attack in late August. She said that a “rocket launcher” hit her home.[57] “I grabbed one son, I left one. I was senseless,” she said. “I never knew what happened to the other son. I never heard from anyone but he must have burned in the fire.”[58] Sakina Khatum said that eight months earlier Burmese soldiers had taken her husband without providing any reason for his arrest.[59]

Anwara Sanchita, also from Sin Thay Pyin village, believes that her one-year-old twins were killed when an explosive projectile from a “rocket launcher” landed near them when they fled the village. “I wanted to go and see if they were ok, but I just ran," she said. “I think there was nothing left of them.”[60]

Human Rights Watch has documented the use of mortars and other man-portable explosive weapons, such as grenades and rocket launchers, against Rohingya villages in multiple attacks during counterinsurgency operations in October 2016 and since late August 2017.[61]

Women and girls also saw other children from the community killed. "Three children [that I know of] were thrown into fires,” said Nura Begum, a rape survivor from Maungdaw Township. “I myself saw one of them being thrown into fire [of a burning house], the child of Rehanna."[62]

Human Rights Watch interviewed eight women who said that their husbands had been killed or were missing, while six said they had been arrested during the military operations that started in late August or in the weeks or months before the operations. Four others said that they had become separated in the chaos, or that their husbands had chosen to remain in Burma.

Some women said that their rapes took place along with arrests or attacks on husbands or other men in the family. Burmese soldiers took Baanu Salam’s husband from their home in a village in Buthidaung Township, and then gang-raped her. “They were all in uniform,” she said. “They beat me and when my daughter began crying, they beat her too. I was begging them to stop but they kept beating her.” [63]

Yasmine Ahmed, 25, said that three days before her village, Sin Thay Pyin in Maungdaw Township, was burned in late August, security forces, “took my husband away. I never saw him again. Two [of our] kids followed him out and then they all disappeared. … I have no idea where they are, usually [the security forces] don't take children.”[64] The children, a boy and a girl, were 4 and 6 years old.

Women who had lost their husbands said that they were profoundly affected by the recent attacks on their villages and their arduous journeys to Bangladesh, but were also full of anxieties about how to manage the present. “I am so scared,” said Hasina Begum. “How am I to cope with the kids and no husband?”[65]

Human Rights Watch and others have documented the Burmese army’s attacks and killing of older people during their ethnic cleansing campaign.[66] Three interviewees talked about older people being left behind, or seeing older people killed.

Akash Abdul, said that after she and her younger sister managed to escape their burning house, soldiers pushed her father and her mother back into the burning home.

"I saw them push my husband's uncle into the fire. I saw them push him back into the burning house,” Hasina Begum said.[67] “He is weak, maybe 80 years.... I think they wanted everyone to leave and those that could not leave they put into the fire.”[68]

Leila Nur, from Maungdaw Township’s Fokira Bazar village in Kha Maung Zeik village tract said:

My husband returned to the village two days [after the attack] and found his mother there. But there was just blood there from his father. He had been shot and taken away. His father was going to carry his mother into the hills...He loved her very much.[69]

Leila said that her mother-in-law survived and was carried to Bangladesh by her son.

Hardships Faced by Pregnant Women and Rape Survivors While Fleeing

I cannot even tell you how we suffered.

 

-Hasina Begum, 25, Kutapalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, October 2017

When this report was written, the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing operations against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State have forced some 600,000 Rohingya to flee their homes into neighboring Bangladesh. Several interviewees said they were in a state of shock at how much they had lost all at once: their families, houses, land, and all nearly all their possessions. “I don’t even have a jug to collect water,” one woman said.[70]

After surviving horrific attacks on their villages, Rohingya women made grueling walks to Bangladesh over hills and through valleys and thick vegetation, often with little or nothing to eat. Many said their journeys lasted between three and 10 days. In interviews with Human Rights Watch, the women expressed strong emotion and recounted visceral memories of intense physical pain and psychological suffering during their journeys.

Two women said that words could not adequately convey the minute-after-minute, hour-after-hour pain of walking up and down hills on severe injuries after being gang raped. Almost every rape victim said they experienced physical agony during their flight. "I cry at night because the journey was so hard," Rehanna Khatum, 22, said.[71]

“All of my body was pain,” Zohra Shaju, 25, said.[72]

“I just wanted to stop, I was so tired.… I cannot even tell you the pain of walking,” Hasina Begum said.[73]

Hala Sadak, a 15-year-old child who survived a gang rape said her genitals were swollen like a big fist. “And I was bleeding,” she said. “I could not pass urine without passing blood.”[74]

Rape survivors said they walked more slowly because of their injuries and that they often dropped behind others fleeing to Bangladesh.

Women and girls reported both physical and psychological trauma. Fatama Begum, who was stabbed in her side while she was raped, said that she felt herself give up during the journey. “After five days of walking I became suicidal. I did nothing, I did not move. My children were shaking me, trying to make me move," she said.[75]

Women in advanced stages of pregnancy also endured pain during the long walk to relative safety.

"The pain in my muscles from walking, it's not yet stopped,” said Shamshide Begum, a 25-year-old survivor of the massacre at Chut Pyin, nearly a month and a half after she arrived in Bangladesh. “I can't even describe the pain I was in as I walked. My legs! Especially my ankles. When I got here my legs were like trunks."[76]

Hala Ahmed, a 40-year-old mother of five children, was eight months pregnant when she walked to Bangladesh. She fell on her belly while crossing a river, and then later fell backwards onto a sharp stick that a man had to pull out of the back of her leg. The wound became infected and “made blood and pus for the rest of the journey,” she said.[77]

Some pregnant women also went into labor and gave birth on their flight to Bangladesh. Shamina Yasmine, 25, described her experience:

For the first four days there was no food. We just had to walk like that. I had to stop when the labor pain came. When the water broke my family put clothes up in trees to make like a tent for privacy. My labor lasted from 5 p.m. one day to 8 a.m. the next morning. The pain was a lot but normal, but there was more than usual blood. To tie the cord we took a thread from a rice sack that a man was carrying as he passed us. For the bleeding I tied a lot of cloth between my legs.[78]

Asia Khatum, 20, gave birth to her first child during her journey to Bangladesh. After her water broke, she stayed behind with her mother and sister and the rest of her family continued on. She gave birth some distance away from the road, “between the plants.” Because she anticipated the birth might take place during the journey, she had brought a pair of scissors and some string in her blouse to tie the cord.[79]

Rehanna Azuli, 18, said she believes she almost died giving birth to her baby, her first. She had just arrived in Bangladesh and was on a sandbank when she gave birth. She said she lost a lot of blood. Her husband ran to find help after she and the baby lost consciousness immediately after the birth. "My mother-in-law was there, there was nothing she could do, she was massaging the placenta that came out, to try and give the baby blood,” she said. “She was putting water on my face, there was nothing else she could do."[80] Her husband returned with some Bangladeshi villagers who carried her to their home, and then helped her and the baby reach a local hospital. The baby survived.

Access to Services and Documentation of Sexual Violence

Physical and Emotional Trauma

There is still so much pain … My vagina is rotten, there is a lot of pus and it hurts to pee.

 

-Nura Naha, 27, Thenkali refugee camp, Bangladesh, October 2017

About 10 women reported still having serious injuries or illnesses at the time we spoke with them, including vaginal tears, bleeding, or infections as a result of rape. Some women reported additional injuries caused by walking so soon after the attacks. Two rape survivors said they were trying not to drink liquids because it hurt so much to urinate.

Isharhat Islam, who was raped by soldiers during military operations in her village in October 2016 and then again during the recent military operations, said that her injuries were worse the second time.[81] "First time I was raped I bled for three days,” she said. “After the second time I still bleed, on and off, after walking in the camp. I also have a cough, my hands, my hips: are all aching."[82] She said she only sometimes had enough cash to buy paracetamol (a painkiller) for the pain.

Shaju Hosin, from Tin May village, said that she was still bleeding vaginally from the rape. “Two days ago it stopped, but it will come again if I move a lot,” she said. [83]

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychosocial disabilities are often associated with rape. Many of the women Human Rights Watch interviewed said they were suffering from poor sleep, loss of appetite, and depressed mood and thoughts. Rape survivors also often describe bodily pain without a clear physical reason. Akash Abdul said that she was still feeling pain in her hips, roughly six weeks after she was raped.[84] “I used to be healthy but now I have lost a lot of weight.… I think all the time, all the time the thoughts are coming. I can't sleep well … I do not go out,” she said.[85]

Toyuba Yahya, who survived gang rape and the killings of family members said she was facing feelings of sadness and desperation, her thoughts spinning, as well as anxiety about the future.

I can't eat, I can't sleep. Instead: thoughts, thoughts, thoughts, thoughts. I can't rest. My child wants to go home. He doesn't understand that everything has been lost.[86]

Barriers to Post-Rape Care

I have had to deal with disgust, others looking away from me,”

-Isharhat Islam, 40, Thenkali refugee camp, Bangladesh, October 2017

Most of the survivors Human Rights Watch interviewed had not sought post-rape care. Those who had received care were introduced to us through a humanitarian agency.

Many of the women and girls we met had little or no history of contact with health services in Burma. They often did not know that medical care is strongly recommended for survivors of rape. Women and girls also said they thought that they would have to pay for the care, for which they had no money. Human Rights Watch found a similar lack of familiarity with health services and fear of costs when interviewing Rohingya rape survivors in December 2016 and January 2017.[87]

However, the primary reasons that interviewees gave Human Rights Watch for not reporting rape or seeking health care was stigma and shame, even when they were experiencing severe pain.[88] Representatives from eight different humanitarian organizations working on the crisis also said that stigma was a serious barrier.[89]

“People even avoided me when we were walking,” said Nura Naha, a mother of five.[90]

 “People are living all around me [in the camp] and they all know, but they are not my family. It is so hard,” said Fatama Begum, 33. “They told the kids, ‘Wash your mother’s body.’”[91]

According to an organization that has been locating rape survivors and referring them to humanitarian organizations for treatment, family members and mostly male camp leaders sometimes prevent women and girls from talking openly about rape. “[They] say to them, ‘Don’t share information,’” said a case worker. “They have a lot of power in the camps.”[92]

“As an example, I had a patient, but she stopped coming. Another woman came to her and told her to ‘Be quiet, why are you telling people about this,’” said a doctor from a Bangladeshi health organization who had been working on the crisis since late August.[93]

Another barrier to access to post-rape care has been chaos in the refugee camps, the makeshift nature of the settlements, and a lack of privacy. Nura Naha said that the lack of privacy near tented health clinics in the camp had dissuaded her from seeking help. "There was one clinic but there were so many people and I could not face to tell the doctor," she said.[94]

Others echoed these concerns. Shaju Kadir, 30, said:

I got some medicine in Thenkali [refugee camp], some syrup for the baby. I had five seconds with the doctor, it was so quick. People were trying to explain [to him about their needs] but there was nothing I could say about my situation.[95]

“The truth is almost everyone is traumatized,” a psychologist working with a Bangladeshi health organization said. She said that PTSD will be “very hard to treat” in the camps, in part because of a lack of infrastructure that can provide confidentiality. [96] Other health workers also noted that addressing psychosocial needs or trauma is especially challenging for a population whose future is so uncertain. “People need to know that they can stay, if they need it, that’s the most important thing,” the head of one organization said.[97]

In recent years, nongovernmental organizations working with rape survivors have had some success with providing women-friendly spaces next door to clinical medical services, making access to physical and mental health care as well as psychosocial activities far easier than at facilities specifically known for providing services for survivors of gender-based violence. Some relief organizations have provided such facilities at the camps in Bangladesh, and they are already being used by hundreds of women, including rape survivors.

Response by the Burmese Authorities

Despite the growing evidence collected by humanitarian organizations about sexual violence perpetrated by the Burmese security forces against Rohingya women and girls, Burmese authorities have made public statements denying or crudely attempting to cast doubt on these reports. In early September, the Rakhine State minister for border security, Col. Phone Tint, denied reports of military abuses involving sexual violence. “Where is the proof?” he asked. “Look at those women who are making these claims – would anyone want to rape them?”[98]

Burmese authorities have made similar denials in the past. When the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch, documented widespread rape and other sexual violence by security forces during military operations in Rakhine State starting in October 2016, officials cursorily dismissed the allegations.

On December 26, 2016, the Information Committee of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi issued a press release addressing “the rumours that some women were raped during the area clearance operations of security forces following the violent attacks in Maungtaw [Maungdaw] Township.” Accompanied by an image with the tagline “Fake Rape,” the release claimed that village leaders contested two rape survivors’ accounts and that the women provided conflicting testimony. Human Rights Watch assessed the evidence the Burmese government put forward at that time, finding fundamental flaws in methodology and reasoning that seriously undercut the credibility of the conclusions the government drew from it.[99]

In August 2017, a national-level investigation commission on the situation in Maungdaw Township following the October 2016 attacks headed by the first vice president and composed of current and former government officials released an interim report claiming they found insufficient evidence for legal action against anyone in connection with the allegations of rape and other abuses.[100]

Documentation of Rape

Documentation of sexual violence, including collection and proper storage of evidence, is critical for investigations and any potential prosecutions or redress process. However, sexual violence survivors often face formidable barriers when seeking justice. As discussed above, sexual violence is often underreported. When survivors are able to report, sometimes too much time has passed for collection of forensic evidence. In other cases, police or healthcare providers may not be trained in proper collection or storage of forensic evidence.[101]

Bangladesh and all humanitarian medical actors should also ensure that survivors receive medical certificates of rape as part of their care and that copies are kept securely by medical organizations or through secure digital storage systems.[102]

Creating an environment where sexual violence survivors can safely and confidentially report rape and other forms of sexual assault in a timely manner is essential for future accountability efforts and to connect survivors to medical and psychosocial services.

Acknowledgments

This report was researched and written by Skye Wheeler, researcher in the Women’s Rights division. Burma researcher Richard Weir provided guidance and additional research. Nisha Varia, advocacy director of the Women’s Rights division, Richard Weir and Michael Bochenek, senior counsel to the Child Rights division, edited and reviewed the report. James Ross, senior legal advisor, and Joseph Saunders, deputy program director, provided legal and program reviews. Adelaida Tamayo, associate in the Women’s Rights division, provided additional editorial assistance. The report was prepared for publication by Madeline Cottingham, publications associate, and Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager.

Human Rights Watch is grateful for the valuable time and insights of the many frontline social workers and other non-governmental organization staff who generously met with us during the first weeks of a major humanitarian crisis.

We would especially like to thank the victims who agreed to speak with us and shared their stories.

[1] Human Rights Watch, Crimes Against Humanity by Burmese Security Forces Against the Rohingya Muslim Population in Northern Rakhine State since August 25, 2017, September 26, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/25/crimes-against-humanity-burmese-secu.... Human Rights Watch has previously determined that the Burmese security forces were responsible for abuses that amounted to crimes against humanity against the Rohingya in 2012 and 2016. See “All You Can Do is Pray” Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State, April 2013, https://www.hrw.org/report/2013/04/22/all-you-can-do-pray/crimes-against... “Burma: Rohingya Recount Killings, Rape, and Arson,” December 21, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/21/burma-rohingya-recount-killings-rape...

[2] Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC Statute), 2187 U.N.T.S. 3, entered into force July 1, 2002, art. 7, http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/Rome_Statute_ICC/romestatute.html (accessed November 8, 2017). The Rome Statute entered into force on April 11, 2002 and the ICC has the authority to prosecute the most serious international crimes since July 1, 2002. Burma is not a party to the Rome Statute.

[3] Murder and torture have been among the core offenses included within the definition of crimes against humanity at least since the adoption of the charter establishing the Nuremberg tribunal after World War II.  Rape was not explicitly included in the charter’s definition of crimes against humanity in article 6(c) although it could be derived from that definition’s general prohibition against “other inhumane acts.”  This ambiguity was resolved in recent years: the statutes of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia as well as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court all explicitly include rape in the list of enumerated offenses that can constitute crimes against humanity.

[4] “Ethnic cleansing,” though not a formal legal term, has been defined as a purposeful policy by an ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.

[5] Human Rights Watch, “Burma: Rohingya Recount Killings, Rape, and Arson.”

[6] OHCHR, “Report of OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh, Interviews with Rohingya Fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016,” February 2017, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/MM/FlashReport3Feb2017.pdfn (accessed October 23, 2017).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Human Rights Watch, “All You Can Do is Pray: Crimes Against Humanity and Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Burma’s Arakan State,” April 22, 2013.

[9] Human Rights Watch, “Q&A: UN Factfinding Mission to Myanmar”, August 2, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/08/02/qa-united-nations-fact-finding-missi....

[10] UNFPA, “Myanmar releases population count from census”, August 30, 2014, http://asiapacific.unfpa.org/news/myanmar-releases-population-count-census (accessed November 10, 2017).

[11] Human Rights Watch, “Burma: Ensure Aid Reaches Rohingya”, September 11, 2017. 

[12] United Nations Security Council, SC/13055, “Security Council Presidential Statement Calls on Myanmar to End Excessive Military Force, Intercommunal Violence in Rakhine State”, November 6, 2017, https://www.un.org/press/en/2017 /sc13055.doc.htm (accessed November 9, 2017).

[13] Ibid.

[14] Many of the respondents were unable to provide an exact date for the recent attacks on their villages that had caused them to flee, but said they had been attacked in the week, or days before the Muslim holiday of Eid Qurban, which ended on September 1, 2017.

[15] Human Rights Watch interview with Leila Nur (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[16] Human Rights Watch interview with Azara Younus (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[17] Human Rights Watch interview with Sumera Ishak (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 4, 2017.

[18] Human Rights Watch interview with Fatama Begum (pseudonym), Balukali refugee camp, October 3, 2017. Amnesty International has documented the attack on Chut Pyin village and identified the date of the attack as August 27, 2017. See Amnesty International, My World is Finished, October 18, 2017, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa16/7288/2017/en/ (accessed October 23, 2017).

[19] Human Rights Watch interview with Fatama Begum (pseudonym), Balukali refugee camp, October 3, 2017.

[20] Human Rights Watch interview, name withheld, Ukiya refugee camp, September 15, 2017.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Human Rights Watch interview with Rabia Abdul (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[23] Human Rights Watch interview with Rama Faisal (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Human Rights Watch interview with Hala Sadak (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 13, 2017.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Human Rights Watch interview with Akash Abdul (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 10, 2017.

[28] Human Rights Watch interview with Shaju Hosin (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Human Rights Watch interview with Rawida Zowir (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[31] Human Rights Watch interview with Nura Begum (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[32] See Human Rights Watch, Burma: Military Massacres Dozens in Rohingya Village, October 4, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/10/03/burma-military-massacres-dozens-rohi....

[33] Human Rights Watch interview with Someera Kamal (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 4, 2017.

[34] Human Rights Watch interview with Daulu Osman (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 10, 2017.

[35] Human Rights Watch interview with Mamtaz Yuni (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with Munara Amir Hussein (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[38] Human Rights Watch interview with Hala Sadak (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 13, 2017.

[39] For a discussion of the challenges of estimating prevalence of sexual violence in conflict, see Tia Palermo and Amber Peterman, “Undercounting, overcounting and the longevity of flawed estimates: statistics on sexual violence in conflict,” Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2011, 89:924-925, http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/12/11-089888/en/ (accessed October 30, 2017).

[40] “Situation Report: Rohingya Refugee Crisis, 29 October, 2017, Cox Bazar,” Inter Sector Coordination Group, hosted by the International Organization for Migration, October 29, 2017, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/ 171029_weekly_iscg_sitrep.pdf (accessed November 5, 2017).

[41] Human Rights Watch interview with staff member from a Bangladeshi NGO, name withheld, Cox’s Bazar, October 13, 2017.

[42] Human Rights Watch email correspondence with staff member from an international humanitarian organization, name withheld, November 7, 2017.

[43] Human Rights Watch interview with staff member from an international humanitarian organization, name withheld, Cox’s Bazar, October 13, 2017.

[44] Human Rights Watch, Burma: Security Forces Raped Rohingya Women, Girls, February 6, 2017, https://www.hrw.org /news/2017/02/06/burma-security-forces-raped-rohingya-women-girls

[45] Human Rights Watch, Burma: Security Forces Raped Rohingya Women, Girls, February 6, 2017, https://www.hrw.org /news/2017/02/06/burma-security-forces-raped-rohingya-women-girls

[46] OHCHR, “Report of OHCHR Mission to Bangladesh, Interviews with Rohingya Fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016.” February 2017.

[47] Human Rights Watch interview with Shona Mer (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017. See Amnesty International, My World is Finished, October 18, 2017, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa16/7288/2017/en/ (accessed October 23, 2017).

[48] Human Rights Watch interview with Hamida Amir (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar district, October 8, 2017.

[49] Human Rights Watch interview with Shaju Hosin (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, Cox’s Bazar district, October 8, 2017.

[50] A Human Rights Watch researcher visited Shamsung Naher’s surviving baby shortly after the interview. The baby, only a few months old, had loose skin sagging off its extremely thin frame and a deeply sunken fontanel (the top of a baby’s head), which can be a sign of severe dehydration or malnutrition.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with Toyuba Yahya (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 13, 2017.

[52] Human Rights Watch interview with Shaju Hosin (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with Isharhat Islam (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 7, 2017.

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with Dilda Abdulrahmin(pseudonym), October 3, 2017. Her account of the attack on her home did not include any information about rape or other sexual violence.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with Hadija Jamal (pseudonym), Balukali refugee camp, October 3, 2017. Her account of the attack on her home did not include any information about rape or other sexual violence.

[57] Witnesses have frequently referred to “rocket launchers” in interviews, both after the 2016 violence and during clearance operations since August 2017. The phrase is believed to refer to mortars or grenade launchers.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with Sakina Khatum (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 13, 2017.

[59] Ibid. The interviewee’s husband was taken away by soldiers without any explanation. The interviewee does not know where he is being held, or if he is still alive. As far as she knew when we spoke with her in October 2017, no formal charges have been filed against him.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with Anwara Sanchita (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 13, 2017.

[61] Human Rights Watch, “Burma: Rohingya Recount Killings, Rape and Arson”, December 21, 2016, https://www.hrw.org /news/2016/12/21/burma-rohingya-recount-killings-rape-and-arson, and “Human Rights Watch, Burma: Rohingya Describe Military Atrocities”, September 8, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/09/08/burma-rohingya-describe-military-atr.... Amnesty International has also documented the use of grenade launchers and rocket propelled grenades by Burmese security forces in northern Rakhine State during clearance operations in August and September 2017. See Amnesty International, “My World is Finished” October 18, 2017, p. 38., https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/ asa16/7288/2017/en/ (accessed November 9, 2017).

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with Nura Begum (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[63] Human Rights Watch interview with Baanu Salam (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with Yasmine Ahmed (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 13, 2017.

[65] Human Rights Watch interview with Hasina Begum (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017. A United Nations High Commission for Refugees household survey of Rohingya refugees found that 14 percent of all households were headed by single women. See, United Nations High Commission for Refugees, briefing note, “First Results of Family Counting in Bangladesh Find Every Third Refugee Family Vulnerable,” November 7, 2017, http://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2017/11/5a0192138/first-results-famil... (accessed November 10, 2017).

[66] Amnesty International, My World is Finished, October 2017.

[67] Human Rights Watch interview with Hasina Begum (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[68] Ibid.

[69] Human Rights Watch interview with Leila Nur (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[70] Human Rights Watch interview with Rohingya refugee, name withheld, Kutapalong refugee camp, October 10, 2017.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with Rehanna Khatum (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 7, 2017.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview with Zohra Shaju (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with Hasina Begum (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 11, 2017.

[74] Human Rights Watch interview with Hala Sadak (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 13, 2017.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with Fatama Begum (pseudonym), Balukali refugee camp, October 3, 2017.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with Shamshide Begum (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 5, 2017.

[77] Human Rights Watch interview with Hala Ahmed (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 6, 2017.

[78] Human Rights Watch interview with Shamina Yasmine (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 6, 2017.

[79] Human Rights Watch interview with Asia Khatum (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 6, 2017.

[80] Human Rights Watch interview with Rehanna Azuli (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 7, 2017.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with Isharhat Islam (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 7, 2017.

[82] Ibid.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Shaju Hosin (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with Akash Abdul (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 10, 2017.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with Toyuba Yahya (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 13, 2017.

[87] Human Rights Watch, Burma: Security Forces Raped Rohingya Women, Girls, February 2017.

[88] Two interviewees emphasized that they had received support and care from their family and community and were able to be open about their rape.

[89] Human Rights Watch, interviews with humanitarian organizations, Cox’s Bazar, October 2017. See also Fiona MacGregor, “Rohingya Girls Under 10 Raped While Fleeing” The Guardian, October 25, 2017,  https://www.theguardian.com/world/ 2017/oct/25/rohingya-children-fled-myanmar-violence-charity (accessed October 30, 2017).

[90] Human Rights Watch interview with Nura Naha (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[91] Human Rights Watch interview with Fatama Begum (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[92] Human Rights Watch interview with staff member at a Bangladesh NGO, Cox’s Bazar, October 4, 2017.

[93] Human Rights Watch interview with staff member at an NGO, name withheld, Cox’s Bazar, October 5, 2017.

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with Nura Naha (pseudonym), Thenkali refugee camp, October 8, 2017.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with Shaju Kadir (pseudonym), Kutapalong refugee camp, October 3, 2017.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with Mukti Biswas, psychologist and NGO worker, Cox’s Bazar, October 5, 2017.

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with the head of an NGO, name withheld, Cox’s Bazar, October 13, 2017.

[98] Jonathan Head, “Rohingya Crisis: Seeing Through the Official Story in Myanmar,” BBC, September 11, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41222210 (accessed November 5, 2017).

[99] Human Rights Watch, Burma: Security Forces Raped Rohingya Women, Girls, February 6, 2017.

[100] Human Rights Watch, Burma: Burma: National Commission Denies Atrocities, August 7, 2017.

[101] The International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict provides useful guidelines and best practices on documenting sexual violence as a crime under international law. See Second edition of the International Protocol on the Documentation and Investigation of Sexual Violence in Conflict, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, August 2016, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/international-protocol-on-the... (accessed November 5, 2017).

[102] This is in accordance with best practices for post rape care. See World Health Organization et al., “Clinical Management of Rape Survivors,” 2004, p.14, http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/emergencies/924159263... (accessed October 30, 2017).

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The United States Senate’s reluctance to address past US use of torture was on shocking display during the confirmation of an official who had provided legal cover for so-called, “enhanced interrogation techniques,” in the years after the September 11 attacks. This sends a dangerous signal about accountability for torture under President Donald Trump.

Yesterday, by a 50-47 margin, the Senate approved Steven Bradbury as general counsel of the federal Department of Transportation. Bradbury had written memos authorizing the use of torture and other coercive methods of terrorism suspects as a top government lawyer under then-President George W. Bush.

Only two Republican senators, John McCain and Rand Paul, voted against Bradbury’s confirmation, and both cited torture as the reason. The confirmation marks a, “dark chapter in American history,” said McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

Bradbury had authorized depraved and illegal torture methods including waterboarding and 180-hour sleep deprivation, including with captives’ hands chained above their heads. These methods inflicted horrendous pain and suffering on detainees, stained the US reputation worldwide, and fueled the recruitment drives of Al-Qaeda and other armed groups.

In addition to evidently discounting the enduring damage the torture program caused, some senators perhaps embrace Trump’s reckless praise of torture during his election campaign. Either way, too many senators were unconcerned by Bradbury’s disregard of the absolute prohibition on torture – not only under US law, but also international treaties ratified by the US, such as the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture.

Some senators argued that Bradbury’s new Transportation Department post lacks the national security sensitivity of his former position as acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel from 2005 to 2009, when he wrote his torture memos. But by writing legal documents that wrapped a mantle of false legitimacy around flagrantly unlawful practices, Bradbury failed to uphold respect for human rights and the rule of law that should be required of any US government official.

Instead of downplaying Bradbury’s past, the Senate should be clamoring for criminal investigations into Bradbury and other government officials who played a key role in the US government’s systematic use of torture.

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Lebanese members of parliament attend a parliament discussion in Beirut, Lebanon, October 17, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

(Beirut) – A new law criminalizing torture is a step forward for Lebanon, but falls short of civil society expectations and Lebanon’s obligations under international law, Human Rights Watch said today. Lebanese authorities should prosecute torture cases under the new law and Lebanese courts should interpret the law in line with Lebanon’s obligations under international human rights law.

The law amends article 401 of the criminal code to establish a crime of torture, including acts that lead to severe physical or mental pain or suffering. Lebanon did not previously have a law criminalizing torture, though article 401 narrowly criminalized the use of violence to extract confessions. Shortcomings in the new law include a statute of limitations for prosecuting torture, and ongoing jurisdiction of military courts over certain torture cases. The law went into effect on October 26, 2017, following its publication in the official gazette.

“After languishing in parliament for years, the new law is a step forward for efforts to combat torture in Lebanon,” said Nadim Houry, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. “But this law will only be effective if Lebanese authorities actually use it to investigate and prosecute credible allegations of torture.”

Human Rights Watch and Lebanese human rights organizations routinely document credible reports of torture in Lebanon. However, authorities have failed to properly investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment by security services, and accountability for torture in detention remains elusive. In July, at least four Syrians died in military custody within days of their arrest, amid evidence of torture. Although local media reported the military concluded an investigation into the deaths on July 24, the military has not published the results.

The new law precludes any excuse or justification for the use of torture, prohibits the use of testimony extracted under torture as evidence except against a person accused of committing torture, and provides special procedures for investigating allegations of torture and witness protection. It also provides for rehabilitation and compensation for victims, but includes no detail or guidance for carrying out those provisions. And it fails to criminalize cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment, and limits the definition of torture to situations of investigation, interrogation, judicial investigation, trial, and punishment.

As a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Lebanon is required to take effective measures to prevent torture, ensure that all acts of torture are offenses under its criminal law, provide for appropriate penalties, and prevent other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

Following Lebanon’s first appearance in 2017 before the Committee Against Torture, the international body charged with overseeing implementation of the convention, the committee critiqued a draft of this law, noting in its concluding observations that there should be no statute of limitations. Under the new law, the statute of limitations of 3 to 10 years begins to run upon the victim’s release from detention or custody.

The law establishes a range of penalties depending on the effect of the torture – from 1 to 3 years in prison for cases that do not result in physical or psychological harm; 3 to 7 years if it leads to temporary disability, harm, or physical or psychological impairment; 5 to 10 years if the harm is permanent; and 10 to 20 years if it leads to death. The Committee Against Torture, in reviewing a draft of this law, found that the sentences did not adequately reflect the grave nature of the crime of torture, and has previously recommended sentences of 6 to 20 years.

The new law also fails to remove a requirement that security agencies approve prosecution of their officers in cases of torture. However, under article 15 of Lebanon’s Code of Criminal Procedure, the public prosecutor may initiate proceedings against individuals who are acting as judicial police officers without prior approval.

While the law’s preamble specifies that torture cases should be heard by regular judicial courts, this is not reflected in its operational text, leaving open the possibility that Lebanon’s military courts will continue to hear some cases.

Human Rights Watch has previously found that Lebanon’s military courts do not respect due process rights and that their structure undermines the right to a fair trial, including the right to be tried before a competent, independent, and impartial court and the right to a public hearing. Many military court judges are military officers, appointed by the defense minister, who are not required to have a law degree or legal training. Human rights organizations and journalists cannot monitor trials without the presiding judge’s prior approval.

Lebanon should make public the number of prosecutions and convictions for torture under the new law, Human Rights Watch said.

In October 2016, Lebanon’s parliament passed a law to establish a National Human Rights Institute, including a National Preventative Mechanism to investigate the use of torture and ill treatment. However, Lebanon has not established the institute or appointed its members.

“On paper, Lebanon has beefed up its anti-torture arsenal, but in practice, these measures have not yet translated into concrete steps or actions,” Houry said. “The real test will be whether we start seeing prosecutions and accountability for cases of torture.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

After Human Rights Watch released a report on torture in Egypt titled “‘We Do Unreasonable Things Here’: Torture and National Security in al-Sisi’s Egypt," the government blocked HRW's website and went into propaganda overdrive. This video is a short response.

More about the report:

Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s regular police and National Security officers routinely torture political detainees with techniques including beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, and sometimes rape.

Read more: https://goo.gl/G4vQcy

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

The Uzbek government during President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s first year in office has taken some positive steps to improve the human rights situation, but should now transform them into institutional change and sustainable improvements. 

(Bishkek) – The Uzbek government during President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s first year in office has taken some positive steps to improve the human rights situation, but should now transform them into institutional change and sustainable improvements, Human Rights Watch said today. The findings are based on Human Rights Watch’s first in-country research in seven years, including meetings and interviews with government officials, civil society activists, former political prisoners, and ordinary citizens.

Human Rights Watch also issued a video on recent developments in Uzbekistan. It includes comments by Muhammed Bekjanov, a former political prisoner who was one of the world’s longest-held journalists, imprisoned for nearly 18 years, until his release in February 2017.

“At this moment of hope for the country, the Uzbek government should transform the modest steps already taken in the right direction into lasting human rights protection for all of Uzbekistan’s citizens,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The test for Tashkent is to turn positive moves into enduring structural improvements.”

Mirziyoyev’s administration should make fulfilment of its international human rights obligations a hallmark of the country’s new political era, Human Rights Watch said. The Uzbek government should send a clear message that peaceful criticism of government policies – whether by rights activists, journalists, artists, or religious believers – will not merely be tolerated but genuinely valued in Uzbekistan’s transition to a more open and democratic society.

Last month, Human Rights Watch met with a wide spectrum of government officials and interviewed civil society activists, former political prisoners, relatives of current political prisoners, as well as ordinary citizens in Tashkent and other cities in Uzbekistan. The findings highlight the positive steps the Uzbek government has taken to improve the human rights situation and identify the key concerns it should urgently address to make improvements sustainable.

Mirziyoyev assumed the presidency in September 2016, following the death of Islam Karimov – the Central Asian country’s authoritarian ruler for 27 years – in late August. Since then, the Uzbek government has released at least 16 political prisoners, relaxed certain restrictions on free expression, removed citizens from the security services’ notorious “black list,” and increased the accountability of government institutions to citizens. It has also banned the forced mobilization of teachers, doctors, and college students to labor in fields for the annual cotton-picking season.

Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. Headquarters in New York, U.S., September 19, 2017.

© 2017 Reuters

While these moves have offered hope that Mirziyoyev may break with the ruthless legacy of his predecessor, it remains to be seen whether Uzbekistan’s still-authoritarian political system will meaningfully improve and end grave abuses, including widespread torture, politically motivated imprisonment, and forced labor in cotton fields.

Detailed recommendations Tashkent should undertake to improve the human rights situation include immediately ending the practice of arbitrarily extending prison sentences, ensuring genuine media freedom, registering nongovernmental organizations that take on politically sensitive issues, and immediately abolishing exit visas required for foreign travel.

Uzbekistan in a New Political Era: Cautious Optimism for Change

A little more than a year has passed since Uzbekistan’s second president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, assumed power after the death of Islam Karimov, the Central Asian nation’s former authoritarian leader. Since the transition, the Uzbek government has begun to take steps to improve the country’s abysmal human rights record.

These moves – coupled with currency reforms and a foreign policy pragmatically focused on repairing relations with Uzbekistan’s immediate neighbors Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan – have contributed to a sense of hope in Uzbekistan about the possibility for change not witnessed in many years.

President Mirziyoyev’s conscious attempt to break with the legacy of his predecessor is probably best exemplified by the extensive network of presidential reception centers established across the country, which have the specific task of responding to individual citizens’ grievances. For instance, Gulnora Ikramova, a long-time rights defender, explained that while the centers are not addressing serious rights abuses, they have, to her knowledge, on occasion proven effective in addressing everyday social, communal, and practical issues of citizens that had long been ignored during Karimov’s reign:

Many social problems that lingered for years under Karimov have now been resolved quickly by the [presidential reception] centers. Take our neighborhood, where the streets had been dark and dangerous for years. After my call to the center, street lights have finally been installed.

Mirziyoyev has also, unlike Karimov, been willing to acknowledge the persistence of human rights abuses, even on the international stage. The president’s highly publicized National Action Strategy 2017-2021, which is invoked regularly in official discourse and slogans that are prominently displayed, includes pledges to improve public administration, strengthen protections for vulnerable segments of the population, and liberalize the economy, as well as new legislation to strengthen judicial independence.

The optimism and heightened expectations of millions of Uzbeks are palpable inside the country. But it is far from clear if Uzbekistan’s still-authoritarian government will transform the modest steps it has taken thus far into institutional change and sustainable human rights improvements. Grave abuses such as torture, politically motivated imprisonment, and forced labor in the cotton fields remain widespread.

The tension present between positive moves and steps backward was especially apparent in October when, in the span of a few weeks, Uzbek authorities released five long-time held political prisoners – journalist Solijon Abdurakhmanov, political opposition activist Muhammadali Karabaev, and human rights defenders Azam Farmonov, Ganihon Mamatkhanov, and Akzam Turgunov – while arresting author Nurullo Muhammad Raufkhon and journalist Bobomurod Abdullaev on new charges.

Politically Motivated Imprisonment, Torture, Ill-Treatment in Detention

While the Mirziyoyev administration has yet to acknowledge the existence of politically motivated imprisonment in Uzbekistan, it has since September 2016 released at least 16 people imprisoned on politically motivated charges. They are: Solijon Abdurakhmanov, Muhammad Bekjanov, Botirbek Eshkuziev, Azam Farmonov, Bahrom Ibragimov, Davron Kabilov, Muhammadali Karabaev, Samandar Kukanov, Ganihon Mamatkhanov, Erkin Musaev, Bobomurod Razzakov, Davron Tojiev, Akzam Turgunov, Rustam Usmanov, and Ravshanbek Vafoev. In March 2017, authorities also released Jamshid Karimov, an independent journalist and Islam Karimov’s nephew, from forced psychiatric treatment.

The number of prisoner releases over the past year, especially five prisoners freed over a short period in October, stands in stark contrast with the one or two prisoners released each year on average during Karimov’s reign, and signals some hope that the Uzbek government could move toward freeing thousands of political prisoners in Uzbekistan.

Following his release from prison, freed journalist Muhammad Bekjanov is now writing a memoir on his time in Jaslyk prison, Yangibozor, September 2017 © 2017 Steve Swerdlow

Musaev, a former United Nations staff member convicted of fabricated charges of espionage was granted early release 11 years into his 20-year sentence. But most of the others had already reached the end or were within one or two years of the end of their prison terms – some of which had been arbitrarily extended on bogus grounds – or were elderly or in ill-health.

Thousands of individuals imprisoned on politically motivated charges remain behind bars and many have experienced torture or ill-treatment.

Human rights activists in prison include Mehrinisso Hamdamova, Zulhumor Hamdamova, Isroiljon Kholdorov, Gaybullo Jalilov, Chuyan Mamatkulov, Zafarjon Rahimov, Yuldash Rasulov, and Fahriddin Tillaev.

Journalists in prison include Bobomurod Abdullaev, Gayrat Mikhliboev, Yusuf Ruzimuradov, and Dilmurod Saidov.

Imprisoned religious figures and other perceived government critics include Aramais Avakyan, Ruhiddin Fahriddinov, Sobir Hamidkariyev, Nodirbek Yusupov, Dilorom Abdukodirova, and Ravshan Kosimov. Kudratbek Rasulov, an opposition activist, also remains behind bars.

Prison authorities in Uzbekistan also continue to use Article 221 of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code regarding “violations of prison rules” to arbitrarily extend the sentences of people imprisoned on politically motivated charges. 

In February, authorities released Muhammad Bekjanov, one of the world’s longest imprisoned journalists. He was kidnapped in Ukraine before his arrest in 1999, and severely tortured in prison, and his sentence was arbitrarily extended in 2012 by five years. In a meeting with Human Rights Watch in September 2017 at his home in northwestern Uzbekistan, Bekjanov described some of the torture he and other prisoners, including the currently imprisoned journalist Yusuf Ruzimurodov, suffered shortly after his kidnapping in Ukraine in 1999 and transfer back to Tashkent:

We arrived in Tashkent still blindfolded on the airplane, and (I noticed later) the skin on my arms was turning black from the handcuffs which almost cut through the bone they were on so tight. We were immediately taken to the Ministry of Internal Affairs basement, where the officers began beating our legs with rubber truncheons. They beat us all the time from the evening until the morning, only pausing for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. They broke my right leg, and when they got tired of beating my legs they beat other areas. After three days of that I could no longer walk and could not bear the beatings any further. This went on daily for at least a month and a half, as the officials tried to force me to make a false confession. When I refused they would beat me harder. They beat me so hard that I forgot the names of my own daughters.

Erkin Musaev, another former political prisoner, suffered harrowing torture in pretrial detention. He told Human Rights Watch in September 2017:

Often, they would prevent us from sleeping for no reason, coming into my cell at 5 a.m. and forcing me to ‘take a jog’ in the prison compound in the freezing cold. At times, they [prison guards] doused me with freezing cold water and then let me freeze. On another occasion, I was placed into an extremely cold, closed cell for 10 days straight.

The Uzbek government has also yet to fulfill the longstanding recommendation of UN bodies to close the Jaslyk prison colony – a detention facility long associated with some of the most egregious torture cases. Authorities continue to send people imprisoned on politically motivated charges there, including rights defender Azam Farmonov, until his release in early October.

Judicial Reform, Torture, and the Independent Legal Profession

The Uzbek government has emphasized judicial reform as a priority under the National Action Strategy and has adopted two recent presidential decrees – one in October 2016 and the other in February 2017 – designed to increase independence of the judiciary. In February, the government introduced a new institution – the Supreme Judicial Council – a body of the judiciary that, among other things, appoints, supervises, and disciplines or dismisses judges working in courts below the Constitutional and Supreme Courts and several other key courts. The decrees also put in place a system under which judges may gradually move to tenured appointments, increasing their independence from the executive branch.

While the extent to which these measures will improve citizens’ experience of justice in the court system remains to be seen, they have edged Uzbekistan’s judicial practices more closely in line with international standards outlined in the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary. Another amendment introduced in April reduced the time arrestees could be held in pretrial detention prior to a court hearing, from 72 to 48 hours, fulfilling a long-standing recommendation by the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Torture.

These initiatives are important, not least because torture has been rampant in Uzbekistan and occurs with near-total impunity. Forum 18, a non-governmental organization that monitors religious freedom, recently reported a torture case in the northwestern city of Nukus, where police officers jailed a Jehovah’s Witness, hitting him “on his kidneys, chest, stomach, and face. They then demanded that he do 150 squat exercises without taking a rest. When he was able to do only 120, the officers again beat him in the face.” Later, police “kicked him on the back” and subsequently “[in freezing conditions] poured cold water on the floor of the cell and kicked him in the head.”

Ravshan Kosimov, current political prisoner, imprisoned on politically motivated charges since 2009 © 2009 Malika Kosimova

In September, lawyers reported to Human Rights Watch that the rights of detainees are routinely violated at each stage of investigations and trials, despite habeas corpus amendments that went into effect in 2008. Suspects are often not permitted meaningful access to lawyers, and police use torture to coerce confessions from detainees. Authorities routinely refuse to investigate allegations of abuse. Uzbek authorities will need to take demonstrable and verifiable action to end this situation and hold those responsible to account.

Since 2013, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not carried out independent monitoring of Uzbekistan’s prisons and places of detention. In 2013, ICRC announced its suspension of its monitoring programs due to an inability to conduct prison visits and confidential meetings with prisoners free of government interference. In meetings with Human Rights Watch in September, Uzbek government officials acknowledged the importance of the ICRC’s monitoring role, indicating an openness to the organization resuming its work. Officials also said that ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), is currently under consideration.

The government has also increased the independence of Uzbekistan’s Ombudsman for Human Rights, Ulugbek Muhammadiyev, appointed just two years ago. An August 2017 law enables the Ombudsman’s Office to intervene on behalf of citizens in various legal cases as a pro bono public defender, and the provision of an independent line-item for the ombudsman’s activities in Uzbekistan’s state budget increases the office’s independence from other executive branches of government. The August 2017 law brought the powers of the human rights ombudsman closer into line with the UN “Paris Principles” that relate to the status and functioning of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights.

In September, Ombudsman Muhammadiyev told Human Rights Watch about his office’s increasing efforts to conduct unannounced monitoring visits of prisons across Uzbekistan and to create more opportunities for citizens to meet with his office and lodge appeals. Such efforts are important and positive, but Human Rights Watch also learned of efforts by prison officials, as recently as April 2017, to intimidate prisoners during the ombudsman’s prison visits, and of more systematic efforts to confiscate the written appeals prisoners prepare and attempt to send to his office and other government officials. Erkin Musaev, a political prisoner released in August, told Human Rights Watch about his experience when the ombudsman visited his prison, the Bekobod prison colony, in April 2017:

Ten minutes before the ombudsman’s arrival they lined up prisoners for our cellblock. They asked two of them to step forward and beat them up brutally in front of all of us. ‘Just try to complain about our prison to the ombudsman when he comes,’ they said, ‘and you’ll see what happens to you.’ Other prisoners who attempted to see the ombudsman were ‘re-directed’ to the warden’s office and kept there until after the ombudsman had left. They set out special food items and cleaned the prison before he came and then to compensate for the money spent fed the prisoners stale meat for the next week. After that experience, I wrote a letter to the ombudsman pleading with him not to come back to our prison.

Lawyers also told Human Rights Watch that a 2009 law that restructured the legal profession and abolished the previously independent bar associations, subordinating their replacement to the government, continues to severely restrict the independence of lawyers. Under the new law, all lawyers were required to re-apply for their licenses and to re-take a bar examination every three years. In the eight years since, several lawyers who consistently take on politically sensitive cases or raise allegations of torture have been disbarred, or otherwise left the profession and there has been a chilling effect on those who remain licensed to practice.

Cooperation with UN Institutions

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, visited Uzbekistan in May 2017 – the first ever such visit by a high commissioner for human rights to Central Asia – signaling a willingness on the part of authorities to engage more closely with UN human rights bodies. Also, in October 2017, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief made an official visit to Uzbekistan, the first such visit by a UN human rights thematic mandate holder to Uzbekistan in 15 years.

During Hussein’s visit, Tashkent agreed to resume cooperation with the high commissioner’s regional office in Bishkek. In public comments Hussein commended Mirziyoyev for his stated commitment to reforms and urged him to follow through on releasing wrongfully imprisoned activists, cooperate with UN human rights monitors, end forced labor, and lift restrictions on media. Later, the Uzbek government announced it would allow a permanent representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to be based in Tashkent. There are 13 other UN mandate holders with outstanding requests to visit Uzbekistan who have been refused access since 2002, including the special rapporteurs on torture, the situation of human rights defenders, and the independence of lawyers and judges.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2017, Mirziyoyev seemed determined to move on from Karimov’s legacy, expressing the goal to build “a democratic state and a just society” where “human interests come first.” Mirziyoyev added: “We are deeply convinced that people must not serve government bodies, rather government bodies must serve the people.”

Civil Society

In contrast to the situation under Karimov, the Mirziyoyev administration has slightly relaxed restrictions on the holding of modest peaceful demonstrations, such as those by the small group of activists who make up the Human Rights Alliance of Uzbekistan, headed by veteran rights activist Elena Urlaeva. But critical voices, including independent rights activists, journalists, and lawyers, are still largely suppressed.

Civil society in Uzbekistan continues to operate under tight restrictions, and no independent domestic human rights organization has been allowed to register since 2003. Additionally, a June 2015 law strictly regulates the activities of nongovernmental organizations, requiring an onerous and burdensome process of receiving prior approval from the Ministry of Justice by at least 20 days before conducting virtually any activity. Many local and international nongovernmental organizations have reported that the June 2015 law has seriously hindered their ability to operate.

Civil society forum in Tashkent with Human Rights, Tashkent, September 2017 © 2017 Steve Swerdlow

Government officials in September reported the existence of thousands of nongovernmental organizations in the country, but offered no information on attempts by the Ministry of Justice to invite activists and groups who work on politically sensitive or critical civil and political issues to gain legal registration. In contrast, one long-time human rights activist whose name is being withheld for security reasons and whose organization monitors religious freedom and civil and political rights reported that he had attempted to obtain registration unsuccessfully for seven years and had still been unable to do so in the year since Mirziyoyev assumed the presidency.

By contrast, civil society groups that work on social and economic issues appear to have greater flexibility to operate within strict regulations set by authorities. There were also tentative signs the space for broader nongovernmental organization activity could widen. In September, Human Rights Watch had contact with a range of nongovernmental organizations working on women’s rights, environmental issues, and the rights of people with disabilities, and heard from NANNOUZ, an nongovernmental organization umbrella association, about work to support people living with HIV/AIDS. Still, one nongovernmental organization working on socio-economic issues said it still faced intimidation by authorities.

In March, authorities forced long-time rights activist Elena Urlaeva to stay in a psychiatric hospital for nearly a month in retaliation for her work. Authorities detained her again in October, this time with the photojournalist Timur Karpov as they tried to monitor conditions for laborers in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields.

Mirziyoyev announced in August that the country’s exit visas – a Soviet relic that authorities have used as a tool to prevent a wide array of perceived critics, including artists and activists, from foreign travel – would be abolished in January 2019.

Media Freedom

While the media sphere remains highly controlled, in July a new 24-hour news channel, Uzbekistan 24, featured criticism of Karimov’s economic and social policies. Earlier in 2017, Uzbekistan 24 began regular broadcasts of talk shows on topical issues, including social and economic and social, concerns, and but at times more sensitive subjects such as on child labor in the cotton sector. For a brief period, these programs were broadcast live, but this ended abruptly in August, although broadcasts of recorded versions of the shows continues. Local media outlets such as kun.uz have acquired a reputation for more critical reporting.

The Uzbek government has made overtures to international media, giving access to a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, hosting an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) media forum in October that included several journalists, and inviting others to upcoming international conferences. The government announced in June that the BBC’s Uzbek service would be allowed to base a correspondent in Tashkent, although accreditation has not yet been issued. In the past year, however, other reporters from international outlets, such as the German reporter Edda Schlager, have been detained during their reporting trips.

On September 27, Uzbek security services detained Bobomurod Abdullaev, an independent journalist, in Tashkent, on what appears to be a politically motivated charge. He was charged with “attempts to overthrow the constitutional regime” under Article 159 of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code, and faces up to 20 years in prison. He remains in custody.

On the same day, police also detained Nurullo Muhummad Raufkhon, an Uzbek author, at Tashkent airport, after he arrived from Turkey following two years of exile. He was charged with extremism for his book Bu Kunlar (These Days), which criticizes Karimov. He was released on October 1, but still faces charges.

To date, the internet in Uzbekistan is highly censored, with access blocked to many critical websites, including independent media such as Fergana News, Radio Free Europe’s Uzbek service, and other sources of news.

Freedom of Religion

Since the late 1990s Uzbekistan has maintained some of the world’s most restrictive policies on the exercise of worship or belief. Authorities highly regulate religious worship, clothing, and sermons delivered by the country’s imams, and ban all forms of proselytism. Peaceful religious believers are often branded “religious extremists.”

Following his two-week visit to Uzbekistan this month, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief summarized his findings that while Uzbek laws theoretically guarantees freedom of religion, in practice religious practice is subject to “excessive regulations that prioritize security over freedom,” with the government’s approach promoting “toleration instead of freedom.” He said that “[w]hat is required is not just the adoption of new laws, but also meaningful institutional reform, and credible change on the ground.”

The government has for many years maintained a “black list” – made up of thousands of individuals suspected of belonging to unregistered or extremist groups. Those on the list are barred from obtaining various jobs and travel, and must report regularly for police interrogations.

In August 2017, authorities announced a reduction of the number of people on the “black list” from 17,582 to 1,352, softening certain religious freedom restrictions. In public remarks accompanying the move, President Mirziyoyev emphasized the need to rehabilitate citizens who had been “misled” by radical groups.

Despite this positive move, thousands of religious believers – religious Muslims who practice their religion outside strict state controls – remain imprisoned on vague charges of extremism. In May, authorities convicted 11 Muslims on extremism charges that appeared fabricated. Surat Ikramov, a human rights activist, said the charges were bogus, that the men only “ate, rested, and prayed together,” and that the men’s confessions were procured through torture.

Followers of the late Turkish Muslim theologian Said Nursi are prosecuted for religious extremism. Hundreds of Nursi followers have been arrested or imprisoned in the last decade. Authorities harass Christian communities. In April, a court in the northwestern Karakalpakstan autonomous region imposed short prison terms on four Protestant men – Marat, Joldasbai, Atamurat, and Salamat. Judge Sailaubai Mambetkadyrov of the Criminal Court in Nukus, Karakalpakstan’s regional capital, handed down the 15-day prison terms to punish them for meeting for worship in a home.

Authorities continue to arbitrarily extend sentences of religious prisoners for alleged violations of prison regulations. Such extensions occur without due process and can add years to a prisoner’s sentence, raising concerns that the practice appears designed to keep religious prisoners behind bars indefinitely.

For example, as reported by Forum 18, imprisoned rights defender and religious believer Mehrinisso Hamdamova was sentenced on politically motivated charges of extremism to seven years in April 2010. She was due to be released in November 2016 but, despite suffering from a myoma (a tumor associated with uterine cancer), was given an additional three-year prison term. In August 2016, her sister Zulhumor who had been due for release in May 2016, had her prison term extended by three years for alleged violation of prison rules. Both sisters’ health has long caused serious concern, and authorities have denied them medical treatment.

Forced Labor in the Cotton Fields

For years the Uzbek government has forced Uzbek citizens, including education and health workers, students, and people receiving public benefits, to pick cotton for the state-run cotton industry involuntarily and under the threat of penalty, such as dismissal or expulsion from their jobs or loss of benefits.

In September 2017, the Uzbek government recalled university students and some health and education workers from forced labor in the cotton fields. But other workers remained involuntarily in the fields or faced extortion to pay for workers to replace them if they left. On September 21, 2017, Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov ordered officials to recall students and education and medical workers, who had been picking cotton under threat of penalty since the harvest began on September 10, despite an August degree banning the recruitment of such workers.

Bringing students home from the fields is a significant change and shows the importance of political will in ending forced labor. Now it is crucial for Uzbekistan’s international partners, including the United States, European Union, other states, and international financial institutions, to urge the government to allow all involuntary workers to return from the fields without penalty – including being required to pay for someone else to work in their place – and to monitor and publicly report on findings.

Human rights activist Malohat Esqhonqulova discusses her work monitoring the cotton fields in Uzbekistan for forced labor, Tashkent, September 2017 © 2017 Steve Swerdlow

Mirziyoyev addressed forced labor in his speech to the UN General Assembly. It was the first time an Uzbek president acknowledged the issue on the international stage, after a decade of international pressure from governments and other stakeholders and campaigning by the Cotton Campaign – a global coalition of human rights, labor, investor, and business organizations dedicated to eradicating child labor and forced labor in cotton production. Forced labor was raised again in a meeting with the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, on September 20.

These significant developments show that Uzbekistan can end the decades-long practice of mobilizing massive forced labor to harvest cotton. But these positive steps should not obscure the persistence of forced labor in the current cotton harvest or the continuing threats against activists trying to monitor the situation. The Uzbek government should follow these steps with meaningful reforms to end this repressive and exploitative form of production once and for all.

Preliminary monitoring by independent monitors in September and October shows that teachers and health care workers in some districts were recalled, but workers in other districts were not. Interviews with independent monitors revealed that even as workers are being brought back from the fields, some local officials are extorting funds from businesses and individuals to pay for “replacement” workers. In some areas, returning teachers were made to pay about US$40, half their monthly wage, to hire a replacement worker.

In the Fergana region, officials told business owners that refusal to participate in the collection would be tantamount to an “anti-state action” that would result in a visit from the tax inspector. Most independent monitors continue to work in secret because authorities carried out multiple arrests and even physical assaults on monitors during the 2015 and 2016 harvests.

Independent monitors told Human Rights Watch in September 2017 that in various regions, such as Bukhara, public sector workers were forced to sign forms that they would “voluntarily” pick cotton. Human Rights Watch also learned of instances, such as in the Parkent district of the Tashkent region, where authorities forced teachers and medical personnel to conceal their actual professions when signing up to participate in the harvest.

For the third year in a row, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has contracted with the World Bank, which has invested more than US$500 million in projects that benefit agriculture, to monitor forced and child labor in World Bank project areas. A recent letter from the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) expressed serious concern regarding the ILO’s monitoring methodology and recommended improvements in its mandate during the 2017 harvest.

All stakeholders, including the ILO and the World Bank, should closely monitor the situation on the ground from the harvest, including information provided by nongovernmental monitors, and judge progress toward eliminating forced labor in terms of how that reality matches the president’s statements.

Recommendations

This is a real moment of hope for the human rights of the Uzbek people. The key is for the Uzbek government to transform the modest steps it has taken thus far into institutional change and sustainable improvements. The Uzbek government should consolidate the country’s new political era by acting to fulfil its international human rights obligations.

Mirziyoyev’s government should send an unambiguous message that peaceful criticism of government policies – whether by human rights activists, journalists, artists, or religious believers – is inherently valued and useful in Uzbekistan’s transition to a more open and democratic political era. The following are specific recommendations Human Rights Watch urges the Uzbek government to take to improve the human rights situation:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all wrongfully imprisoned human rights defenders, journalists, members of the political opposition, and other activists held on politically motivated charges;
  • End the practice of arbitrarily extending prison sentences for minor offenses or “violations of prison rules” under article 221 of the criminal code;
  • Take meaningful measures to end torture, implementing in full the recommendations of the UN special rapporteur on torture, the UN Committee Against Torture, and the UN Human Rights Committee, including closure of the Jaslyk prison colony, the resumption of prison monitoring by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant against Torture (OPCAT);
  • Ensure genuine media freedom, end censorship of the internet, cease harassment of journalists, and allow domestic and international media outlets, including those that have been forced to stop operating in Uzbekistan, to register, and grant accreditation to foreign journalists;
  • Allow domestic and international human rights organizations to operate without government interference, including by promptly re-registering those that have been liquidated or otherwise forced to cease operating in Uzbekistan;
  • Repeal the June 2015 law which imposes on nongovernmental organizations the onerous and burdensome process of receiving prior approval from the Ministry of Justice for a variety of activities;
  • Immediately abolish the system of exit visas required for Uzbek citizens to travel abroad;
  • End religious persecution, including by decriminalizing peaceful religious activity, and ending the imprisonment of thousands of people for their nonviolent religious expression;
  • Build on the visit by the UN special rapporteur on freedom of religion in October 2017, issue invitations to the remaining 13 UN monitors who have asked to visit Uzbekistan, and implement recommendations by independent monitoring bodies, including UN treaty bodies and special procedures;
  • Effectively end forced labor of adults in the cotton sector, implement fully government decrees banning the mobilization of public sector workers and students, allow independent nongovernmental organizations and activists to conduct their own monitoring without harassment; and
  • Ensure accountability for the 2005 Andijan massacre, during which government forces shot and killed hundreds of mostly peaceful protesters, and cease harassment and other abuses of refugees who returned to Uzbekistan after leaving the country following the massacre, and of families of refugees who remain abroad.
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

In Turkey today, people accused of terrorism or of being linked to the July 2016 attempted coup are at risk of torture in police custody. There has been a spate of reported cases of men being abducted, some of whom were held in secret detention places, with evidence pointing to the involvement of state authorities.

Based on interviews with lawyers and relatives, and on a review of court transcripts, this report looks in detail at ten cases in which security forces tortured or ill-treated a total of 22 people, and an eleventh case in which police beat scores of villagers, 38 of whom lodged formal complaints of torture.

The report also presents details of five individual cases of abduction that likely amount to enforced disappearance by state authorities since March 2017. Enforced disappearance occurs when state authorities take a person into custody, but deny it or refuse to provide information about the disappeared person’s whereabouts.

Torture and ill-treatment

The 11 cases of torture or ill-treatment Human Rights Watch includes in this report represent a fraction of the credible cases reported in the media and on social media. Such reports indicate that torture and ill-treatment in police custody in Turkey has become a widespread problem. Official figures show that in the past year well over 150,000 people have passed through police custody accused of terrorist offenses, membership of armed groups, or involvement in the attempted coup in July 2016. The highest number of detentions concerns people suspected of links with the group the government and courts in Turkey refer to as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), associated with US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen. The government says this group was behind the attempted coup. The second largest group concerns people with alleged links to the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK/KCK). Cases reported to Human Rights Watch show that it is people detained on these two grounds who are at greatest risk of torture.

In all 11 cases of torture presented in this report, which altogether involve scores of individuals, Human Rights Watch gathered accounts of severe beatings, threats, and insults.  Human Rights Watch heard accounts of detainees stripped naked, and in some cases of detainees being threatened with sexual assault, or being sexually assaulted. In many cases, the torture appeared to be aimed at extracting confessions or forcing detainees to implicate other individuals. Detainees who alleged torture were brought before doctors for routine medical reports, but either the doctors showed no interest in physical evidence of torture or the presence of police officers inhibited them from conducting proper medical examinations and made it hard for detainees to describe their injuries or speak about treatment in custody.

In October 2016, Human Rights Watch published a report on the impact of the removal of safeguards against torture and ill-treatment under the state of emergency that was imposed in Turkey after the attempted coup.[1]  For example, the government extended the period of police detention to 30 days and restricted the right of detainees to meet with lawyers. The report documented incidents of torture that followed the introduction of these measures. In January 2017, the cabinet issued a decree lifting some of the most severe of these restrictions on detainees’ rights. However, the evidence presented in this report indicates that in spite of the easing of restrictions on detainees’ rights, the abuse of detainees in police custody has continued.

Although the government of President Erdoğan publicly asserts a zero tolerance for torture, there remains a climate of impunity for the torture and mistreatment of detainees. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any serious measures that have been taken to investigate credible allegations of torture, much less hold perpetrators to account. Human Rights Watch discussed the cases of torture documented in its October 2016 report directly with the Turkish government. However, a year later, lawyers and families have informed Human Rights Watch that there has yet to be any sign that prosecutors have conducted effective investigations into two complaints by named individuals examined in the October report, or complaints by three individuals identified in the report by their initials.

Several individuals whose cases are examined in this latest report also told prosecutors or courts they had been ill-treated. Most of their allegations appear to have been ignored or sidelined. There are scant indications that prosecutors are taking the initiative proactively to investigate abuse when they encounter suspects who show signs of having been subjected to ill-treatment.

These developments should be seen in the context of the government’s moves since the July 2016 coup attempt to further undermine the already compromised independence of the judiciary. Mass dismissals and prosecutions of judges and prosecutors over alleged Gülenist links and tighter executive control over the judiciary make it increasingly unlikely that prosecutors and judges concerned about their own job security will risk investigating such crimes.

Abductions and Enforced Disappearances

This report also presents details of five cases of abductions which likely amount to enforced disappearances. In one case a man was abducted in Ankara and subsequently found in police custody, after having been held at a secret location for 42 days, during which time he alleges he was tortured. The facts of his case strongly indicate that he was the victim of an enforced disappearance, and was abducted and held in unacknowledged detention with at least the acquiescence of Turkish state agents.

Human Rights Watch documented four other cases of people who were abducted in contexts that lead to the conclusion that they too should be presumed to be victims of enforced disappearances.

Human Rights Watch has information about a sixth case – a man who went missing and was held at a secret place of detention for over two months before being released. We have not presented the details of the case in this report for the individual’s own safety.

In most of the cases of abduction documented, witnesses reported the victims were abducted in broad daylight in the street by men who declared to passersby they were from the police. In three cases the same type of vehicle, a VW Transporter, was used to abduct the men. In all cases, the relatives of the disappeared men had difficulty lodging formal complaints with the authorities or with receiving information about the investigation. In one case witnesses to the abduction told relatives they called the police, who said they could not intervene because the individual’s apprehension seemed to have been handled by the anti-terror branch of the police.

The evidence of abductions and likely enforced disappearances presented in this report is of particular concern because Turkey has a notorious history of security forces conducting enforced disappearances in the 1990s. The European Court of Human Rights issued repeated judgments that Turkey had violated the rights to liberty and security, and often the right to life of victims who were mainly Kurds, and had forced their families to endure inhuman and degrading treatment.

In August, Human Rights Watch wrote an open letter to the minister of justice, seeking information about the status of investigations into four abductions, but had received no response at this writing. In several cases, families of victims have applied to the European Court of Human Rights, complaining of lack of an effective investigation into the abductions.

Constraints on Lawyers

Despite the January 2017 reforms, several lawyers told Human Rights Watch that they had limited opportunity to speak to their clients in confidence because police officers were often present during their meetings with detainees. Under Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law, lawyers’ meetings with clients in police detention can be legally restricted for the first 24 hours. However, lawyers reported that in some cases the police still attempted to bar access beyond that period, forcing them to apply to the prosecutor’s office to negotiate access.

Some lawyers also reported that they had come under undue pressure from the police when they challenged official written police accounts of police interviews with their clients, at which they (the lawyers) had been present.

Most lawyers interviewed by Human Rights Watch expressed concerns for their own safety. Several commented that provincial bar associations and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations were not offering the support to lawyers they needed, and were not willing to support efforts to document and lodge complaints about detainees’ allegations of ill-treatment. Without the institutional support of bar associations and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations to which they belong, the ability of lawyers to protect the human rights of detainees without fear of reprisals is limited.

In November 2016, the government issued a decree under the state of emergency, closing down three Turkish lawyers’ associations which had played an important role in promoting fair trial standards and the rights of detainees and defendants.

Several hundred lawyers are in pre-trial detention, the majority accused of links to the group the government and courts in Turkey refer to as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ). 

***

The Turkish authorities should urgently demonstrate their commitment to upholding the absolute prohibitions on torture, ill-treatment, and enforced disappearances, and ensure prompt and effective investigations into security forces, intelligence services, and all other public officials alleged to have tortured or ill-treated detainees, or unlawfully deprived them of their liberty. Turkey’s international partners, including the European Union and its member states, should put human rights concerns at the center of their engagement with the Turkish authorities; raise with the Turkish authorities in the most urgent terms the increase in complaints of torture in police custody; and publicly call for full investigations into reported cases of torture and ill-treatment in detention, and of enforced disappearances.

Recommendations

To the Turkish Government

  • Immediately and unconditionally enforce the absolute prohibition on torture and ill-treatment of detainees, and publicly announce a zero tolerance for violations of the prohibition and what measures it will take to prevent any violations;
  • Immediately and unconditionally enforce the absolute prohibition on enforced disappearances and the non-derogable rights to life and physical integrity of all people detained on suspicion of criminal activity, including through public commitments to the same;
  • Publicly reiterate and reinforce that everyone has a guarantee to liberty and security, including fundamental safeguards and due process rights such as: any detention should only occur at a recognized place of detention and should be fully recorded and documented from the outset, the right to a lawyer from the outset of detention, the right to be promptly brought before a judge and to have their whereabouts communicated to family members;
  • Ensure the prompt and effective investigation into all allegations of torture or other ill-treatment of detainees, as well as allegations of unlawful deprivation of liberty, and the prosecution of any members of the police, security forces, intelligence services, or other public offices implicated in criminal conduct, irrespective of rank or status;
  • Remind all prosecutors and judges of the inadmissibility of evidence extracted under torture or ill-treatment, or from persons while in unlawful detention; of their responsibility to investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment as well as to question suspects about their treatment in custody in order to determine whether there is a likelihood of violations having occurred, in particular when a suspect brought before them has any visible sign of injury;
  • End the practice of transferring remand prisoners back to police custody for questioning, and repeal article 8, decree no. 670, which permits it;
  • Rescind the provision (article 9, decree no. 667) protecting public officials from all criminal responsibility for actions undertaken in the discharge of duties carried out in the context of the state of emergency;
  • Permit the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to publish without further delay the completed report on the findings of its ad hoc visit to Turkey in September 2016.

To the Union of Turkish Bars and provincial bar associations

  • Play a proactive role in training lawyers acting for the legal aid service in how to respond to cases where their clients or other detainees may have been subjected to abuse in detention, including in relation to gathering medical and other evidence;
  • Promote a proactive response to upholding the rights of all individuals held in places of detention by filing complaints of torture and ill-treatment on behalf of detainees subjected to such violations;
  • Publicly defend the right of all suspects to an effective defense regardless of their profile;
  • Publicly reiterate that the government and authorities have an obligation to ensure that no lawyer who defends a suspect is identified with the alleged crimes of his or her client;
  • Robustly defend the rights of lawyers to be protected from intimidation and abuse when acting for clients;
  • Gather and record all complaints relating to abuse in detention in order to determine how widespread instances of torture and ill-treatment are.

To Turkey’s International Partners

  • Raise with the utmost urgency the increase in complaints of torture in police custody with the Turkish government, and emphasize the urgent need to stamp out torture and ill-treatment in detention, eliminate enforced disappearances and secret detention and fully investigate all reported cases, including abductions in Ankara, and bring those responsible to justice.

Methodology

This report, researched between February and September 2017, is based on face to face and telephone interviews in Turkish with lawyers, families of detainees, and, in two cases, victims of torture, who were released from police custody and not remanded to pretrial detention. Human Rights Watch informed each interviewee of the purpose of the interview and the way their information would be used. No interviewee received any direct or indirect remuneration for their participation.

The report looks at cases in which the accused are accused of links with terrorist organizations or of involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt. It does not examine treatment in detention of those accused of common crimes such as theft, nor does it address allegations of abuse of individuals in pretrial prison detention or serving prison sentences.

There are huge obstacles to documenting torture in Turkey at present. Because the majority of victims remain on remand in pre-trial detention and not accessible, it is generally not possible for human rights organizations to interview victims of torture and get first-hand testimonies. Most detainees can only convey information about their experience in detention to close family members and lawyers who are able to visit them. Other information comes from records of detainees’ statements to prosecutors or judges in court or by letter from prison. In only two cases among the cluster of cases reported to Human Rights Watch below was it possible to speak directly to the victim.

The research presented in this report is based on an examination of records of statements to prosecutors and court records, written complaints to prosecutors, and supporting evidence, such as videos and video grabs from security camera footage, and photographic evidence of torture.

Owing to secrecy orders on most investigations, it was not possible to examine medical reports on detainees who alleged torture in police custody. It has not even been possible to determine whether doctors have been able to document ill-treatment and torture.

All names of lawyers mentioned in this report are withheld for their own security. In two cases the name of detainees who reported ill-treatment and the place of detention have been withheld at the request of their families. However, Human Rights Watch has communicated the cases directly to the Ministry of Justice.

In most other cases, detainees alleging they were tortured are referred to in the report by the first letters of their names at their own request via their lawyers, or because Human Rights Watch took the decision to do so for their own safety. The relevant file numbers relating to the criminal investigation into detainees – some of whom are now defendants in trials – are included so that the Ministry of Justice can investigate why there was no investigation into their allegations that they were tortured, or to enable the ministry to determine the progress of any ongoing torture investigation. To answer the Ministry of Justice’s concern that most of the case information provided in the October 2016 Human Rights Watch report on torture was vague and could not be investigated, Human Rights Watch has attempted in this report only to include cases with enough detail to permit their investigation.

Where individuals did not want any identifying information included – mainly because they feared reprisals or felt their own situation would be made worse by having their allegations published in any form – a decision was made to omit the case from the report.

      I.   A Background of Impunity and Weak Safeguards

Over many years, Human Rights Watch and other organizations have documented Turkey’s entrenched culture of impunity for public officials accused of serious human rights violations. Turkey has a long history of security forces torturing detainees and, in the 1990s, conducting enforced disappearances. This led to multiple adverse rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, finding that Turkey had violated the absolute prohibition on torture and failed to ensure the effective investigation of torture allegations. The European Court also issued repeated judgments relating to enforced disappearances, finding that Turkey had violated the rights to liberty and security, and often the right to life of victims who were mainly Kurds, and had forced their families to endure inhuman and degrading treatment.

Official figures show that between the declaration of the state of emergency that Turkey’s government imposed after the July 15, 2016 attempted military coup and mid July 2017, around 150,000 people passed through police custody accused of terrorist offenses, membership of armed groups, or involvement in the attempted coup.[2] The highest number of detentions concerns people suspected of links with the group the government and courts in Turkey refer to as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), associated with US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen. The second largest group concerns people with alleged links to the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK/KCK). Cases reported to Human Rights Watch show that it is people detained on those two grounds who are at greatest risk of torture.

Although the Turkish government publicly asserts zero tolerance for torture, it has failed to take adequate action to stamp out the sharp rise in abusive detention practices since the July 2016 coup attempt or to make sure that allegations of abuse are fully investigated and those responsible brought to justice.

Turkey’s former minister of justice, Bekir Bozdağ, who became deputy prime minister on July 19, 2017 has repeatedly denied (most recently on July 12, 2017) that torture happens in prison or police custody, and has suggested that reports of torture were part of a campaign of disinformation by those “collaborating with FETÖ and the PKK”.[3] The new minister of justice has yet to comment publicly on reports of torture, though in a speech marking the opening of the judicial year in September 2017 he referred to the government’s zero tolerance for torture policy.[4] The minister of the interior refuted torture allegations on one occasion, and instead focused on the alleged crimes of the victim, but in general has not responded to the various allegations reported.[5]

In October 2016, Human Rights Watch published a report documenting allegations of torture and looking at the impact of the lifting of safeguards against torture and ill-treatment under the state of emergency, including the introduction of a 30-day detention period and five-day restriction on detainees’ rights to meet lawyers as factors increasing a detainee’s risk of being subjected to police abuse.[6] The report documented 13 cases of torture, five of which took place following the lifting of these safeguards.

In January 2017, the cabinet issued a decree reducing the police detention period from 30 days to seven, with the possibility of a seven-day extension if granted by a prosecutor, and lifting the five-day restriction on lawyers’ right to meet with detainees.[7] Positive though these measures were, they appear to have been insufficient to curb the abuse of detainees in police custody. All but one of the torture cases and all the abduction cases examined by Human Rights Watch in this report occurred between March and August 2017.

Human Rights Watch discussed the cases of torture documented in its October 2016 report directly with the Turkish government. The Interior Ministry and Justice Ministry also issued a November 1, 2016 joint statement in which they commented briefly on two cases from the report to refute the allegations.[8] In a January 19, 2017 letter, the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission informed Human Rights Watch that the commission had contacted the Interior and Health Ministries for information on three cases and then directed those cases to relevant prosecutors.[9] A year later, lawyers and families have informed Human Rights Watch that there has yet to be any sign that prosecutors have conducted effective investigations into the complaints (detailed below in Chapter 3).

Constraints on Defense Lawyers

Despite the January 2017 reforms, several lawyers told Human Rights Watch that they had limited opportunity to speak to their clients in confidence, because police officers were often present during their meetings with detainees. Even though under Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law lawyers’ meetings with clients in police detention can be legally restricted for the first 24 hours, lawyers reported that in some cases the police still attempted to bar access beyond that period, forcing them to apply to the prosecutor’s office to negotiate access.

Some lawyers reported that they had come under undue pressure from the police when they challenged official written police accounts of police interviews with their clients at which they (the lawyers) had been present. In one case, a lawyer told Human Rights Watch he had been detained in police custody overnight along with his client, after challenging a police account of such an interview. He said the police then threatened to include him in the same criminal investigation as his client. He was released the next day by the prosecutor, but told Human Rights Watch that he was unsure in the present context whether lodging a formal complaint wouldn’t simply make matters worse for himself.

Most lawyers had concerns for their own safety, and several commented that provincial bar associations and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations were not offering the support to lawyers they needed, and not willing to support efforts to document and lodge complaints about detainees’ allegations of ill-treatment. Without the institutional support of bar associations and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations to which they belong, the ability of lawyers to protect the human rights of detainees without fear of reprisals will be limited.

In November 2016, the government issued a decree under the state of emergency closing down three lawyers’ associations in Turkey, which played an important role in promoting fair trial standards and the rights of detainees and defendants: the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association, the Free Lawyers’ Association, and the Mesopotamia Lawyers’ Association.

Several hundred lawyers are in pre-trial detention, the majority accused of links to the group the government and courts in Turkey refer to as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ). Among lawyers in detention is Taner Kılıç, the chair of Amnesty International Turkey.

 

       II.   Torture Cases

Human Rights Watch has included for publication in this report evidence of eleven cases of torture. Ten of the cases relate to individuals or small groups, while the eleventh involves an incident in which police beat scores of villagers, 38 of whom lodged formal complaints of torture.

Cases Based on Interviews with Relatives of Victims and Court Records

Case 1

Credible allegations of torture emerged in the trial in the central Anatolian town of Kırıkkale, of 64 defendants facing charges of membership of an armed organization (referred to by the Turkish government and courts as FETÖ - Fethullahist Terrorist Organization), and attempting to overthrow the government. At the first hearing on February 16, 2017, seven of the defendants told the court at length that they had been tortured into signing statements which were false, and into naming people they claimed not to know.[10] The 64 defendants include many police officers, as well as teachers and other public officials.

Human Rights Watch has obtained the court record of the hearing and interviewed the wife of one of the seven defendants who allege torture. Hasan Kobalay, 37, was the head of a Kırıkkale preschool, which was closed by decree under the state of emergency. Hasan Kobalay told the court on February 16, 2017 that while being interrogated on November 2, 2016 at the anti-terror branch of the Kırıkkale police station he was stripped naked, blindfolded, gagged with a cloth, handcuffed and then taken to a bathroom. According to the transcript, Kobalay told the court:

Cold water was sprayed on my body, especially on my testicles and buttocks, which are still painful… They then said “Speak!” and I said: “What shall I say?” They touched me all over, they did something to my anus, but I don’t know what. It took up to an hour, and then they said we’ll bring your wife and do the same to her. At that point I broke down [at this point the defendant began to cry as he recounted it] because my wife and children are the only thing in my world. Then they took me to a room and mapped out what I needed to say… “You were the ‘imam’ of the group.” “No, I wasn’t,” I said. “You were,” they said. “You gave teachers lessons.” “No, I didn’t,” I said. “You did,” they said…[11]

The transcript records that Kobalay described to the court how he was also slapped and continually threatened. He reported to the court that a doctor had seen the state he was in:

When I got to the hospital I was shaking, and I tried to tell the doctor what had happened, but the police wouldn’t let me explain.[12]

According to the transcript, six other defendants at the same hearing told the court they had been ill-treated in custody, in order to force them to give information to the police and sign statements they subsequently retracted at the hearing. Some defendants said that they underwent cursory medical examinations in which the doctor simply looked at them without examining them. Furthermore, they said, they were unable to speak to the doctor because of the presence of police officers.

Human Rights Watch interviewed Hasan Kobalay’s wife about his ordeal:

When I visited him in Keskin prison, my husband told me what had happened to him in police custody in Kırıkkale. He had lost a lot of weight and was exhausted. He cried and said he felt ashamed. “I am finished,” he said. He told me he had been tortured. I wanted to boost his morale but, how could I? He has changed completely.

When he spoke at the hearing of 64 people [defendants] it was hard to hear all he said, but he described the insults, being stripped naked in Kırıkkale anti-terror branch, being blindfolded throughout and gagged, having his sexual organs squeezed. My husband cried as he recounted it in court. He spoke for half an hour. The judge didn’t stop him speaking. He let those who described being tortured speak. The police sitting in the courtroom took notes in detail, and stared at us threateningly.

Everyone watching in court cried at hearing all this and the gendarmes present didn’t know what to do. The police left the room. My husband had signed a statement under pressure while in police custody, but he had rejected that statement when he was brought before the prosecutor.[13]

In the interim ruling on February 21, 2017, the Kırıkkale court ordered the prosecutor to investigate the allegations made by seven of the defendants, including Kobalay, and requested the security camera footage during the period they were in police detention.[14] According to Kobalay’s lawyer, the prosecutor’s investigation is officially on-going but there is a secrecy order in place, so it has not been possible to learn any details, such as whether any police officers allegedly involved in torture have been identified, and what evidence, if any, including the footage, has been acquired by the prosecutor.[15]

Case 2

In another case examined by Human Rights Watch, three men allege they were tortured in police custody, after being detained on suspicion of involvement in a mortar attack on a police station. Photos posted on Twitter on June 9 showed the three men beaten up with bleeding faces. The photos appeared in pro-government media and were tweeted by journalist Fatih Tezcan, with the claim that the men were responsible for a mortar attack on the police headquarters in the town of Gevaş, in the eastern province of Van, by the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).[16]

Those in the photos were later identified as three local men from Van city, who said their vehicle had been forcibly taken from them by members of the PKK. The three men alleged it was taken as they were returning from a trip to the high mountain pastures near Gevaş to collect mushrooms.[17] The authorities say the vehicle was used by the PKK in a mortar attack.

The three men are Cemal Aslan, Abdulselam Aslan, and Halil Aslan. Human Rights Watch interviewed one of the men, Cemal Aslan, 52, owner of a public bath (hamam) in Van:

After they [the PKK members] took the van from us and a couple of them held us for a few hours in a cave in the mountains, taking our mobile phones off us, they released us, and we went on our way in our van. We didn’t know that it had been used in an attack, and we were planning to complain to the police about the fact they had held us like that for hours and had taken our van and phones. We didn’t get our phones back. We entered the town of Gevaş, and two Panzer armoured vehicles were waiting there, and the police stopped us and ordered us out of the van, stripped and then brutally beat us in the road. Then we were taken to the Gevaş police station and the beating continued endlessly although we kept saying we were civilians.

They beat us in a toilet and took photos of us. I’ve really never seen anything like it in my life. We were handcuffed from behind, then punched, kicked, hit with rifle butts in the back and humiliated from nine at night to four in the morning, with police officers constantly asking us where our weapons were, and trying to make us confess to the attack on the station.

When we were examined by a doctor the police told her we had fallen from a car. We were in no state to talk at that point. Once we were transferred to the anti-terror branch in Edremit, the torture stopped completely. We spent six days there and the court released us, putting an overseas travel ban on us, and with a judicial control on us, which means we have to sign into the police station once a week.

Neither the prosecutor nor the court asked us a single question about the state we were in. A doctor in the Van regional research hospital forensic medicine department documented our injuries in a very detailed report. I have been unable to sleep at night ever since this happened and am in shock.[18]

Cemal Aslan’s wife informed Human Rights Watch that the family had been extremely worried when her husband and his cousins had not returned from the trip to collect mushrooms. They had complained to the police that they were missing and were shocked when the first news they received of the three were the photos circulating on social media.[19] The three men lodged a formal complaint against the Gevaş police on June 21, 2017.[20] Their lawyer informed Human Rights Watch that the prosecutor has requested security camera footage from the police station where the torture allegedly took place, but there have been no further developments in the investigation of the complaint.[21]

Case 3

In another case reported to Human Rights Watch, villagers from Şapatan (Altınsu) village, in the Şemdinli district of the southeast province of Hakkari, reported to the media and to lawyers that on August 6, 2017 dozens of men were rounded up from their homes by the security forces, beaten, and taken to the Şemdinli anti-terror branch where the ill-treatment continued.[22] A lawyer acting for the villagers told Human Rights Watch:

After an armed clash on August 5 in which a police officer was killed, the security forces entered the Şapatan village in the night and searched homes. They gathered the villagers in the middle of the village and a unit of 10-15 special team police officers and plain-clothes officers beat everyone mercilessly in the village, and at the Şemdinli Security Directorate.[23]

Human Rights Watch has examined three of the complaints lodged by 38 villagers. S.T., 28, told the Şemdinli prosecutor that after being made to assemble in front of the village mosque, he and the other villagers were put into armoured vehicles (Panzers) and taken to Şemdinli Security Directorate:

Four police officers who got us out of the Panzers beat us. They continued to beat us until we got to the third floor of the Security Directorate. I was also insulted. In the corridor of the anti-terror branch on the third floor we were beaten by special team police and plain-clothes police. One of the plain-clothed officers who beat us was 35-50, slightly heavy, bearded, and greying. This man beat the backs of me and the 20 I was with using a hose pipe.

We had been brought to the police station in three groups. The policeman I described beat our group with a hose pipe. I am lodging a complaint against the special team police and plainclothes police who beat and insulted me. I would be able to identify those who beat me.[24]

Another of the villagers, C.G., complained to the prosecutor’s office that the special team police had searched his home and beaten him.

Police officers whose faces I would be able to identify, knocked on the door at around 4 a.m. and, as soon as the door was opened began to beat me, insult, and swear at me. When my 80-year-old mother tried to prevent them, they beat her too. This torture continued till 6. They knocked me unconscious, and threw me onto the balcony. They cursed my wife and left our house thinking I was dead.[25]

N.Ş., 22, also described being repeatedly beaten while taken to the Security Directorate, and once there. In a room on the third floor a “35-40-year-old plainclothes police officer with greying hair and a beard” had addressed them:

“You haven’t seen anything yet, the beating is just starting,” he told us… Then he made us lie down and beat our backs with a mop stick. I gave a statement about this at the Şemdinli Security Directorate. The police made me identify him. However, I was unable to identify the man who beat me from photographs. I would be able to identify the man who beat me from an identification parade. I am lodging a complaint about the special team and plain-clothes police who beat me.[26]

Human Rights Watch obtained photographs of some of the Şapatan villagers showing clear signs that they had been beaten in a manner consistent with their allegations. These were also published widely in the Turkish and Kurdish media, and circulated on social media.

The Hakkari governorate issued a statement initially describing the torture claims as “completely baseless and intended as propaganda for a terrorist organization.”[27] However, inspectors were appointed to examine the incident and a police officer was suspended from duty on August 11. There is also a disciplinary investigation by the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) into a doctor at the Şemdinli hospital who was heard to insult the villagers, and to allege that they had brought the torture on themselves, and failed in her duty to record their injuries in detail.[28]

Security forces in Hakkari are operating in a challenging environment. The day before the villagers were beaten, a police officer was killed in an armed clash. However, this context does not justify or excuse members of the security forces or police committing serious human rights violations, such as ill-treatment of detainees and suspects, nor does it negate the obligation to conduct effective criminal investigations into credible allegations of torture and mistreatment, and to impose appropriate disciplinary measures as required under Turkey’s own laws and international law.

Case 4

Human Rights Watch received reports that in the anti-terror branch of a city in Southeast Turkey, police beat and threatened a 40-year-old man who was a school teacher until dismissed under the state of emergency (called here “teacher A”). His name is known to Human Rights Watch, but withheld in this report at the request of his family, who fear repercussions. Human Rights Watch has communicated full details of the case to the Ministry of Justice. The case is distinct from others in this report because the alleged abuses took place after “teacher A” had been transferred back into police custody from pretrial prison custody.

He was detained in August 2016 and remanded to detention in a T-type closed prison, pending trial for alleged links with FETÖ, the group the authorities accuse of being behind the July 2016 attempted coup. On June 3, 2017 “teacher A” was once again transferred to police custody for questioning at the anti-terror branch and, according to his family, held there until July 17 when he was transferred back to the T-type prison.

“Teacher A’s” family reported to Human Rights Watch that they discovered that he had been removed from prison on June 6, when they attempted to visit him and were told by the prison authorities that he had been taken before the prosecutor at the courthouse. On visiting the prosecutor, they discovered he was in fact held at the anti-terror branch, and obtained a written authorization from the prosecutor so that they could visit him there. Granted a meeting in the presence of police officers, the family saw that his face was swollen, and he looked unwell. When they asked him what had happened he told them that he had been hooded, beaten repeatedly, threatened and forced to identify people and “confess” to crimes. The family reported to Human Rights Watch that on hearing this the police officers sitting in on the meeting had intervened and promptly ended the meeting.[29]

On June 9, the family had lodged a formal complaint with the prosecutor, but on July 27 reported to Human Rights Watch that there had been no investigation they knew of, and that “teacher A” had been held in police custody until July 17 when he was transferred back to prison.

A six-week period in police custody far exceeds any legal limit, although a state of emergency decree (article 8, decree no. 670) passed in August 2016 permits the prosecutor to grant the police the right to recall a suspect accused of terrorism offenses or crimes against the state for further questioning. The provision does not specify that this includes individuals already remanded to pretrial detention, nor does it mention how long they can be held in police custody for the purpose of giving another statement to the police.[30]

Cases of remand prisoners being taken out of prison and transferred into police custody for questioning without informing families or lawyers have been reported elsewhere in the media.[31] Human Rights Watch considers that the case of “teacher A” demonstrates that transferring remand prisoners back into police custody is a dangerous, unnecessary, and potentially unlawful practice, which puts the detainee at risk. The provision that allows this practice to continue (article 8, decree no. 670) should be rescinded immediately. Should the prosecutor authorize the police to recall a detainee for further questioning, the interview should take place at the prison in which the individual is held and not at a police station.

Case 5

Human Rights Watch received a second report regarding torture in the anti-terror branch of the same city in Southeast Turkey, as in case 4. Case 5 concerns a second individual transferred from prison back to police custody for further questioning at the anti-terror branch. “University lecturer A” is a 38-year-old man who was detained after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, and subsequently dismissed from his university post by state of emergency decree 672 in September 2016. His name is known to Human Rights Watch, but withheld in this report at the request of his family who fear repercussions.[32] Human Rights Watch has communicated full details of the case to the Ministry of Justice.

“University lecturer A” had spent almost a year in prison when he was transferred on July 16, 2017 to the anti-terror branch. His family discovered he was not in the prison when he failed to call them at the regular time allocated for a 10-minute telephone call from the prison. His lawyer found out from the prosecutor’s office that he had been transferred to the anti-terror branch, and visited him there on July 18. However, after that date the police had not permitted the lawyer from visiting his client again over a ten-day period. On July 28 when the police granted a second visit, the lawyer saw that “university lecturer A” had a black eye. His family saw the black eye too during a visit a day after the lawyer’s, and on an August 9 visit “university lecturer A” informed his lawyer that the police had beaten him because he had refused to give a statement. He told his lawyer he had been hooded, handcuffed, beaten repeatedly on the head, and subjected to electroshocks. The lawyer had applied to the Constitutional Court on July 11 for an interim measure, because of the imminent risk his client faced, but the court had issued no decision on the case.[33]      

“University lecturer A’s” family informed Human Rights Watch that “university lecturer A” had told them that on two occasions on separate dates the police officers had made him lie down, and applied electroshocks to his leg. He said that the police had also provided ice and ointment to treat the swelling on his head.[34]

“University lecturer A” was transferred back to prison on July 16, 2017 after spending a month in police custody, well in excess of any legally permitted limit. He has lodged an official complaint with the prosecutor’s office, but his family have received no information about whether there is an investigation into the torture or the unlawful detention.

Cases of Torture Based on Information Received from Lawyers

Human Rights Watch spoke to five lawyers who shared their observations about abuses against their 5 clients (cases 6-11) and other detainees in police custody in Ankara in April and May 2017, on suspicion of links with the alleged Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ). We also spoke to another lawyer in central Anatolia about abuses against his client accused of links to the PKK in March 2017.

The clients are all in pretrial detention, so Human Rights Watch was unable to speak to them directly.

Case 6

Lawyer A told Human Rights Watch:

My client B.O. was detained on 26 April and held at the Ankara Financial Crimes Branch, in connection with a FETÖ operation. When I visited him, he was brought into the room and cried because he assumed he was going to be interrogated and tortured. He hadn’t believed he would really be meeting with a lawyer. Because there was no police officer present during our meeting, he was able to tell me what the other detainees had been through. He told me that they had been taken in turn for interrogation and had come back recounting how they had been stripped naked, sexually assaulted with a bottle, and beaten. He said that one had been beaten on the head so much that for days he vomited and was very sick. I reported what he said to the Ankara Bar Association because I was afraid for my client. On May 6, the court remanded him to custody and he is held in Sincan F-type [maximum security] prison.[35]

B.O. testified before the Ankara Criminal Judge of the Peace No. 2 on May 6, 2017, which remanded him and nine others to pretrial detention. The court record (2017/528) shows that among the nine, two men, S.K. and Y.S., told the court they had been ill-treated in police custody. Each said they were stripped naked, threatened with rape, and insulted. The judge asked no questions, and there is no indication that he attempted to initiate an investigation into their claims.[36]

Case 7

Lawyer C reported to Human Rights Watch:

I visited my client İ.K. at the Ankara Smuggling and Organized Crime Department on May 29. He had been detained on May 25. There was a police officer present in the room when I saw İ.K. I saw that my client had been beaten and that there was a mark on his face. He first didn’t want to tell me what it was, but then said he had been beaten when he was detained at his home, and in police custody had been beaten and insulted while being interviewed. I saw my client was afraid and reluctant to speak since a police officer was present. My client asked me if I would help the other detainees who had been subject to violence and beaten. I agreed and also saw the others who were in detention with him, M.K., B.K., O.S., and S.E. I saw that all of them had been beaten, and they also reported they had also been sworn at and insulted. Afterwards, I did my duty as a lawyer under the Criminal Procedure Code article 158 and the Penal Code article 279, which state that you have a duty to report a crime you come across, and I informed both the Ankara chief prosecutor and the prosecutor handling the investigation.[37]

Lawyer C was not aware of any investigation into the allegations.

Case 8

Another case reported to Human Rights Watch was that of O.D., 30, a civil servant who had been dismissed from his position at the Treasury by state of emergency decree. Lawyer D told Human Rights Watch:

Our client O.D. was detained on April 26 at the Ankara Anti-Terror Branch, and then held at the Smuggling and Organized Crime Branch. I visited him twice, and there was a police officer present throughout, except for a few moments during the first visit when my client was able to tell me that he and the other detainees there had been tortured. I didn’t see any marks on him at that meeting. He was very nervous. I visited a second time to deliver clothes to him from his family. The court remanded him to Sincan F-1 [prison] on May 5. My client had previously been detained in November 2016 and released by the court under judicial control, which meant he had to regularly sign in at the police station.[38]

According to the court transcript, when brought before the Ankara Judge of the Criminal Peace No. 3 who remanded him to pretrial detention on May 5, O.D. rejected the accusations against him, and said the police interrogating him had physically attacked him on May 1 in the police chief’s room at the Organized Crime branch, that “on the same day the physical and psychological assault occurred four times” and that, “On May 4 before seeing my lawyer I was again subjected to violence in the room of the commissaire or a more senior chief.”[39] Despite this the court took no steps to order the prosecutor to investigate the allegations.

O.D. subsequently provided his lawyers with a detailed six-page hand-written account dated May 17, 2017, in which he alleges he and others were tortured, describing in detail the treatment he had been subjected to in police custody.

O.D.’s lawyers have shared a copy with Human Rights Watch, and have lodged a formal complaint with the prosecutor. In it, O.D. described being detained from his home, taken to the anti-terror department sports hall, and held there with hundreds of others, some of whom were taken away, interrogated, and brought back limping and crying. He claims his interrogation took place at the Organized Crime branch:

I was taken in the afternoon at around 14:00 [on May 1, 2017] to the room of the head of the Organized Crime branch. There were four people, apart from   the head in the room. Some were senior. One police man was called “Osman” and one of the senior ones spoke with a Black Sea accent. The head of the branch called…Seven [sic – writes his surname and no first name] was there.

The head asked me questions and I answered, “I don’t know, I have no information.” On that they made me kneel down and began to slap and punch my head, and at the same time say “What is it you don’t know, you child whose mother’s c… I f…, you son of a bitch.” [he abbreviated these curses] They rained abuses on me and continued to beat me harder.[40]

O.D.’s account states that he was also threatened with rape and rape of his wife, baby and female relatives, and in his written account claims he was subjected to the same treatment again on May 4. It lists the other kinds of torture which other detainees told him they had been subjected to – including electric shocks, sexual assault, and rape with an object.[41]

Case 9

Lawyer E told Human Rights Watch that when he visited his client A.K., a police officer, in custody in the Ankara Anti-Terror branch on April 29, he had noticed that A.K. could not stand or sit properly. A.K. had informed him that he had been beaten, stripped, made to squat over a bottle, and been threatened with rape with the bottle.[42]

The lawyer had filed a complaint on May 8, but on May 30, in a decision seen by Human Rights Watch, the prosecutor refused to pursue a prosecution on the grounds that A.K. had not alleged ill-treatment while he was detained, and that there was no evidence of it from security camera footage and doctor’s reports.[43]

A.K. has appealed against the prosecutor’s decision. The appeal, seen by Human Rights Watch, focuses on the fact that the prosecutor entirely overlooked the fact that a private medical report obtained immediately after his period in custody identified that A.K. had a broken rib, and that he had stated that his interrogation had taken place in a room with no security cameras.[44]

Case 10

Another case concerns Ö.A., 29, an accountant for a private Istanbul-based company. The record of his interrogation by the Ankara Anti-terror branch on April 13, and then on April 14 before the Ankara Criminal Peace Judge No. 2, which remanded him to pretrial detention, records Ö.A.’s description of having been beaten by the police:

I was hit, and they punched me in the mouth. I was sworn at and insulted. A doctor’s report records that my lip was bleeding. I wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet. Then when taken to the anti-terror branch a lot of them beat me and the others. They threatened me and my wife with sexual assault. I again got a doctor’s report recording that I was beaten on the head. After I met with my lawyer I was hit.[45]

Ö.A. is being held in Amasya E-type closed prison. He sent his lawyers a hand-written undated three-page description of his time in police custody, naming a police officer and the room where he claims he was ill-treated:

We were taken to D Bureau. D Bureau is 60 meters square, and had 7 or 8 tables around the edges and an empty space in the middle of the room. As soon as I entered, Kamil, whom I understood was the head of the D bureau, said, “Go over there, you son of a bitch. Kneel down.” He accused me of being a member of FETÖ/Parallel State Structure. They swore at me and beat me to make me accept the accusations, and asked me names of people I had never heard of. I rejected these accusations and incidents because I had no connection with FETÖ/Parallel State Structure. At that they continued to increase the dose of torture. 7-8 people surrounded me and beat me.[46]

His lawyers have filed another formal complaint, although Ö.A. had already complained before the court that had remanded him to pretrial detention.

Case 11

A lawyer from the Mersin Bar Association reported to Human Rights Watch on March 6, 2017 that he met his client Mahsum Aka, charged with links to the PKK, in Kırşehir Security Directorate, central Anatolia, on March 3, two days after Aka had been detained. The meeting was restricted to ten minutes, took place in the presence of the police, and had only been granted at all after a lengthy discussion culminating in the police phoning the prosecutor. The lawyer reported that Aka’s face was swollen, bruised, and had wounds on it, and he later filed a complaint about the way in which the Kırşehir police had obstructed him in his duty, and about the signs of ill-treatment on his client. The lawyer reported to Human Rights Watch that months later there had been no investigation into the allegations.[47]

       III.   Lack of Effective Investigation of Torture Allegations

The lawyers interviewed for this report told Human Rights Watch that they were not aware of any examples where prosecutors or courts responsible for decisions to release or remand suspects to pretrial detention had taken the initiative to ask suspects how they were treated in detention, or question them further when they alleged they had been abused in police custody. Only the Kırıkkale court (see case 1) conducting the trial of 64 defendants months after they had been arrested sought an investigation into the allegations of torture seven men reported at the first hearing.

All states have a positive obligation under customary international law to prevent and punish torture. The European Court of Human Rights has made clear that the absolute prohibition of torture under the European Convention includes a duty to carry out an effective investigation in cases where a person alleges torture or ill-treatment at the hands of state agents.[48]

Despite repeated allegations of torture in police custody over the past year appearing in the media and being made by human rights groups, there has been no public statement from the Ministry of Justice about any conclusions of investigations into allegations, far less any that have resulted in prosecution or even disciplinary action against law enforcement officials responsible.

One legal aid lawyer from Trabzon Bar Association told Human Rights Watch that he had represented a man who alleged ill-treatment and for whom he had filed a complaint. The Trabzon prosecutor dismissed the complaint, issuing a decision on January 5, 2017 not to pursue a prosecution on the highly problematic grounds that, according to a state of emergency decree (article 9, of decree no. 667), public officials bore no criminal responsibility for actions undertaken in the context of the state of emergency.[49]

In its October 2016 report on torture, Human Rights Watch identified this provision, not only as at odds with Turkey’s international legal obligations, but as sending a message to police officers and other officials that they could abuse detainees and violate their rights without fear of legal or other consequences, and called for the provision to be rescinded.[50] The Trabzon lawyer appealed the prosecutor’s decision on the grounds that ill-treatment could never be counted as part of a public official’s duties under the state of emergency, but a second prosecutor then issued a decision that there was insufficient evidence to pursue an investigation.[51]

Following the coup, over 4,000 judges and prosecutors were arbitrarily dismissed, of whom around 2,400 were remanded to pretrial detention pending trial on terrorism charges for FETÖ membership for their alleged links with the Gülen movement. Turkey’s prosecutors and courts were always reluctant to investigate crimes by state perpetrators, but today much tighter government control of the judiciary and deep concerns about job security are making it increasingly unlikely that prosecutors and judges still in their posts or newly appointed will risk taking principled and independent decisions to investigate such crimes.

While Human Rights Watch did not obtain any other examples of prosecutors’ attempting to claim public officials enjoy immunity from prosecution for torture and ill-treatment under the state of emergency, there are nevertheless very few indications that complaints are being investigated thoroughly. There are scant indications that prosecutors are taking the initiative proactively to investigate abuse when they encounter suspects who show signs of having been subjected to ill-treatment.

Lawyers and families have informed Human Rights Watch that in none of the three torture cases where the victims were named in Human Rights Watch’s October 2016 report has there been any sign that prosecutors have conducted effective investigations into the complaints.[52]

These include torture complaints lodged by a group of Kurdish men and women detained in Istanbul in August 2016, which have not yet been investigated. Three of the men, İ.B., F.P., and K.U., provided Human Rights Watch with detailed written accounts from prison via their lawyers, in which they described the torture they endured at the Istanbul Vatan Street Security Directorate in August 2016. The men each conveyed their allegations of torture to the prosecutor before whom they testified. The men were released by a court at their first trial hearing.

A lawyer for the three told Human Rights Watch he had been unable to obtain copies of the medical reports for his clients prepared during the detention period. In a decision seen by Human Rights Watch, the prosecutor ruled that there was insufficient evidence to warrant prosecuting police officers, on the grounds that the medical reports had recorded İ.B.’s injuries as minor and had recorded no ill-treatment in the case of the other complainants. The lawyer had appealed this, but at this writing there had been no outcome to the appeal.

An investigation by the Antalya prosecutor into allegations by teacher Eyüp Birinci that he was tortured in detention has so far not been concluded. The family informed Human Rights Watch that they have still not been able to get hold of a medical report explaining the cause of the emergency surgery Birinci underwent after being in police custody, and which he claims was the result of being heavily beaten in the stomach.[53]

In the third case, Human Rights Watch has seen a copy of the Forensic Medicine Institute documenting visible injuries to two young men, Mehmet Ali Genç and Metin Kösemen, who claimed they had been tortured in custody in Urfa in July 2016. The two men’s lawyer informed Human Rights Watch that despite this there had been no progress in the prosecutor’s investigation into the torture allegations, and to date the prosecutor had not summoned any police officers to testify as witnesses or suspects.[54]

        IV.   Abductions, Missing Persons and Enforced Disappearances

Human Rights Watch has examined several cases of abductions which likely amount to enforced disappearances, the majority of them in Ankara. An enforced disappearance occurs when a person is taken into custody, but authorities subsequently deny it or refuse to provide information about the person’s whereabouts. In August, Human Rights Watch wrote an open letter to Turkey’s Minister of Justice about five cases, but has not received a response.[55] In several cases documented in this report, families of victims have applied to the European Court of Human Rights complaining of the lack of an effective investigation into the disappeared persons.

The cases of abductions and likely enforced disappearances are particularly concerning in view of Turkey’s history of security forces conducting enforced disappearances in the 1990s. The European Court of Human Rights issued repeated judgments that Turkey had violated the rights to liberty and security, and often the right to life of victims who were mainly Kurds, and subjected their families and loved ones to inhuman and degrading treatment.

While in none of the cases presented below were the persons last seen in the custody of people who are definitively proven to have been state agents, there are similarities between all the cases documented by Human Rights Watch. One case – that of Önder Asan - concerned a person who later surfaced in official custody. Human Rights Watch also has credible information about another case concerning a man reported by his family to be missing. The man claims he was released after being held in an undisclosed place of detention for over two months. He told Human Rights Watch he had been held by people who told him they were state agents. He said his captors had interrogated and tortured him, and made threats to try to force him to admit to crimes he had not committed, and to become a protected witness (called in Turkish a “secret witness”) testifying against others. He was also threatened that there would be repercussions for his family if he complained publicly about his secret detention. His name and the details of his case are known to Human Rights Watch, but not published for his own safety.[56]

In the light of accounts provided by two people who have re-appeared after going missing, Human Rights Watch believes that the other cases are also potential cases of enforced disappearance by state agents.

The Case of Önder Asan

Önder Asan, 41, a former teacher dismissed by decree under the state of emergency, is currently in pretrial detention in Balıkesir Burhaniye T-type prison, under criminal investigation for links to the FETÖ group that the authorities accuse of being behind the July 2016 attempted coup.[57]

Asan’s case is particularly significant because he reappeared in detention after being reported missing. Asan alleges he was abducted on March 31, 2017, and held in a secret detention facility for 42 days, where he was tortured by unknown persons whom he suspected were police. He was then forced to call the regular police and turn himself in. His family and lawyer were only able to see him after he was transferred to regular police custody, but he believes it was a unit of the police which held him for 42 days in unlawful detention. In the formal complaint to the Ankara prosecutor his lawyer submitted on June 23 he stated:

Two vehicles stopped the taxi the complainant was travelling in to the Oncology Hospital in front of the Demetevler Anatolian Girls’ High School. A black Transporter vehicle stopped the taxi, and the other vehicle stopped it from behind to prevent it moving on. When the taxi driver protested, the individuals who had got out of the black Transporter vehicle said, “We are police, no problem,” and forcibly got the complainant out of the taxi and put him in the black Transporter. The complainant was made to lie face down in the vehicle, his trousers and shirt were removed, his feet bound together, and hands cuffed from behind, and a sack put over his head. The complainant was punched and kicked in the vehicle until it arrived at its destination.

The abducted complainant was put in a cell in the place he was taken to by vehicle. In the cell, only his feet were unbound. He was kept there with his hands cuffed from behind and blindfolded. He found the cell to be just his height in width. He estimates he was given food every 12 hours… When his blindfold was removed a couple of times during the time he was in the cell he saw that walls were covered with a black carpet-like covering, and that there was a camera in the corner.

For the 42 days he was held in the cell, he was blindfolded and taken to the toilet accompanied by one of his captors. For the first 20 days after being abducted he was brought every day to a torture room, was hit, beaten with a baton, threatened with electro-shocks – and an electro shock [instrument] was trailed over his body – and threats were made against his family, he was subjected to psychological pressure and sworn at. The complainant was not the only person in the place he was taken to. He saw that there was an interview room and a torture room. Every day he heard sounds of beating, hitting, shouting from the torture room. He estimated there were 6-8 other people in the same environment. He understood that the person in the cell next to his was called Cengiz when he heard people say: “Come on, Cengiz.” He heard the sound of Cengiz’s screams. The complainant was held like this for 42 days.

During the time he was in the cell, the complainant alleged the following:

  • span lang=EN-GB>For the first 20 days he was beaten with a baton all over
  • He was threatened with electro-shocks with an electric shock implement
  • An attempt was made to insert a thick object into the anus. When the anus bled and developed a wound they didn’t do it again.
  • When interviewing him they swore at him and his family
  • The complainant was repeatedly pressured to give names and when he didn’t know the names he was asked, he was hit all over his body with the baton
  • In the time he was in the cell he wasn’t given a blanket, and was kept only in his underwear

On a date the complainant later learnt was 12 May he was taken out of the cell and put in a vehicle, cuffed from behind, and blindfolded. After travelling for a while he was put in another car. While in this car a telephone was put in his hand, and he was made to call the Ankara Security Directorate. He was made to say he was at Eymir Lake [near Ankara city] and to surrender to those who came from the Security Directorate.[58]

Human Rights Watch spoke to Önder Asan’s wife on two occasions, first on April 13, while he was missing, and afterwards when he was in prison. She described her efforts to report his disappearance and to track down witnesses who might have information about what had happened to him.

I first went to the police on April 3 and they sent me to the prosecutor’s office, and the prosecutor said: “Go to the police, go to MIT [intelligence services)”. On April 4 I went to two police stations in Etimesgut, the second of them the anti-terror branch, and they told me, “Your husband’s run off.” I went to Bağlıca, where the gendarmerie is in control and asked them. They sent me again to Sincan courthouse. Then I went to Şentepe police station in Yeni Mahalle. On April 7, I went to that neighborhood with my lawyer and we started to look for security cameras to try to trace him.[59]

Önder Asan’s wife’s hunt paid off. On April 18 she discovered from a taxi driver that Önder had got into his taxi in Şentepe. “The taxi driver told me that in Vatan Caddesi the taxi had been stopped and surrounded and Onder taken out by plainclothes men at gun point and taken away in a black VW Transporter van. I recorded what the taxi driver said on my phone and kept it. I reported it to the prosecutor, and he took the taxi driver’s statement.”

Weeks later, the family heard news of Önder. His wife told Human Rights Watch:

On May 12 in the evening, the police rang my father-in-law from the Ankara Provincial Security Directorate Organized Crime Branch near Anka Mall, to inform us that Önder was in police custody. We went there taking clothes and underwear for him with us. We were not allowed to see him. On May 16 in the afternoon, Önder was transferred to the prosecutor’s office, and there me, my father-in-law and mother-in-law saw him. He had a beard and looked very thin. He was handcuffed. He said he had been ill-treated and kept in a small cell, and told us about it. My husband is afraid for me and told me not to go out much because I might be arrested too. It was an illegal abduction. He didn’t know where he had been held, but said he was held in a two-meter square room.

In Sincan F-Type prison [where he was held at the time of the interview] he is held in a three-person cell, though there are six of them held. I can see him once every two months in an open meeting, and once every two weeks in a closed meeting for 45 minutes. He is psychologically very badly affected, and has lost a lot of weight and has asked for psychiatric help, and was even sent to a psychologist at Bakırköy hospital. I just thank God he is alive.[60]

Önder Asan’s lawyer told Human Rights Watch:

I saw my client Önder Asan on May 13 at the police station. He had trouble walking and held on to the wall. His hands were shaking. He was badly affected and said he needed psychological help. He gave me a detailed account of what he had been through during the 42 days he was held in an unknown place of detention by unknown persons, and we are filing a complaint.[61]

The Ankara prosecutor has a duty to investigate the full circumstances of Önder Asan’s abduction, arbitrary detention, torture, and likely enforced disappearance for 42 days. The investigation should be capable of identifying who was responsible with a view to prosecuting them. Asan has lodged a formal complaint with the prosecutor through his lawyer.

Four Other Cases of Men Abducted

Human Rights Watch has interviewed the families and lawyers of four other men who were abducted between April and June 2017.

Turgut Çapan went missing in Ankara on March 31, 2017, and his wife told Human Rights Watch that she had had no news of him since. Çapan was formerly employed in the administration of Turgut Özal University, which was closed down by decree in July 2016, along with 14 other private universities accused of affiliation with the Gülen movement.

Human Rights Watch interviewed Turgut Çapan’s wife on April 13. She had not been able to find witnesses who last saw him but strongly suspected that he had been forcibly disappeared:

On March 31, I was on my way to get my child from school in Ayvalı neighbourhood, Ankara, when someone called out “Sister!” behind me and I turned round to see Önder Asan, whom my husband knew. “We were in Şentepe and they took your husband; he was abducted,” he said. “He told us he was going to the barber, but he didn’t come back.” They were friends, but I didn’t really know him. He said this and then went away. I don’t know what he saw or who he thought had taken my husband. When I heard that he too had gone missing, I immediately complained to the police.[62]

Human Rights Watch has received no further information from Turgut Çapan’s wife and has been unable to re-establish contact with her.

Mustafa Özben went missing in Ankara on May 9. He had been an instructor in the justice program at the Turgut Özal Vocational High School, until the institution was closed down by decree under the state of emergency. Following the closure, Özben registered as a lawyer with the Ankara Bar Association.

His wife described how her husband went missing:

On May 9, he left to take the girls to school and didn’t come home again. I went to the police station on May 10 in Şentepe [neighbourhood of Ankara]. The police there said he was wanted, which I didn’t know. They took my statement – registering his disappearance – at the station. I felt terrible and looked for him everywhere, applying to hospitals. Two days later, on May 12, I got a call from a number I didn’t know. It was my husband and he said in a hoarse voice that he was fine, and was with friends and working, and that he would call again. I was very shocked and kept asking him if it was him. We searched for him everywhere despite that.

On May 24 we found his car and talked to shopkeepers nearby, who told me and my lawyer that they had seen him being grabbed and taken away by plainclothes men, some of whom were masked in a black Transporter. The shopkeepers said many people saw it and it was like a horror film and they had called the police on 155 to report it but that there had been no response from the police to their call.

We went to the prosecutor on May 24 and reported this and said it was an abduction, which the local shopkeepers had seen. The police were sent there and talked to the shopkeepers. One of them gave a statement to the prosecutor but what he said was much vaguer than what he had said to us. We don’t know what the police told them but the second time we went there they were much more afraid and said they had heard my husband was wanted as a member of FETÖ.

I think about it every night. What are they doing to my husband? In the beginning I couldn’t sleep or eat at all. I have a five-month-old baby, a six-year-old and a 10-year-old. I have told them we are trying to find out which prison their father is in as they keep asking where he is. Disappearing a person is nothing more than banditry. I don’t want my children to know that their father has been disappeared.[63]

The Özben family’s lawyer informed Human Rights Watch of the great difficulty they had faced in lodging an official complaint with the prosecutor’s office as their complaint was passed around from one department to another over several weeks. As far as Human Rights Watch knows, Mustafa Özben is still missing.

Cemil Koçak was dismissed by decree in September 2016 from his position as an agricultural engineer employed by the Ministry of Agriculture. He was abducted in Ankara on June 15, 2017 shortly after leaving home with his 8-year-old son H.İ. His wife described what happened:

My son H.İ. phoned me from my husband’s phone and was very distressed and shocked and managed to tell me “Mum, dad has been kidnapped”. At that moment there were male voices in the background saying I should come immediately to a place which is very near where we live as the car was in the middle of the street. I rushed there in a matter of minutes as it was just 200-300 meters from the house. I found my son and people around him and the car in the road. I was in such shock and trying to comfort my son and the police came as the crowd had called them. I assumed they would interview people and get their names.

I managed to trace the camera footage, which shows my husband’s car and cars following it and then a dark colored Transporter van. My son said that a car had hit the back of our car and his father had got out to see what had happened. Three or four men in plain clothes had then bundled him into a dark colored Transporter van nearby and driven off and the car that had run into our car also went.

My son is very traumatized by this and has bad dreams about being abducted. He fell out of bed last night – something he has never done before. I feel guilty I am not doing enough to find my husband. Where is he? I learnt from my lawyer that there are other cases like this with similarities – other men abducted in Ankara in black Transporter vans. Where are they?

He was not under any investigation, there was no arrest warrant for him and our home had never been searched.[64]

Cemil Koçak’s wife has lodged an official complaint about her husband’s abduction with the prosecutor’s office. As this report went to press, Human Rights Watch learned from the Koçak family and their lawyer that in late September Cemil Koçak was released from an unknown place of detention where he had been held for over three months by men who told him they worked for the state.

Murat Okumuş was abducted on June 16, 2017 in Izmir. Okumuş was an accountant who had worked for the Şifa Hospital in Izmir, which was closed down under the state of emergency. His family reported to Human Rights Watch that witnesses had seen five or six men get out of two vehicles in a central street in Izmir. They told onlookers they were police and forced Okumuş into one of the vehicles. One witness called the police to report the abduction and gave a statement to the police describing what he had seen. The family was able to get hold of security camera footage that showed the two vehicles and their number plates.

Murat Okumuş’ father told Human Rights Watch:

I spoke to one of the witnesses who owned a freezer servicing business and he told me exactly what he had seen, that my son had shouted “Let me go,” and been forced into a car by 5 or 6 men who had said to the astonished onlookers that they were police. The onlookers called the police on 155 and when those police looked at the security camera footage they apparently said that those who had taken my son were from the anti-terror branch and they couldn’t intervene. The freezer servicing business witness gave a statement to the police. He was impartial and said he would just tell the police what he saw.

We also went to the prosecutor and there we were able to watch the security camera footage, which showed the actual abduction. Everything was clear. You could see the faces of those who abducted my son. From that footage those men could be identified if the authorities wanted them identified. The prosecutor said he would give us a copy of the footage two days later but when we went back the same prosecutor said the file had been taken away from him and had been allocated to another prosecutor now. We weren’t even offered a seat. We learnt that there was now a secrecy order on the investigation. Now we can learn nothing about it at all and cannot get hold of the footage, which shows the abduction itself.

All my wife and I want is to know where our son is, to know that he is in the state’s hands as we believe he is. We are feeling finished by this. May God spare anyone this. [65]

On October 1, the father of Murat Okumuş informed Human Rights Watch that his son was still missing.

 

[1] “A Blank Check: Turkey’s Post-Coup Suspension of Safeguards against Torture,” Human Rights Watch report, October 25, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/10/25/blank-check/turkeys-post-coup-susp....

[2] Figures based on Ministry of Justice statement, “Adalet Bakanlığı FETÖ ile mücadelenin bilançosunu açıkladı,” (Justice Minstry announced numbers in combatting FETÖ), Hürriyet newspaper, July 13, 2017:  http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/son-dakika-adalet-bakanligi-feto-ile-mucadele... (accessed August 1, 2017).

[3] See ‘Bakan Bozdağ: Cezaevlerinde kötü muamele ve işkence iddiaları iftiradan ibaret’ (Minister Bozdağ: Allegations of ill-treatment and torture in prisons are slander”), Hürriyet newspaper, July 12, 2017: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/bakan-bozdag-cezaevlerinde-kotu-muamele-ve-is... and an earlier statement to an Anatolian Agency reporter, “Adalet Bakanı Bozdağ - Cezaevlerinde Işkence ve Kötü Muamele Iddiaları,” (Justice Minister Bozdağ – Claims of torture and ill-treatment in prisons), Haberler website, November 10, 2016, https://www.haberler.com/adalet-bakani-bozdag-cezaevlerinde-iskence-ve-k... (accessed August 1, 2017).

[4] For minister of justice Abdulhamit Gul’s speech at the start of the judicial year, see Adalet Bakanı Abdülhamit Gül'den 'adli yıl açılışı' mesajı,” Haberturk news report, September 5, 2017, http://www.haberturk.com/gundem/haber/1620426-adalet-bakani-abdulhamit-g... (accessed September 10, 2017).

[5] Comments by Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu reported on T24 news website, February 24, 2017, "İçişleri Bakanı'ndan 'işkence' yanıtı: Hukuksuzluk yok, yaşlı dediğiniz o adam teröre ev sahipliği yapıyor!”, http://t24.com.tr/haber/icisleri-bakanindan-iskence-yaniti-hukuksuzluk-y... (accessed August 1, 2017).

[6] “A Blank Check: Turkey’s Post-Coup Suspension of Safeguards against Torture,” Human Rights Watch report, October 25, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/10/25/blank-check/turkeys-post-coup-susp....

[7] See articles 10 and 11, Decree no. 684, Resmi Gazete (Official Gazette), January 23, 2017, http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2017/01/20170123-3.htm (accessed August 1, 2017).

[8] Joint statement by the Ministries of Interior and Justice responding to Human Rights Watch report “A Blank Check” (İnsan Hakları İzleme Örgütünün “Açık Çek” isimli Raporuna karşı Adalet ve İçişleri Bakanlıkları Ortak Basın Açıklaması), November 1, 2016, available on Ministry of Interior website in Turkish and English at https://www.icisleri.gov.tr/insan-haklari-izleme-orgutunun-acik-cek-isim... (accessed August 1,2017).

[9] Letter sent by email on file with Human Rights Watch.

[10] Record of February 16, 2017 hearing at the Kırıkkale Heavy Penal Court, court file 2016/352, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[11] Ibid, p.29.

[12] Ibid, p.30.

[13] Human Rights Watch Interview with wife of Hasan Kobalay, Ankara, February 21, 2017.

[14] Copy of complaint by Kirikkale Heavy Penal Court to Kirikkale Chief Prosecutor’s office, February 21, 2017, seen by Human Rights Watch.

[15] Information communicated to Human Rights Watch, July 4, 2017.

[16] See the relevant Tweet from June 9, 2017, https://twitter.com/fatihtezcan/status/873277074722697217?lang=en (accessed August 19, 2017).

[17] İsmail Saymaz, “‘Terörist’ diye dövülen o köylüler mantar topluyormuş” (Those villagers who were beaten as ‘terrorists’ were collecting mushrooms), Hürriyet newspaper, June 19, 2017: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/terorist-diye-dovulen-o-koyluler-mantar-toplu... (accessed August 19, 2017).

[18] Human Rights Watch interview with Cemal Aslan and his family, Van, June 17, 2017.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Copy of complaint on file with Human Rights Watch.

[21] Information communicated by lawyer to Human Rights Watch, September 22, 2017.

[22] First reported by Dihaber newspaper agency, August 7, 2017: http://dihaber14.net/TUM-HABERLER/content/view/28881 (accessed August 19, 2017, but site subsequently blocked in Turkey after the government closed down Dihaber news agency by emergency decree no. 693, August 25, 2017). A full report on the incident based on a field visit and interviews with victims was published in Turkish by the human rights group İnsan Hakları ve Adalet Hareketi Derneği, İHAK (Human Rights and Justice Movement), August 2017, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxX8wzuz2PobWlgxaksyTU0wbm8/view (accessed September 11, 2017).

[23] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with lawyer, August 7, 2017.

[24] Record of complainant S.T.’s statement to Şemdinli prosecutor, August 11, 2017, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[25] Complaint to Şemdinli prosecutor, August 10, 2017, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[26] Record of complainant Necir Şengül’s statement to Şemdinli prosecutor, August 11, 2017, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[27] Statement by the Hakkari Governorate, August 8, 2017: available at http://www.hakkari.gov.tr/basin-aciklamasi-2017261 (accessed August 9, 2017).

[28] Information communicated to Human Rights Watch by lawyer, August 17, 2017.

[29] Letter to Human Rights Watch from family of victim, July 27, 2017. Human Rights Watch subsequently contacted the family to confirm the veracity of the information contained in the letter.

[30] See article 8, Decree no. 670, Resmi Gazete (Official Gazette), August 17, 2016: http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2016/08/20160817-17.htm (accessed August 1, 2017).

[31] For a case from Antalya, see “12 Eylül uygulaması hortlatılıyor: Tutuklulara 'yeniden gözaltı'” (12 September practice resurrected: “re-arresting” pretrial detention detainees), Siyasi Haber news website, January 30, 2017: http://siyasihaber3.org/12-eylul-uygulamasi-hortlatiliyor-tutuklulara-ye... (accessed August 15, 2017).

[32] Information conveyed to Human Rights Watch by family of “university lecturer A,” September 28-9, 2017.

[33] Copy of the application to the Constitutional Court filed on July 11, 2017 on file with Human Rights Watch.

[34] Information conveyed to Human Rights Watch by family of “university lecturer A,” September 29, 2017.

[35] Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer A (name withheld but known to Human Rights Watch), Ankara, June 2017. B.O. and eight others are under investigation by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for the investigation of crimes against the constitutional order (investigation no. 2017/68532).

[36] Ankara Criminal Judge of the Peace No. 2, May 6, 2017 court record (2017/528) on file with Human Rights Watch and details on allegations made by Y.S. confirmed by lawyer B (name withheld but known to Human Rights Watch), August 23, 2017.

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer C (name withheld but known to Human Rights Watch), Ankara, June 2017. saw İ.K, M.K., B.K., O.S., and S.E. are under investigation by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for the investigation of crimes against the constitutional order (investigation no. 2017/68532).

[38] Human Rights Watch interview with lawyer D (name withheld but known to Human Rights Watch), Ankara, June 2017.

[39] Copy of court record, May 5, 2017, on file with Human Rights Watch. O.D. is under investigation by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for crimes against the constitutional order (investigation no.2017/ 68532).

[40] Copy of O.D.’s hand-written complaint sent to his lawyer, dated May 17, 2017, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Communication to Human Rights Watch from lawyer E, June 30, 2017.

[43] Copy of May 30, 2017 decision by the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s office for the investigation of crimes by public officials, (investigation no. 2017/76040).

[44] Copies of all documents on file with Human Rights Watch.

[45] Copies of statement to police and court record (Ankara Criminal Peace Judge No. 2, hearing 2017/420) on file with Human Rights Watch. Ö.A. is under investigation for membership of an armed organization by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for crimes against the constitutional order (investigation no. 2017/23897).

[46] Copy of letter to lawyers on file with Human Rights Watch.

[47] Human Rights Watch communication from Mersin lawyer, March 6, 2017.

[48] For a full discussion, see Aisling Reidy, The Prohibition of Torture: A Guide to the Implementation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Council of Europe Human Rights Handbooks No. 6, 2003, https://rm.coe.int/168007ff4c (accessed September 11, 2017).

[49] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Trabzon lawyer, June 1, 2017. For a copy of the decision, see Polis sizi tehdit de etse darp da etse bir şey yapamazsınız” (If the police threaten you or beat you, there’s nothing you can do), Oda TV news website, January 1, 2017: http://odatv.com/polis-sizi-tehdit-de-etse-darp-da-etse-bir-sey-yapamazs... (accessed September 29, 2017).

[51] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Trabzon lawyer, June 1, 2017.

[52] See Human Rights Watch, “A Blank Check,” ibid.

[53] Communication from Birinci family to Human Rights Watch, June 19, 2017.

[54] Communication from lawyer to Human Rights Watch, June 14, 2017.

[55]Human Rights Watch, “Turkey: Investigate Ankara Abductions, Disappearances,” August 3, 2017 press release accompanying open letter to Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/08/03/turkey-investigate-ankara-abductions... and https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/08/03/letter-human-rights-watch-minister-g... Human Rights Association and the Stockholm Center for Freedom have also examined cases: See Stockholm Center for Freedom website (blocked in Turkey), “Enforced Disappearances in Turkey,” June 22, 2017,  https://stockholmcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Enforced-Dissappearen...; and Human Rights Association,” Ankara’da Zorla Kaçırılarak Kaybedilenlerin Akıbeti Açıklansın; Failler Yargılansın!” (“Reveal the fate of those abducted and forcibly disappeared in Ankara, prosecute the perpetrators!”), May 30, 2017,  http://www.ihd.org.tr/ankarada-zorla-kacirilarak-kaybedilenlerin-akibeti... (accessed August 19, 2017).

[56] Information communicated directly to Human Rights Watch by the previously missing individual. Names, dates, locations withheld at present for his own safety.

[57] Önder Asan is under investigation by the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for the investigation of crimes against the constitutional order (investigation no 2017/68532).

[58] Copy of Önder Asan’s June 23, 2017 complaint to the Ankara prosecutor on file with Human Rights Watch.

[59] Human Rights Watch interview with Önder Asan’s wife, Ankara, April 13, 2017.

[60] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Önder Asan’s wife, May 25, 2017.

[61] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with lawyer, May 2017.

[62] Human Rights Watch interview with Turgut Çapan’s wife, Ankara, April 13, 2017.

[63] Human Rights Watch interview with Mustafa Özben’s wife, Ankara, June 1, 2017.

[64] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Cemil Koçak’s wife, June 20, 2017.

[65] Human Rights Watch interview with the father of Murat Okumuş, August 16, 2017.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Summary

They came into my cell, took my handcuffs off and covered my eyes. Then they walked me out and into the bush on a path I did not know. They put me on my knees, tied a shirt around my arms and said, “Now it is too late for you.” They took out a plastic bag and put it over my head so I could not breathe. As I was running out of air, they said, “Do you have something else to say?” I accepted [everything they told me to accept] because I was going to die. Then they stopped. I signed a document they put in front of me.

−Former detainee at Kami, January 29, 2014.

I ended up believing I was guilty. At this point, I was being beaten so badly I couldn’t feel anything. It was as if they were beating a tree.

−Former detainee at Mukamira, February 28, 2013

Between 2010 and 2016, scores of people suspected of collaborating with “enemies” of the Rwandan government were detained unlawfully and tortured in military detention centers by Rwandan army soldiers and intelligence officers. Some of these people were held in unknown locations, including incommunicado, for prolonged periods and in inhuman conditions.

These illegal detention methods are designed to extract information from real or suspected members or sympathizers of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)—an armed group based in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, some of whose members took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda—and, to a lesser extent, the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition group in exile. Rwandan authorities have accused the FDLR of launching attacks on Rwanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo, as recently as 2016, and have accused both the FDLR and the RNC of carrying out grenade attacks in Rwanda between 2008 and 2014.

This report describes systematic patterns of torture, enforced disappearances, illegal and arbitrary detention, unfair trials, and other serious human rights violations in military detention centers in Rwanda, from 2010 to 2016, in clear violation of Rwandan and international law. Human Rights Watch’s findings are based on interviews with more than 230 people, including 61 current and former detainees. Human Rights Watch also observed the trials of seven groups of people and reviewed court statements regarding 21 illegal detention cases and statements given in court by 22 individuals. Human Rights Watch conducted research for this report in Rwanda, Congo, Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya between 2010 and 2017.

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© 2017 John Emerson for Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch has confirmed 104 cases of people who were illegally detained and in many cases tortured or ill-treated in military detention centers in Rwanda during this seven-year period. Yet the actual number of cases is likely much higher. Due to the secret nature of torture, enforced disappearances, and illegal and arbitrary detention, and the fear of many former detainees that speaking out may lead to reprisals by authorities, it is extremely difficult to confirm the total number of people unlawfully detained by the military during the period covered by this report.

While most cases documented by Human Rights Watch occurred between 2010 and 2014, Human Rights Watch interviewed five people detained and tortured in military custody in 2016 and heard credible accounts about several other more recent cases, including in early 2017, indicating that these violations continued.

Many of the detainees, including FDLR combatants and civilians, were arrested in Rwanda by military officials, sometimes assisted by police, intelligence, or local government officials. Others were arrested and ill-treated in neighboring Burundi or Congo, some while being processed through the demobilization and repatriation program supported by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo. They were then illegally transferred to Rwanda, where they were subjected to abuse.

Rwanda’s military has routinely unlawfully detained and tortured detainees with beatings, asphyxiations, mock executions and electric shocks.

Most of the detainees were held near the capital, Kigali, or in northwestern Rwanda. Many were held at multiple locations during their detention. In the cases documented by Human Rights Watch, detainees were held at unofficial military detention centers, including at the premises of the Ministry of Defence (known as MINADEF), at Kami military camp, at Mukamira military camp, at a military base known as the “Gendarmerie,” at detention centers in Bigogwe, Mudende, and Tumba, and at private homes used as detention centers. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any Rwandan laws or statutes allowing for the military or other authorities to detain people at these locations.

To force them to confess, or to incriminate others, officials severely tortured or ill-treated most of the detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch. Several former detainees gave accounts of severe beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation, and mock executions. Former detainees were held for up to nine months in extremely harsh and inhuman conditions, with insufficient food and water to meet their basic needs. Human Rights Watch received allegations it was unable to verify that some detainees were killed.

At the time of arrest, family members or friends often witnessed state agents taking people away, with authorities rarely revealing their whereabouts or any other information. Most of these arrests could therefore be described as enforced disappearances, and almost all were incommunicado detention. Most families only saw their loved ones after they were released or transferred to an official detention facility, several months later. Some families believed the detained family members had died. Human Rights Watch documented cases in which people believed to be held in military custody have never returned, and appear to have been forcibly disappeared.

Kami military camp has a reputation as the most notorious torture and interrogation center. Human Rights Watch interviewed 39 people detained there between 2010 and 2016, and received information about many other cases. Many former detainees described beatings, asphyxiation, the use of acid to burn skin, and mock executions, as interrogators sought to extract information about their alleged links with the FDLR or opposition groups. Many were held in isolation, sometimes in a constantly dark or brightly lit cell.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 11 people who were detained and severely beaten at MINADEF in 2010 before they were transferred to Kami.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 25 former detainees of Mukamira military camp, located between Musanze and Rubavu, in northwestern Rwanda, some who were detained as recently as May 2016. Beatings were commonplace in Mukamira, and some former detainees told Human Rights Watch that military or intelligence officials tortured them or threatened to kill them, if they would not confess.

In numerous cases, Rwandan officials first took detainees who were arrested near the Congolese border or in Congo to a military base known as the “Gendarmerie,” in Rubavu district. Seventeen former detainees told Human Rights Watch how military officials hit detainees at the “Gendarmerie” or beat them with sticks and detained them in holes in the ground.

In many cases, after several months of illegal detention—and often only after detainees had signed a statement under torture—the Rwandan authorities transferred them to official detention centers, including civilian prisons, and they were then charged and put on trial. The period of their detention in military centers was erased from the public record. Police statements seen by Human Rights Watch claimed the detainees had been arrested just before their transfer to the regular justice system.

Despite being told not to reveal the abuses they faced in detention, many of the defendants told judges they had been illegally detained or tortured in military detention centers. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any judges ordering an investigation into such allegations or dismissing evidence obtained under torture, despite clear legal obligations under international human rights law to do so.

In many cases, the defendants did not receive a fair trial. Many were sentenced to lengthy prison terms, including life imprisonment, sometimes partly or entirely based on confessions or witness testimonies obtained under torture. Many are still in prison. Others were acquitted and released after lengthy pretrial detention.

Since around 2005, conditions in Rwanda’s official civilian prisons have improved considerably. In the years following the 1994 genocide, severe overcrowding and other prison conditions amounting to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment led to the death of many prisoners. Since then, the authorities have released several thousand prisoners, thereby significantly reducing the overcrowding. Allegations of torture and ill-treatment in official civilian prisons have become rare since the mid-2000s. As this report shows, however, this progress stands in contrast with a parallel circuit of unofficial military detention centers, in which detainees, including civilians, have been subjected to serious violations over many years.

Most of the violations described in this report were committed by members of the Rwandan military, including military intelligence operatives, who have benefited from a system of impunity. Human Rights Watch is not aware of any disciplinary or judicial action against military or intelligence officials for illegal detention or torture in military centers during the period covered by this report.

The FDLR have carried out killings, rapes, and other serious abuses against civilians in eastern Congo. Many of the abuses faced by detainees and documented in this report are a result of attempts by the Rwandan government to punish the FDLR and its sympathizers for the group’s incursions into Rwanda and to extract information regarding potential future attacks. While the Rwandan government has a responsibility to protect its borders and ensure security for all its citizens, this should be done in full respect of the law. International and Rwandan law prohibit torture, illegal and arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and other human rights violations described in this report.

In June 2015, in a promising move, Rwanda ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), which requires ratifying states to set up a national preventive mechanism for the prevention of torture at the domestic level. The Rwandan government has yet to create this mechanism, despite a deadline in the OPCAT to do so one year after ratification. However, a process to establish the mechanism has commenced and consultations are ongoing. There are indications that this mechanism may be managed through the National Commission for Human Rights.

At the end of 2017, Rwanda will be reviewed by the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), a body of 10 independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture.

The UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, a monitoring body of the OPCAT comprised of international experts, will conduct a state visit to Rwanda in October 2017.

Human Rights Watch shared the findings presented in this report with the government of Rwanda in December 2016, but despite repeated requests, and a second letter in August 2017, the government did not respond. Justice Minister Johnston Busingye told Human Rights Watch in 2014 that there should be zero tolerance for torture and that perpetrators should be brought to account. In 2016, in a submission for the CAT, the government stated, “there is no unofficial detention in Rwanda.”

Human Rights Watch calls on the Rwandan authorities to immediately stop all unlawful detention and torture in military custody, to investigate all allegations of violations, including those contained in this report, and to bring the perpetrators to justice, in fair and prompt trials. The government should also disclose the whereabouts of all those subjected to enforced disappearance.

International donors to Rwanda’s justice and security sectors should press Rwandan authorities to immediately halt the practices of torture and other serious human rights violations documented in this report. Financial and other support to these sectors should be re-evaluated and only continue if concrete steps are taken to end these violations and hold the perpetrators to account. While international donors are quick to praise Rwanda’s remarkable economic progress since the 1994 genocide and have repeatedly rewarded the government with substantial aid packages, the darker underside of torture, enforced disappearances, and unlawful detention should not be ignored.

Recommendations

To Rwandan Government, Military, and Judicial Authorities

  • Immediately cease arbitrary and unlawful detention and torture in military detention centers and ensure that no one is held in unofficial detention centers.
  • Promptly release detainees who are held in unlawful military detention centers, or where there is sufficient and credible evidence of having committed a recognizable offence, charge them, transfer them to official detention centers, and ensure they receive a prompt trial that fully respects international fair trial standards.
  • Ensure that all detainees are promptly brought before a prosecutor and a judge within the legally defined periods, and that arrests are not arbitrary and take place in accordance with the procedures and safeguards established by law.
  • Investigate all allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, unlawful and arbitrary detention and arrests, even without an official complaint by victims or their families, and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
  • Suspend members of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), regardless of rank, against whom there are credible allegations of involvement in serious human rights violations, pending investigations, and ensure that all personnel implicated in violations, as well as their commanders, are appropriately disciplined and prosecuted.
  • Publicly and unequivocally condemn the practices of torture, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment, and unlawful and arbitrary detention, and make clear to the RDF, at all levels, that these practices will not be tolerated.
  • Compensate victims of torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, and unlawful and arbitrary detention adequately and speedily.
  • Ensure that judges exclude from evidence any statements, confessions, and other information allegedly obtained through torture or ill-treatment. In cases in which detainees have been tortured, it may be that all alleged evidence is tainted by the torture and should not be used in any prosecution. In such cases, where it is not possible to guarantee a fair trial, detainees should be promptly released.
  • Promptly provide information about detainees to their families, including their whereabouts, charges against them, if any, and allow detainees to receive visitors.
  • Provide detainees with access to food, water, and medical care.
  • Pending closure of unlawful military detention centers, ensure conditions of detention in all detention centers, including those mentioned in this report, are subject to independent monitoring by human rights monitors who can visit without prior notification and communicate privately with detainees.
  • Ensure that all law enforcement personnel are appropriately trained on the absolute prohibition of torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, and how to interrogate detainees in conformity with international human rights standards.
  • Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
  • Implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) by establishing an independent national mechanism for the prevention of torture.
  • Invite relevant human rights mechanisms to visit Rwanda, including the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

To Rwanda’s National Commission for Human Rights, Ombudsman, and Parliament

  • Investigate allegations of enforced disappearances, unlawful and arbitrary detention, and torture in military detention centers, report publicly on these investigations, and organize hearings with senior government officials.
  • Publicly and unequivocally condemn torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, and unlawful and arbitrary detention.

To International Donors to Rwanda’s Justice and Security Sectors and Other Foreign Governments

  • Call on the Rwandan authorities to immediately implement the recommendations in this report, including by directing security personnel to desist from torturing detainees, investigating all allegations of torture and unlawful detention in military custody, and bringing those responsible to justice.
  • Integrate compliance with human rights standards in programs to support the Rwandan military, security and justice sectors, and in political dialogue with the Rwandan government, and monitor compliance with these standards at regular intervals.
  • In the context of assistance to the justice sector, monitor judicial procedures to help ensure that trials are conducted in accordance with international fair trial standards.
  • Re-evaluate financial and other support, including training and capacity-building, to institutions directly involved in human rights violations documented in this report and communicate clearly to the Rwandan government that such support will only continue if concrete steps are taken to end these violations and hold the perpetrators to account.
  • Request permission to visit the military detention sites mentioned in this report and communicate privately with detainees.
  • Under the principle of universal jurisdiction and in accordance with national laws, investigate and prosecute Rwandan officials suspected of committing the serious violations described in this report who may be visiting the relevant country.

To the UN, the World Bank, and Donors Supporting the DDRRR Program

  • Closely and systematically monitor the situation of former combatants returned from Congo to Rwanda through the disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement (DDRRR) program and take measures to prevent illegal transfers from Congo to Rwanda and human rights abuses such as arbitrary and unlawful detention and torture.
  • Establish, together with the Rwandan authorities, clear procedures for monitoring the situation of former combatants returned to Rwanda via the DDRRR program.
  • Intervene with the Congolese and/or Rwandan authorities when MONUSCO, the peacekeeping mission in Congo, has credible information that a former combatant processed through the MONUSCO DDRRR program is illegally arrested, detained, and/or tortured in Congo or Rwanda.

To the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

  • In accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, conduct an immediate investigation into the cases outlined in this report and others.
  • Urge the government of Rwanda to attend the forthcoming 61st ordinary session of the African Commission to ensure consideration of its combined 11th, 12th and 13th periodic report as well as to consider the cases outlined in this report.

To the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture

  • Inspect locations mentioned in this report during its upcoming state visit to Rwanda scheduled for October 2017 and publish the  findings of this visit.
  • Urge the government to establish an independent national preventive mechanism as soon as possible.

To the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

  • Request an invitation from the Rwandan government to investigate torture and arbitrary detention in military custody, including through visits to the locations mentioned in this report, and publish the findings of such a visit.

Methodology

This report is based on research conducted by Human Rights Watch between 2010 and 2017. Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 230 people, including 61 current and former detainees who had been held in military detention centers in Rwanda between 2010 and 2016; over 160 family members and friends of detainees; and 10 government and military officials, some of whom requested anonymity. Human Rights Watch also observed the trials of seven groups of people who said they were tortured while being held unlawfully at military detention centers and reviewed court statements regarding 21 illegal detention cases and statements given in court by 22 individuals.

Human Rights Watch conducted most of the interviews for this report in Rwanda; others were conducted in Burundi, Congo, Kenya, and Uganda. Five interviews were conducted over the phone. Human Rights Watch staff explained to each interviewee the purpose of the interview, its voluntary and confidential nature, the way in which the information would be used, and that no compensation would be provided.

Names and other identifying information of detainees and other sources have been withheld to protect interviewees from possible reprisals. However, in some cases, former detainees insisted that their identity should be revealed. Some detainees were too afraid or traumatized to describe what had happened to them.

Human Rights Watch faced numerous challenges conducting research for this report. The Rwandan government has restricted access to the country to several Human Rights Watch researchers and other staff between 2008 and 2017, making it difficult to access potential interviewees.

Between 2011 and 2016, Human Rights Watch repeatedly sought authorization, in person and in writing, from the Rwandan Correctional Services (RCS) to visit detainees transferred from military custody to regular prisons, as well as other prisoners. The RCS granted the authorization in 2012, which enabled a Human Rights Watch researcher to visit Kigali Central Prison twice. Human Rights Watch visited Rubavu Central Prison several times between 2012 and 2014. However, in December 2014, the RCS informed Human Rights Watch that its prison authorization was no longer valid, without providing a reason. Two years later, Human Rights Watch asked the Ministry of Justice to facilitate access to civilian prisons, but did not receive a response.

On December 14, 2016, Human Rights Watch sent a detailed letter outlining the findings presented in this report to the Rwandan minister of justice, requesting the government’s response to the findings, but received no response, despite a dozen reminders. A senior Human Rights Watch staff visited Kigali in February 2017 to discuss the research findings, but no government official was willing to hold a meeting. In addition, Human Rights Watch sent a second letter to the minister of justice in August 2017 (see Appendix II), but there was no response.

Human Rights Watch also wrote to the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) on January 30, 2017. The NCHR invited Human Rights Watch to a meeting in Kigali, but Human Rights Watch’s researcher was unable to secure a Rwanda entry visa to attend the meeting. Human Rights Watch proposed a telephone meeting with the NCHR, but the commission members did not respond. The NCHR did not provide a written response to the January 2017 letter. Human Rights Watch wrote a second time to the NCHR, in August 2017, but received no response (see Appendix III).

Human Rights Watch also wrote to MONUSCO on February 27, 2017. MONUSCO’s April 14 response is reflected in this report.

I.   Background

Between April and July 1994, more than half a million people were killed in Rwanda in a genocide on an unprecedented scale, perpetrated by Hutu political and military extremists against the Tutsi minority.[1] The genocide ended in July 1994, when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a predominantly Tutsi rebel group, defeated the Rwandan army and government and took over the country. The RPF established a new government, and has since been the ruling party in Rwanda.

Since the genocide, Rwanda has made great strides in rebuilding the country’s institutions and infrastructure, which were almost completely destroyed in 1994. The Rwandan government has developed the economy, delivered public services, and made progress in reducing poverty. It has set itself ambitious priorities for the country’s development, which it has pursued with determination over the last 23 years.

However, there is a dark side to Rwanda’s post-genocide economic and infrastructural development. From the outset, the RPF did not tolerate any criticism, dealing ruthlessly with real or suspected opponents, through extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and unlawful detention, as well as threats, intimidation, harassment, and intense physical surveillance.

The military has been and remains at the heart of the RPF’s system of repression. Officials of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), renamed the “Rwanda Defence Force” (RDF) in 2002, have been responsible for serious human rights violations since the RPF took power after the genocide. Few have been brought to justice for these crimes.

As the RPF took over the country in the final days of the genocide, hundreds of thousands of people, mostly Hutus, fled Rwanda and sought refuge in neighboring countries. They included members of the Interahamwe militia[2] and the former Rwandan army (Forces armées rwandaises, FAR), known as “ex-FAR.” Hutu armed groups, with a base in Congo, commonly referred to in Rwanda as “infi"ltr"ators,”[3] launched deadly attacks in Rwanda, primarily against Tutsi, in the late 1990s.

The RPA countered these attacks with vast counterinsurgency operations, in which many civilians were killed, particularly those who lived in northwestern Rwanda, which is the birthplace of many of the former Hutu leaders and is often regarded as a Hutu stronghold.

The presence of these Hutu armed groups in eastern Congo served as the justification for the RPA to invade the country in 1996 and 1998, with devastating consequences, and to support a succession of murderous Congolese armed groups in the following years.[4]

The FDLR

After using different names over a period of years, the main Rwandan Hutu armed group in Congo eventually called itself the “Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda” (Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda, FDLR). The FDLR still operates in eastern Congo today. Many of the armed group’s members in 2017 are too young to have participated in the genocide; however, some of its current leaders and combatants did participate in the genocide.

The FDLR has committed, and continues to commit, horrific abuses against Congolese civilians in eastern Congo, sometimes in alliance with Congolese armed groups.[5] In July 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sylvestre Mudacumura, the military commander of the FDLR, on nine counts of war crimes in eastern Congo, including attacking civilians, murder, mutilation, cruel treatment, rape, torture, destruction of property, pillaging, and outrages against personal dignity. Mudacumura is still at large. Human Rights Watch has documented serious atrocities committed by forces under Mudacumura’s command and repeatedly called for his arrest.[6]

On September 28, 2015, a court in Germany convicted Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni, the president and vice president of the FDLR, and sentenced them to 13 and 8 years in prison respectively. Murwanashyaka was found guilty of war crimes in respect of five FDLR attacks in eastern Congo and of leading a terrorist organization. Musoni was found guilty of leading a terrorist organization, but acquitted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.[7] This was the first time that FDLR leaders have been held to account.

Estimates of the FDLR’s troop strength in 2016 ranged from 1,400 to 1,600 men. The Rwandan government cited a figure of 2,905.[8] Near the end of 2016, UN experts said that the rebel group had been significantly weakened, because of arrests, military operations and defections, in particular to a breakaway armed group, the National Council for Renewal and Democracy (CNRD).[9] Despite losing some of their military strength in recent years, the FDLR continued to conduct sporadic attacks into Rwanda. In April 2016, at least one attack took place in northwestern Rwanda, which the Rwandan Ministry of Defence attributed to “suspected FDLR terrorist elements.”[10] Soon after the attack, 24 people were arrested for illegally entering the country from Congo[11] and three village leaders were arrested for alleged collaboration with the FDLR, according to Rwandan media reports.[12] In August 2017, UN experts said that, “while weakened,” the FDLR “still showed resilience.”[13]

Between 2002 and June 2014, 12,427 combatants and 12,518 dependents returned from Congo to Rwanda through an official process of disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement (DDRRR).[14] Between January and October 2016, 141 non-Congolese FDLR combatants were processed via DDRRR.[15] By the end of 2016, 37,201 foreign combatants had been processed by MONUSCO and repatriated, predominantly to Rwanda, since the start of the DDRRR program. This includes some fighters from other foreign armed groups active in eastern Congo.[16]

Former FDLR combatants who go through the DDRRR process transit through camps in eastern Congo administered by the UN mission in Congo, MONUSCO. MONUSCO oversees the DDRRR process on the Congolese side, and then arranges the transfer of demobilized FDLR members to the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RDRC), a Rwandan government body. The RDRC then takes them to designated centers in Rwanda and assists them in reintegrating into social and economic life.

Many former FDLR members, including several of their commanders, appear to have successfully reintegrated into civilian life in Rwanda; some have even been given posts in government agencies. Others have been arrested on their return and prosecuted in Rwanda for security-related offenses, as illustrated in this report. A third category have resisted return and remain in Congo.

The Rwanda National Congress

In 2010, Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, a senior Rwandan military official who had held several top positions in the RPF and in the security forces, including army chief-of-staff, fled Rwanda to South Africa, where he sought asylum and became an outspoken critic of Rwandan President Paul Kagame. Together with other former senior RPF officials, he founded the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition group in exile.

The Rwandan government has repeatedly accused the RNC of collaborating with the FDLR, and of supporting and conducting terrorist activities in Rwanda.[17]

In January 2011, Nyamwasa and three RNC co-founders—all former senior government and army officials—were tried in absentia by a military court in Kigali and found guilty of endangering state security, destabilizing public order, “divisionism,” defamation, and forming a criminal enterprise. Nyamwasa and Théogène Rudasingwa, former secretary general of the RPF, were each sentenced to 24 years in prison, and Patrick Karegeya, former head of external intelligence, and Gerald Gahima, former Prosecutor General, to 20 years each.

Several RNC members or suspected members have been attacked, in Rwanda and abroad.[18] Among the most prominent are Nyamwasa himself, who narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in South Africa in June 2010, and Karegeya, who was found strangled in a hotel room in Johannesburg in January 2014. Other RNC members, or people suspected of links with the RNC, have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted in Rwanda.[19]

Grenade attacks

From 2008 to 2014, dozens of grenade explosions took place in Rwanda, mostly in the capital, Kigali, killing at least a dozen people and injuring many others.

Several grenade attacks took place in the period leading up to the presidential elections of 2010 and the legislative elections of 2013.[20] The 2010 attacks were particularly worrying, as they took place in a context of heightened political tensions, with reports of deepening divisions in the military. They coincided with Nyamwasa fleeing Rwanda in February 2010, the arrest, house arrest or demotion of several senior military officials, and, in December 2010, the official creation of the RNC.

Many people attributed these grenade attacks to the FDLR or the RNC, but the identity of the perpetrators was not conclusively established in each case. According to the Rwandan government, 18 grenade attacks were carried out by the FDLR in Rwanda between December 2009 and March 2011, killing 14 people and injuring 219.[21]

The grenade attacks triggered a series of arrests and prosecutions of people accused of collaborating with the RNC or the FDLR, several of which are documented in this report.

History of Violations in Rwandan Military Detention

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other organizations have documented a longstanding pattern of unlawful detention and torture in military custody in Rwanda for most of the past 23 years. Some detainees were so badly tortured that they died of their injuries. Others were killed in detention. Many were held incommunicado, in extremely harsh conditions.[22]

The nature of some of these violations has barely changed, with striking similarities between former detainees’ description of their treatment in military custody today and those of former detainees 15 or 20 years ago. Some of the same senior military or intelligence officials are still in charge, and some of the same locations, such as Kami and Mukamira camps, are still being used for these purposes.

In 1997, 300 men were reportedly detained in Mukamira after search and cordon operations in northwestern Rwanda.[23] In September 1999, Amnesty International reported that the RPA detained six men accused of theft in Mukamira and tortured several of them; one died as a result of torture.[24] In 2003, military authorities told the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) that a military officer was imprisoned in Kami and “that it is the Department of Military Investigation which was in charge of that jail.” Members of the NCHR subsequently visited the detainee and concluded that he was detained illegally.[25] In 2006, a United States District Court rejected the confessions of three Rwandans accused of murdering US citizens in Bwindi, Uganda, in 1999. The judge held that the confessions had been coerced by Rwandan police and intelligence agents through “unconscionable conditions and abuse at Kami military camp.”[26] In 2007, 10 members of a Rwandan dissident political organization arrested in Uganda were held in Kami, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.[27]

In the years following the 1994 genocide, victims of unlawful detention and torture in military custody included armed opponents—notably members of the FDLR and ex-FAR—but also civilians accused of collaborating with these groups. Some were eventually transferred to civilian prisons and tried for genocide-related crimes or security offenses in the post-genocide years. Some have since been released.

II.    Torture and Unlawful Detention in Military Centers

Human Rights Watch has documented 104 cases of people who were illegally detained and in many cases tortured or ill-treated in military detention centers in Rwanda between 2010 and 2016. Former detainees described how military officials interrogated them, mostly about their alleged links to the FDLR and involvement in grenade attacks or other threats to Rwanda’s security. To force them to confess, or provide information about other suspects, military officials subjected detainees to various forms of torture and ill-treatment. Some detainees were subjected to these violations in several locations as they were transferred from one detention center to another.

Kami

Camp Kami, run by the RDF, lies just outside Kigali, in the hills of Gasabo district. The military camp is situated in a small forest in Gashura cell, northeast of the antennae of the former Deutsche Welle radio station at Kinyinya hill, a well-known landmark that several former detainees recognized during their detention. The camp was renovated in 2013 to house approximately 1,600 soldiers.[28]

Human Rights Watch interviewed 39 people who said they were detained in Kami between 2010 and 2016 and spent between two weeks and nine months there. Most were men, but Human Rights Watch also interviewed three women, one of whom was detained in Kami for eight months. Interviewees mentioned dozens of other former detainees whom they saw in Kami; Human Rights Watch confirmed, through multiple sources, the presence of at least nine of them.

During trials observed by Human Rights Watch, at least 13 defendants mentioned in court that they had been detained in Kami.[29] On one occasion, the prosecution also mentioned that an accused had been interrogated in Kami.[30]

Beatings and Forced Confessions

Twenty-seven former detainees told Human Rights Watch that they were tortured in Kami. RDF officials interrogated and beat them upon arrival. They used metal bars, wooden sticks, hammers, and other objects to hit detainees, often on their back and feet, sometimes forcing them into various positions to facilitate the beatings. Often, detainees were handcuffed or blindfolded.

One former detainee, arrested in September 2010, told Human Rights Watch:

[When we arrived] at Kami I got out of the truck.... I was still blindfolded and they switched the handcuffs to put my arms behind my back. They told me to lie on the ground. Two soldiers came and stood on me, one on my head and one on my feet. They stood on me and beat me. Then they changed my position. They made me curl up into a ball and tied me up and then they pulled my legs and arms. They did this for hours and kept telling me to confess. I said: “I cannot confess to what I do not know.” They were furious with me.... Then another man put his fingers in my eyes and said, “We will force you to confess.” Since then I have had pain in my eyes, even now. It felt like they were doing that for several minutes. After that, I said, “Bring me a paper and I will confess to whatever you want. I will sign.”[31]

A detainee described being forced to lie on the ground with his hands handcuffed behind his back as solders beat him on his feet and his head. 

© 2017 John Holmes for Human Rights Watch

Another former detainee, held at Kami in 2013, told Human Rights Watch, “They slammed my hand with an iron rod. All they wanted to hear was, “Yes. Yes. Yes, I am FDLR.” I was beaten every day for two months. Most of the time they beat me on my hands and my feet.”[32]

For others, the beatings and interrogations started a few days after they arrived.

A man arrested in April 2014 told Human Rights Watch:

They [intelligence officials] took my blindfold off and a man in civilian clothes was sitting at a table. He said, “Ok, you will tell the truth.” His first question was, “Tell us how many times you met the FDLR.” I was surprised and I said, “God help me, I know nothing about that.” He said, “Ok, sit on the ground then.” Then another man started to beat me on my feet, while two others held me down. I was handcuffed. While they were beating me, they yelled, “Tell us how many people you recruited for the FDLR!” I said, “I know nothing about the things you are asking!” The man yelled, “Tell us how many people you sent to Congo!” I started to explain [why I sometimes went to Congo for business]. But they kept on with their questions: “Tell us who you met there! Tell us the names of the FDLR who went there!” With each question the other men would continue to beat me.... I begged them to stop.... They said, “No, you will tell us which FDLR leaders you saw there. Tell us how many soldiers you met.” I said I never worked for the FDLR. It went on like that for one hour. After each question, they beat me. After that, they gave me a piece of paper and said, “Sign this.” I only had a moment to look at it, then I signed it.[33]

Another former detainee, arrested in April 2014, told Human Rights Watch that despite severe beatings, he had continued denying being an FDLR member:

After they beat me, a man said to me, “Ok, we asked you calmly. Now we will show you.” They took out a special rope and tied it across my chest. Then a big man pulled it … it hurt very badly. They asked me more questions, but I still denied [being an FDLR member]. The man in charge said to the others, “No, that is not sufficient.” They tied my feet and turned me upside down. Another man entered and they started to beat me with metal clubs. I continued saying I didn’t know anything about the FDLR. It lasted over an hour until I lost consciousness.... When I woke up, I was in a cell. I spent three days without food or water. On the third day, I was given corn and a small bottle of water. It hurt when I ate. I only drank a small amount of water. I couldn’t move, I didn’t have any strength, I couldn’t speak. I was hurting all over. They had beaten me all over my body.[34]

During interrogations, military officials often threatened to kill detainees if they would not give them the answers they demanded. A former detainee, who was in Kami in 2016, told Human Rights Watch that when he insisted he had no links with the FDLR, his interrogator pulled out a pistol and pointed it at him. He was threatened with death, but not killed.[35]

Electric Shocks, Asphyxiations, Acid Burns and Mock Executions

Former detainees from Kami told Human Rights Watch how military and intelligence officials used electric shocks, asphyxiations, acid to burn skin, and mock executions to force them to confess or to incriminate others.[36] A former detainee, arrested in March 2014, told Human Rights Watch about some of the torture methods:

I can start with my own case. When they put you in the torture chamber, they take off the blindfold. They put a black plastic bag over your head until you can’t breathe. When I was about to suffocate, they took it off and asked me questions about political parties.... Another way they torture people is: they take a poncho and tie it around your neck. They lift the bottom over your head and fill it with water. Another method is: they take your fingers and wrap electrical wire around them and make you put your finger in a socket. They did this to me once. They put your finger in and out to make you talk. If they left your finger in the socket, it could kill you; but they put it in and out. Another way they torture you is: they take a sack and put stones in it, and then they attach it to your testicles with an elastic cord.[37]

Detainees described soldiers asphyxiating them by placing a plastic bag over their heads and cutting off their air supply. 

© 2017 John Holmes for Human Rights Watch

When some detainees refused to confess, RDF officials resorted to asphyxiation or mock executions. A former detainee, arrested in August 2010, described his ordeal:

He [an RDF official] took me into the bush. It was still in the camp. He made me lie on my stomach. He was accompanied by three other soldiers. He showed me a pistol and told me to touch it. He said, “Do you understand what this is? Will you accept [that you are FDLR] or not?” I said that I could not accept. He said, “Do you want to die by the bullet or by the hoe? You can choose.” I said, “I can’t confess to what I have not done.” They started to dig [a hole] right next to me. They brought a plastic bag and put it over my head and started to ask questions. After a few minutes, when they saw that I was suffocating, they stopped. They said, “Now will you accept?” I said, “I cannot confess to what I do not know.” They put the bag over my head maybe four times. When I defecated in my pants, they stopped. I thought I was going to die.[38]

A detainee described how a military commander held a gun to his head next to an open grave and told him he would be killed if he did not confess. 

© 2017 John Holmes for Human Rights Watch

Other detainees (see also Boxes 1, 3, 4, and 6) described to Human Rights Watch the use of asphyxiation, electric shocks, mock executions and the tying of objects to men’s genitals. They said they ended up signing false statements because they could not stand the torture or believed they would die.

A man detained in Kami in 2010 told Human Rights Watch that military beat him, put a bag over his head, and poured acid over him, causing serious burns on his skin.[39] Two other former detainees also mentioned the use of acid in their appeal hearings in court.[40]

Box 1 – Kami and Victoire Ingabire’s Trial

 

On October 30, 2012, Victoire Ingabire, president of the FDU-Inkingi opposition party, was convicted of conspiracy to undermine the government and genocide denial, and sentenced to eight years in prison. In December 2013, the Supreme Court increased her sentence to 15 years. Human Rights Watch observed her trial which was flawed in several respects. Among other things, it included politically motivated charges, such as “genocide ideology,” divisionism, and spreading rumors intended to incite the public to rise up against the state, and there were doubts about the reliability of some of the evidence.[41]

During the trial, it emerged that three of Ingabire’s four co-defendants—Vital Uwumuremyi, Tharcisse Nditurende, and Noel Habiyaremye, all members of the FDLR—had been detained in Kami for several months in 2009 and 2010. Nditurende and Habiyaremye said in court that they were held there incommunicado. A defense witness, Michel Habimana—a former FDLR spokesperson also known as Edmond Ngarambe—, said in court that he was detained in Kami at the same time as Uwumuremyi in 2009. He said that intelligence agents asked him and Uwumuremyi to incriminate Ingabire. Uwumuremyi agreed to do so, despite admitting to Habimana privately that he did not even know Ingabire. Despite this statement in court, the judges did not discount Uwumuremyi’s statement against Ingabire.[42]

Separately from Ingabire’s trial, Human Rights Watch spoke to three former detainees who Rwandan soldiers had interrogated about their links with Ingabire: two in Kami in 2010, the other in a private house used as a detention center in Rubavu, in 2014.[43] One of the former detainees from Kami told Human Rights Watch, “They asked me to accuse her [Ingabire] of complicity with the FDLR and to say she was involved in the grenade attacks.”[44] Another man, who was in Kami around the same time, told Human Rights Watch, “I saw men who had their testicles squeezed to get them to admit that they collaborated with Victoire [Ingabire] and Nyamwasa.”[45]

Another former detainee told Human Rights Watch that in November 2010, military officers had asked him and several other detainees in Kami to accuse Ingabire, but he refused.[46] This was confirmed by one of his co-detainees.[47]

MINADEF (Headquarters of the Ministry of Defence)

In 2010, RDF officials took several people suspected of having links with the FDLR to the Ministry of Defence headquarters (known by its acronym, MINADEF) in Kigali, before transferring them to Kami. Most were held at MINADEF for just one or two days. The ministry is in a multi-story building in Kimihurura, in central Kigali. Former detainees told Human Rights Watch that they were first taken to a large meeting room, where other detainees were often present, and were then singled out and taken to a smaller office where most of the interrogations and torture took place.

Human Rights Watch spoke to 11 people who said that they had transited through MINADEF. Two others mentioned in court that they had been detained at MINADEF.[48]

Beatings and Forced Confessions

Ten former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch described how RDF officials beat them at MINADEF to force them to confess to involvement in grenade attacks.

One man, arrested in June 2010, told Human Rights Watch:

Lieutenant-Colonel [Faustin] Tinka[49] asked me, “There have been explosions in Kigali. Do you know who is throwing the grenades?” I said no. He said, “If you don’t want to tell us easily, you will tell us by force.” [Then] they put me in an isolated room [and] hit me with metal rods, slapped me and punched me. I was bleeding from the mouth. One of them put a plastic wrapper—the type used to wrap water bottles—into my mouth and kicked it into my mouth with his foot. I was bleeding. Captain Murenzi[50] was beating me.[51]

Another man, arrested in August 2010, was briefly detained at MINADEF, and then transferred to Kami for six months. He told Human Rights Watch:

At MINADEF I was taken to a large room. There were many men in civilian clothes. They asked me about [other men accused of throwing grenades]. They started to hit me on the head with their hands. They asked, “Are you part of the group that threw grenades?” I said, “I do not know who threw the grenades.” They beat me and took me to the office of a high-ranking military official. He asked me the same question and I gave the same answer. He said to the others, “Go, make him understand that he needs to say certain things.” They took me away and started beating me again. They ripped my shirt off and tied it around my face and hit me and kicked me. When they were hitting me in the face, my lip started to hurt and I started to bleed a lot, so they stopped when they saw all the blood.[52]

Electric Shocks and Threats

A former detainee, arrested in June 2010, told Human Rights Watch how a man, who he overheard being called an army captain, subjected him to electric shocks at MINADEF:[53]

[The army captain][54] put an electric gadget on my back. It was small and long, and looked like a pen. It was plugged into the wall with a wire. [When he used it] I fell on the ground and passed out. When I woke up, they gave me a paper and pen, and asked me to write down the names of the people who had carried out grenade attacks. I took the pen and just wrote the date. I said I couldn’t write the names as I didn’t know them. They tortured me again. I was on the ground. They kicked me and punched me and slapped me, mostly on my back, my chest, and my head. My throat hurt. I couldn’t speak properly for about five months. They were trying to force me to give them the names of people involved in the grenade attacks. The torture lasted about two or three hours. They tortured my genitals. [A soldier] did this by squeezing my testicles. Others hit me at the same time. They did this to other detainees too. I was handcuffed with my hands behind my back.[55]

A detainee described being subject to electric shocks by soldiers using an instrument that he said “looked like a pen.”

© 2017 John Holmes for Human Rights Watch

After interrogating them at MINADEF, RDF officials took many of those accused of launching grenade attacks to Kami, individually or in small groups. Former detainees told Human Rights Watch they were terrified of being transferred to Kami. One man told Human Rights Watch that a soldier told him, “If you don’t tell us now, you will tell us later … you will answer our questions.”[56] Another said, “At about five in the morning they came in and put our shirts over our faces. We were taken out and put into a pick-up truck.... I thought I was going to be killed. We were taken to a military camp. I later learned we were at Kami.”[57]

Mukamira

Mukamira is a military base in northwestern Rwanda, between the towns of Musanze and Rubavu, in Nyabihu district.

Human Rights Watch interviewed 25 people detained in Mukamira between 2010 and 2016. They spent between one day and three months there, on average about a month. Human Rights Watch received information about several other former detainees in Mukamira, at least six of whose cases were confirmed by multiple sources.

Some were taken straight to Mukamira after their arrest, but most had first passed through other military detention centers, such as the “Gendarmerie,” Bigogwe, or Mudende (see below).

Eleven of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch and detained between 2010 and 2012 were eventually tried and convicted, or released. Eight others, detained in Mukamira in 2014, were transferred to Kami, before being sent to trial or released. Human Rights Watch spoke to several former detainees who were held in Mukamira in 2016 on accusations of collaboration with the FDLR. They were interrogated and detained in Mukamira for a short time, before being transferred to Kami or the “Gendarmerie,” where most beatings took place.

In trials observed by Human Rights Watch, at least 19 defendants stated in court that they had been illegally detained in Mukamira.

Beatings and Forced Confessions

Most of the former detainees from Mukamira interviewed by Human Rights Watch were beaten by soldiers, usually with iron rods or wooden sticks. Some were beaten as part of a daily routine, others only during interrogations. The beatings were intended to force them to confess to collaboration with the FDLR or accuse others of doing so.

A demobilized FDLR fighter, who said he left the rebel group in 2005, was arrested in July 2011 and taken to Mukamira. He told Human Rights Watch:

They beat me and said I had to confess that I was FDLR and that I was here [in Rwanda] to destabilize the regime. I refused to confess. I said that I had been a member of the FDLR but that I left, so I could not respond to [these accusations] because I did not collaborate with them.... Some other demobilized FDLR were also detained at Mukamira.... They would beat us every morning and every night. They would make a selection. Sometimes I was selected, sometimes not. They would beat people who did not accept that they were FDLR. Whoever did not confess was beaten. They would beat us with sticks and sometimes with a bike chain. I was beaten on my back, on my buttocks and on my feet. Sometimes they would beat us all night long. It was always to make us confess. When they beat us, they would write things down.[58]

Another former detainee, who was acquitted of all charges in a trial in 2012, told Human Rights Watch:

They would beat me for around two hours. They said, “Tell us where we can find the Interahamwe with whom you collaborate.” I was beaten by a group of four soldiers. One of them would hit me, then I was passed on to another one who would hit me too. They were always saying the same thing: “You are an Interahamwe.” I said, “No, I went to Congo legally, I showed you my papers that prove this.” But they kept telling me to confess.... I was beaten so seriously that I finally confessed. I said, “Yes, I was with the FDLR … we were in the forest.” They liked hearing this and they left me. [But] the next morning I was taken out to be beaten again. They said, “You, do you still admit or have you changed your mind?” I said, “No, I still admit.” But they still beat me.... The next day, it was the same thing. They beat me just for the sake of beating me.[59]

A former detainee who was arrested in September 2011 was detained in Mudende (see below) before being taken to Mukamira:

When I left Mudende, I thought life would be better, but arriving at Mukamira, I found it was the opposite. Life there was worse.... As soon as I arrived, I was beaten. It has completely changed me. There I was a different person. The “daily ration” was beating.... When they beat me, they would ask how they could find other combatants.... I confessed and by the end, I even believed I was guilty because I was beaten so badly. At this point I was beaten so badly I felt nothing. It was as if they were beating a tree.[60]

Human Rights Watch spoke to several other people who were ill-treated in Mukamira in 2016. One of them said:

I was beaten there by a soldier. He wanted me to confess.... He said, “You were on your way to join the Interahamwe by going through Uganda.” I said no. I could not accept that. He wanted us to confess this and he beat us with cables on our bodies. We were lying down. They beat us the whole time.[61]

In the trials Human Rights Watch monitored, at least eight defendants stated in court that they were tortured or forced to confess in Mukamira. One said in 2012:

I didn’t confess of my own free will. I was forced to confess to accusations that were formulated against me. Since my arrest, they never stopped persecuting me, beating me day and night. I was afraid of being killed, so I confessed all that they wanted me to confess in front of the official from the prosecutor’s office.[62]

A serving RDF member confirmed to Human Rights Watch that the military beat people in Mukamira: “When they interrogate people there they beat them. If you are accused of being part of a negative force,[63] you will be seriously beaten to make you confess. We all know this.”[64]

Electric Shocks and Death Threats

Several sources confirmed the use of electric shocks (see Box 2) and death threats in Mukamira, to force detainees to confess. The same serving RDF member told Human Rights Watch, “At Mukamira there is a special room. It has water in it and they use electricity there. I have heard the screams of men coming from this house.”[65]

The wife of a former detainee, whose detention in Mukamira for two months in 2012 was confirmed by several of his former co-detainees, visited her husband in Rubavu prison after his transfer from Mukamira. She told Human Rights Watch:

I went to see my husband. He had scars on his arms and legs. He said he had been beaten and mistreated there. He said they deprived him of food to force him to admit that he worked with men from outside [Rwanda]. He said he was forced to dig his own grave at Mukamira and he was told he would be killed and buried in it. Then they forced him to stay in that hole.[66]

Human Rights Watch received credible information from several former detainees about killings of co-detainees at Mukamira, but was unable to verify these allegations.

Box 2 – “Robert”: Tortured in Mukamira

In June 2011, military officials arrested “Robert,” a former soldier, at a bus station in Rubavu and told him they wanted to question him about his alleged links with the FDLR.

They took him to the “Gendarmerie,” where they interrogated him and beat him. He denied that he was an FDLR combatant.

More than a month later, they took him to Mukamira, where he was put in a dark cell by himself. The cell was too small for him to lie down. He told Human Rights Watch:

I was beaten many times there, very hard. They beat me with a rifle. My knee is still hurting. They also hit me in the chest with the rifle. They came every night to ask me if I had changed my mind or if I had something to add. If I said no, I was beaten.

He had very limited access to food, and once had to go without food for five days.

Then things got worse. One day, military officials decided to use electric shocks to force him to confess to working with “enemies” of the Rwandan government:

They called me a traitor.... I was in a cell in a separate house. There was water on the floor, about ankle-high. There was a cable plugged in and I was standing in the water. At the end of the cable there was something that looked like a fork. It had two prongs. They put it on my arm and asked me questions. When the fork touched me, my body went numb and it felt like my blood boiled. It was very painful. They asked me if I was with the FDLR and who threw the grenades in Kigali. They asked me many questions about who collaborated with Nyamwasa. They asked me for the name of a captain who worked with Nyamwasa. They asked me who gave grenades to Nyamwasa and this captain. They said, “Do you know what happened to the others who came here with you? They are dead. You will soon meet the same fate.” I could hear the military come at night to take people away; we never saw them again. I confessed after they [tortured me with electronic equipment] for the third time. I accepted that I had thrown grenades in 2010.[67]

In late October, after “Robert” had spent three months in Mukamira, police officers came to question him there. He told them he had been tortured.

In early December, a soldier took him to a police station. There, a police officer asked him to sign a statement, which said he had been arrested in October 2011, almost five months after the real date of his arrest. He told Human Rights Watch:

I refused and said that I could not sign something that was not true. The soldier who escorted me said, “If you refuse, we will take you to Mukamira.” The policeman I was with … said, “Yes, you will go back to Mukamira.” So, I signed.

“Robert” was then sent to a regular prison, tried in a civilian court, and acquitted. He was released in January 2013.

Rubavu’s “Gendarmerie”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 17 men who said they were detained in the military barracks commonly known as the “Gendarmerie,”[68] in Rubavu district, near a border crossing with Congo known as “la Petite Barrière.” They had spent up to two months there—on average a month—between 2010 and 2016. Almost all of them were tortured and accused of collaborating with the FDLR. Some were arrested in Congo, others in Rwanda, near the border.

During trials observed by Human Rights Watch, at least four other defendants stated in court that they had been detained in the “Gendarmerie.”[69]

Torture and Forced Confessions

Most of the former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that military officials at the “Gendarmerie” beat them, often with bayonets, sticks, and other objects. Most ended up confessing to their alleged crimes.

A former detainee, who spent one month in the “Gendarmerie” in 2016, told Human Rights Watch:

When we arrived, we were told, “If you don’t confess, we will beat you to death.” I was beaten every night and every morning. They beat us with cables but sometimes they would make those who were accused of being FDLR run around and do exercises. They beat us as we ran.... They would say, “You are FDLR, you must confess.” I said, “I don’t associate with the FDLR.” The cables were the worst, but they also beat us with wooden clubs.[70]

Another former detainee, arrested in May 2016 for allegedly crossing the border from Congo illegally, was detained for two months in the “Gendarmerie”:

When I first arrived at the “Gendarmerie,” two soldiers started to hit me across my body with metal clubs and cables. One said, “You are FDLR! Admit and tell us you are FDLR and we can free you.”[71]

Another former detainee told Human Rights Watch that the military detained him at the “Gendarmerie” for three days because his brother was a member of the FDLR:

At the “Gendarmerie” they asked me about my brother. They asked me where he was. I said he was [in jail]. They asked me why. I said I didn’t know. Then they beat me. They put a rope around my neck and hung me from the ceiling to get me to talk. I was beaten three times a day. I was not given anything to eat.”[72]

Another former detainee was taken to the “Gendarmerie” after being arrested in Congo in late 2010. He was detained there for 56 days:

I was seriously beaten there. I was beaten and stabbed with a bayonet from a rifle. I was kicked in my testicles. They beat me because I refused to sign a piece of paper that had been prepared for me. I wasn’t able to read it. I was beaten so badly that I ended up signing it because of the suffering. I signed by force.[73]

A man who was later sentenced to 10 years in prison told the judges in his trial that he had been pressured to confess at the “Gendarmerie”: “A soldier approached me and asked me if I knew one of the two other people who were [detained] with me. I said I did not know them.… That soldier told me I would never be released if I did not accept that I knew that person. I continued to say that I didn’t know him, because I had never known him.” He was later transferred to Mukamira, where he confessed to “everything they wanted us to confess to,” out of desperation.[74]

A man detained at the “Gendarmerie” in late November 2010 and beaten every night told Human Rights Watch that eight detainees—five Rwandans and three Congolese—were killed in the “Gendarmerie” in late 2010 and that he was forced to help bury three of the bodies. He said:

One night they took three men out and killed them. I had to bury their bodies. Two of them were beaten to death with sticks and one was shot in the head. Two of us were pulled out of the cells to bury them.... The bodies were wrapped in plastic sheeting before being put in the ground.[75]

Human Rights Watch was unable to independently verify these allegations of extrajudicial executions.

Box 3 – “Jean Bosco”: Mukamira, the “Gendarmerie,” and Kami

“Jean Bosco” was arrested in May 2016, in western Rwanda, after authorities accused a member of his family of entering the country illegally from Congo. He was first held at a military position, then driven to Mukamira. He told Human Rights Watch his family was too scared to look for him because he had been arrested by soldiers.[76]

After a week in Mukamira, he was driven to the “Gendarmerie”:

I was interrogated there [about the FDLR]. They beat us with metal cables and wooden clubs. Our hands were handcuffed and they would beat us all over, or they would sit us down and beat us on our feet. There were maybe 40 people in the cell. Everyone was beaten.

An army captain then took him back to Mukamira, where he spent one night. The day after, he was transferred to Kami. He told Human Rights Watch he saw red lights and antennae, presumably from the former Deutsche Welle radio station on a hill close to Kami.

“Jean Bosco” said there were many other detainees in Kami, each in their own cell. He heard men being beaten and crying. He himself was not beaten in Kami, but he was detained in harsh conditions and forced to provide information:

I was handcuffed the entire time. They shackled my legs and my hands. I had no mattress, no cover, only a military uniform [which most detainees got upon arrival in Kami]. I never washed or changed clothes.... I was interrogated five times. I was threatened. The man [who interrogated me] said, “You continue to lie.... If you don’t accept [that you have links with the FDLR], we will kill you.” When he said that, he pulled out a pistol and pointed it at me.

After three months, in August 2016, “Jean Bosco” was taken back to his home area, released, and told not to talk about what happened to him.

Other Detention Centers

Authorities also detained and tortured suspects in military camps in Bigogwe, Mudende, and Tumba and in houses in Kigali and Rubavu, which detainees were unable to identify. In most cases, detainees were transferred from these locations to either Mukamira or Kami.

Bigogwe

Bigogwe military camp is located between Musanze and Rubavu, in northwestern Rwanda.

One former detainee told Human Rights Watch that military officials arrested him in April 2011 and took him to Bigogwe, where they beat him in order to force him to confess to working with the FDLR and the RNC.

They took me to a cell that had a special area you walked down into. It was like a cage.... When you’re in there, they can beat you.... When I went down into the cell, they said, “You refuse to give us information you got in Congo. We know ... you were given a mission to come here [to Rwanda]. If you keep refusing [to tell us], you will see.” … They took me in and out of this cell over two days. Each time I was in there for around 30 minutes, then they would take me out and interrogate me and beat me with sticks again. They were always asking what information I had collected in Congo.... They would say, “You must accept you are FDLR, you must give us information.” They wanted me to give them names. They said, “It was that group of 30 who threw the grenades in Kigali and you work with them. We know you work with the FDLR and with Nyamwasa.”[77]

Like many others, this man finally relented and confessed to crimes he later said in court he did not commit. He told Human Rights Watch:

They only beat me for two days because I could not take this treatment. I started to say things that were not true to stop [it]. I started giving false information. I invented things. I said I was looking for information in Rwanda to give to the FDLR; I said I was investigating military zones. They accepted this. They wrote it all down and I had to sign the document.... Then I was put in a cell alone. It was a small space. I could not even lie down. I was given water to drink every day, but only a small amount of corn a few days a week.... I would go out of the cell once a day to use the toilet. Every day they would ask if I had something to add. I would add little things to my story in order not to be beaten.[78]

After three months in Bigogwe, he was transferred to Mukamira, where he was detained for 10 days. Several other former detainees in Mukamira confirmed his presence there to Human Rights Watch. A civilian court later acquitted him of all charges and he was released.

Mudende

The RDF detained other suspected FDLR collaborators in Mudende military camp, in Rubavu district.

A former detainee who spent several days in Mudende in 2011 after being transferred there from the “Gendarmerie” and before his transfer to Mukamira told Human Rights Watch:

They [the military] told me I was an Interahamwe. I was taken to Mudende in a panda-gali [police pick-up truck]; I was hidden underneath benches in the back of the truck. I was put in a very small cell, with four [other detainees] who were already there. I was accused of transporting arms. I was detained there for two days and beaten before I moved to Mukamira.[79]

Another man, who had been working near the Congolese border and was accused of being a member of the FDLR, was detained in Mudende in September 2011. He told Human Rights Watch:

We were beaten a lot ... they used wooden clubs to beat us every day. Sometimes we spent two or three days without food. When we were fed, it was corn and hot water. When they beat us, they asked us questions. They said, “What were you doing in Congo if not planning attacks [against Rwanda]?” I was beaten so badly I did not know what I was saying. I was beaten every day there. Sometimes they saw that I was really suffering and they stopped asking questions. They just said, “Accept that you are an infi"ltr"ator.”[80]

He confessed to crimes he later said in court he did not commit. He told Human Rights Watch this was to stop the torture:

The RDF forced us to admit that we went to Congo to wage war [against Rwanda]. When we were beaten, we would say anything. At Mudende, they wrote things down and made me sign a paper.[81]

After about one month in Mudende, the authorities transferred him to Mukamira, where he was tortured again.

Tumba

Several people accused of collaborating with the FDLR told Human Rights Watch that the military detained them at the Tumba military base, near Huye, in southern Rwanda.

One former detainee said military arrested him in Huye in June 2010:

We arrived at Tumba, the military camp in Butare [Huye]. As we were arriving [they said to me], “If you tell the truth, you will be saved.” I agreed [to tell the truth]. They took me to an office and said, “Tell us what you have done.” I said, “I don’t know anything; I can’t think of what to say.” They made a call to someone in Kigali and they said [on the phone], “He refuses to tell us anything; he needs to be transferred to Kigali.” They then said to me, “Because you refuse to talk here, you will talk in Kigali.”[82]

Military officials then transferred him to MINADEF and later to Kami. In MINADEF, military officials beat him during his interrogation.

In another case, from February 2011, the RDF arrested a man in Huye and took him to Tumba, from where he was transferred to a house in Kigali and held for two months. He was eventually transferred to an official prison and acquitted in court on charges of participating in grenade attacks.[83]

Another former detainee told Human Rights Watch that military officials arrested him in August 2010 and tortured him at Tumba:

They covered my eyes with a cloth. They handcuffed my hands behind my back. In the car [parked in Tumba military camp] they asked me if I knew [someone with links to the FDLR]. I said no. They asked several times. They asked if I was FDLR and asked me to give the names of people who threw grenades. My eyes were covered the entire time.... They tied a nylon cord in my mouth and pulled it. They said, “Finally you will accept that you know everything.” They wrapped the cord three times around my head and a man behind me pulled it.... [I did not confess so] I was then taken to a small house in the camp.... In the house, I was beaten. Just before they beat me they said, “Now, you will admit.” I was beaten all night.[84]

The next day, the military transferred him to Kami.

Houses Used as Detention Centers

Several former detainees described to Human Rights Watch ordinary, anonymous houses where the RDF detained, interrogated, and tortured them, after or before transferring them to other military centers. Four former detainees confirmed the existence of such houses in Rubavu, and seven said they were detained in a house in Kigali.[85]

A man, who was previously detained in Kami, told Human Rights Watch:

In November [2010] I left Kami. I was blindfolded. They took me to a house in Kigali and they beat me again, with sticks. I was in a big room. I spent one night there. [Previously] they had asked me to write a letter to confess and apologize, but I had refused. I was afraid to write these things down. Until then, I had only agreed verbally. That night I agreed to write them a letter. I wrote that I knew about the grenade case ... and [made up] details of others involved with me. I wrote that I would implicate the men [whose names I wrote down]. This was the night I was beaten so badly. They threw me on the ground and broke my teeth. While they were beating me, they were saying, “Confess to save your life.” After I confessed, they left me alone. They next day they sent me back to Kami.[86]

Another, who had come from the “Gendarmerie” and was later sent to Kami, told Human Rights Watch:

When they transferred me to Kigali, they put me in a safe house in Kicukiro. It was a well-furnished house. I was there with other detainees. One man was beaten so badly that he was almost dead. They left him on a mattress. There was also a room from which a lot blood came out. I don’t know what was in that room. They did not allow us to see it. I spent a terrible night there. Three men beat me very hard. They beat me on my head repeatedly.[87]

Human Rights Watch documented the cases of three women who were held in houses in Kigali. Two said they believed the houses were in Nyarutarama, an upscale suburb of Kigali. One described how she was taken from her home in 2015 by men she suspected were military intelligence officials:

I was put into a green military pickup truck. I was forced to the floor in the back and they slapped me and told me to stay down. They put a shirt over my eyes, but I saw a soldier in the pickup truck with a gun. I was taken into a house and into a room. They handcuffed my arms behind a chair. They questioned me for four days. Every time I gave an answer, they slapped me. They wanted to know who I was working for. I said, “I don’t know what you want me to say. I don’t work for anyone.” But it was not good enough. They would say, “No, who do you work for? Tell us.” On the fourth day one of the men was losing his patience and he said, “If you don’t tell us the truth, we will silence you because we are tired of stupid people who don’t understand how hard we have worked [for this country].”[88]

She was fed once a day and was handcuffed throughout her detention. She was released after five days and was told she would be killed if she spoke about her detention.

Another woman told Human Rights Watch she was detained in a house in Rubavu for two days in 2014, then transferred to a house in Kigali for five days. She was interrogated about her alleged connections to the FDLR, which she denied. She was handcuffed throughout her detention. When she was released she was told, “We have your phone. We will check to see if you are lying. If we find out you are lying, what do you think will happen?” The military also told her that if she talked about where she had been, she would have problems.[89]

Detention Conditions

Former detainees described very harsh living conditions in military detention centers. Most were held incommunicado, alone in a cell, and were not allowed to go outside or speak to other detainees. Food and water were often very scarce, and quantities depended on detainees’ confessions. Apart from beatings and torture, lack of water and food was the most significant complaint by former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch.

One detainee who was held in Mukamira for one month said, “We once asked for water. We had peed in a bucket [in the cell] and the guard said, ‘Drink the urine.’”[90]

A man arrested in June 2010, described the conditions in Kami:

In Kami, there are houses that were originally built as houses for officers. They have different rooms [and] we were put in separate rooms. I was alone in a room for eight days. It was about two meters by two meters. There were windows, but they were blocked with metal sheeting so it was always dark. I had to sleep on the concrete. I was handcuffed, with my hands behind my back at night and in front in the daytime. In the mornings, I was taken out to the toilet for about two minutes. At about 3 p.m., I was given corn mixed with beans and half a liter of water to drink. I was not given water to wash. At about 5 p.m., I was taken to the toilet again.... I was allowed to wash once a month. There were no visits, no radio, no information. Nothing. I didn’t know what was happening. I was waiting to die.[91]

The authorities in charge of the detention centers denied several detainees medical treatment for injuries sustained as a result of torture or bad detention conditions. When the detainee quoted above asked for medical treatment, the guards told him, “You are accused of endangering state security. You don’t have the right to be treated in hospital.”[92]

Several detainees explained to Human Rights Watch how guards in Kami gave them “special treatment,” in Kami, or “specialization,”[93] a term used to refer to particularly harsh conditions. One of them said:

I was in a special cell.... My legs were chained together with four locks. I was naked and I was sitting on the floor. It was very painful. My hands were handcuffed behind my back. I spent six weeks in this situation. Twice a day the chains were taken off so I could use the toilet. To eat, they just threw some corn and beans at me. I would go three or four days without making a bowel movement. I drank half a liter of water every other day.[94]

The military also used extreme and continuous light, darkness, and isolation to inflict further suffering on detainees. One former detainee, arrested in August 2010, described to Human Rights Watch how this was done in Kami:

In the cell there was an electric lamp. It was always on, it hurt my eyes. If I tried to unscrew it, I was beaten. I was always alone. I spent four or five months alone. I had no mattress there. I only started to see other prisoners after six months.[95]

A former detainee told Human Rights Watch he was detained in a hole in the “Gendarmerie”:

At the “Gendarmerie,” every man had his own hole in the camp to sleep in.... The hole I stayed in was in the bush, with trees around. I could sit but there wasn’t enough space for me to lie down.... They gave us food at night: potatoes, beans, and maize, but we did not eat every night. We were not given much water. I did not wash in the two months I spent there.[96]

Because of the torture, limited access to food, water and health care, and other inhuman detention conditions, most former detainees left military detention severely emaciated. A man who was detained in Kami for four months and was only given one cup of corn a day, said his family did not recognize him at first when he was released: “They thought I was a ghost.”[97]

III.Arrests and Enforced Disappearances

Profile of Former Detainees

Most of the former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch were civilians, but some said they had been FDLR combatants. The majority were arrested in Rwanda, but nine said they were arrested in Congo and six others in Burundi. Many former detainees who spoke to Human Rights Watch said they did not know why they had been arrested. Others tried to guess why they had been arrested, based on the questions asked during interrogations or, for those whose cases went to court, the charges against them.

In trials observed by Human Rights Watch, several defendants confessed that they were FDLR combatants or collaborators. Human Rights Watch also spoke to several former FDLR combatants, who had been demobilized in the years before their arrest and reintegrated into civilian life in Rwanda. Others had contacted authorities in Congo to enter the DDRRR process. However, the majority of people interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they were not associated with the FDLR and did not sympathize with the group.

Several former detainees told Human Rights Watch that some of their family members, friends, or business relations were accused of being FDLR or RNC members. Others had regularly traveled to Congo, to visit family or study in Goma, making them suspicious in the eyes of the Rwandan intelligence services.

One former detainee was demobilized from the RDF, while another was a former member of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), a Rwandan-backed Congolese rebel group responsible for serious human rights abuses in Congo.[98]

Arrests in Rwanda

Rwandan military and intelligence agents, some in civilian clothing, arrested most of the detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch between 2010 and 2016 in Rwanda. They were sometimes assisted by local government officials or police. Officials usually arrested suspects near their homes or workplaces, and drove them away in civilian vehicles to a nearby military center.

Some were arrested under false pretenses. A former detainee from Mukamira told Human Rights Watch that he was arrested in May 2016 after a local government official asked him to come to his office to update his details in an administrative register.[99]

Some were lured to the place of arrest with a promise of employment. One former detainee told Human Rights Watch how he was arrested in August 2010:

I was at home [and] I got a call. It was a man who said he was close by and had a job for me.... He asked me to go outside and meet him. I went out and I saw a man I didn’t know in civilian clothes. He was the man who had called me. There were others in a car, all in civilian clothes.... I later learned [at Kami] that the man in civilian clothes was Major Prosper.[100] I got in the car and we drove off. The other men were in the back. I was sitting between two of them. When we arrived near the main road, Prosper asked if I knew [two people who were later his co-accused]. I said I knew them.... Prosper said, “We know they were throwing grenades and you are a part of that.” I said, “I didn’t throw grenades and I don’t have any information about that. If they have information about that, it has nothing to do with me.” … Prosper brought out his military ID card and said, “I am military, from the DMI [Department of Military Intelligence]. We don’t have a job for you. You are under arrest.”[101]

A motorcycle taxi driver arrested in April 2014 told Human Rights Watch a client approached him:

I drove up to him and asked him where he wanted to go. He said, “Near the police at the ‘Gendarmerie.’” When we arrived at the “Gendarmerie,” I asked if I should enter. He said yes. I entered and stopped. Then he jumped off the moto, handcuffed me, and took me to the military base. He said to some soldiers there, “If he runs, shoot him.”[102]

A woman who was detained in a house in Kigali explained to Human Rights Watch how she was abducted in March 2014:

I was arriving at work. A man in civilian clothes saw me and called out my name. He said, “We have some questions to ask you.” He walked me to a car and asked me to get in. In the car, there was another man in civilian clothes, the driver, a soldier in uniform, and a woman. All of a sudden, the car started and we drove off. I said, “Where are you taking me?” The man said, “We are going to question you at the brigade [police station]. Don’t be scared, you are with a soldier. We are all Rwandans.” They took my phone and handcuffed me. The man said, “You won’t be able to see where we are going,” and they covered my eyes with a T-shirt that was in my bag. I knew we were going to Gisenyi [Rubavu], because we were heading in that direction.[103]

The men then used her to arrest one of her colleagues. They forced her to go to her colleague’s place of work, call her from the vehicle, and tell her, “I have a message for you. Come to the end of the road so that I can give it to you.” Military officials abducted her colleague as she approached the vehicle.[104]

Some arrests were done in groups. One former detainee was among a group of men arrested by military in Kigali in April 2013 and taken to Kami after a grenade went off nearby. Another told Human Rights Watch, “During my time at Kami, grenades were being thrown everywhere. They were bringing men into Kami regularly in groups of up to 30 at a time.”[105]

Most of the arrests documented in this report amount to enforced disappearances, at least until the detainees were released or transferred to an official prison or detention center, where their detention was acknowledged and they could receive visits. State agents deprived individuals of their liberty, but did not divulge information as to their whereabouts. Family members often inquired in vain about the fate of their disappeared relatives with local officials, police, or even at the military camps, as it is well-known that people are regularly detained there. Some also sent letters to the authorities. However, others were too scared to look for their relatives.

In most cases, the authorities refused to acknowledge the detention of the disappeared person. Some people were harassed by the authorities or other individuals, because they inquired about their disappeared family member, or simply because they had family ties to someone accused of security-related offences.

Arrests in Burundi

Human Rights Watch interviewed six Rwandan nationals who were arrested in Burundi and illegally transferred to Rwanda in 2010. [106] The arrests were carried out by Burundian police and intelligence officials, almost always accompanied by Rwandan men in civilian clothing, whom some former detainees identified as military intelligence agents. In Rwanda, these men were detained in unofficial military detention centers and later tried for their alleged involvement in grenade attacks.

In Burundi, the suspects were taken first to the office of the Service National de Renseignement (SNR), the Burundian intelligence services, also known as la Documentation.[107] They were detained at the SNR office for a period of between a few hours and four days. One man said he was beaten there, by Burundian police and men in civilian clothes who he later found out were Rwandan military intelligence agents.[108] From there, they transferred them to Rwanda, where they were detained first at MINADEF, then in Kami, before being taken to court.

A former detainee described to Human Rights Watch how a car pulled up outside his place of work in the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, in September 2010:

In the car there were two Burundian police officers, a driver, and a Rwandan in civilian clothes. The two Burundian police put me in handcuffs and took me to la Documentation.... The Rwandan spoke with a general there [and] said, “These men we are taking are disturbing the security in Rwanda.” The general said, “Take them, there is no problem.”[109]

Rwandan security officials took him across the border and detained him in Kami, where they beat him and forced him to confess to working with the RNC.[110]

A former detainee, also arrested in Bujumbura in September 2010, explained:

Two Burundian police got out [of a car] with Kalashnikovs. Three Rwandans also got out. They were in civilian clothes and were speaking Kinyarwanda.... One of the Rwandans put a pistol to my head and said, “Don’t move.” He forced me into the jeep with a Burundian policeman on each side of me. The Rwandan was behind me with a pistol. The driver and another man in the front were Rwandan.... I was taken to the SNR office for one night, then taken to the border with [another detainee]. In Rwanda, the military were waiting for us in an RDF truck. They put us in and asked us our names. Then we drove to Kigali.[111]

The former detainee was taken to MINADEF and Kami and beaten in both places.

Arrests in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Human Rights Watch interviewed 10 former detainees who said that they had been arrested in Congo and illegally transferred to Rwanda. Rwandan officials then detained them in military custody and tortured them.

Most of these arrests took place in North Kivu province, in eastern Congo, near the Rwandan border. They were carried out by the Congolese security services, sometimes assisted by Kinyarwanda-speaking individuals, whom several people described as Rwandan or Congolese military intelligence agents.[112]

Some individuals arrested in Congo were first taken to the military intelligence prison in Goma, known as the “T2.” A detainee at the “T2” told Human Rights Watch he saw many Rwandans detained there and that Congolese soldiers were paid to transfer alleged former FDLR fighters to Rwanda:

Two [Rwandans] were arrested because they were caught in a field wearing gum boots like those the FDLR wear. Others were caught with Rwandan ID cards. They were just small traders; they were not FDLR. The FARDC were arresting people because the Rwandans were paying them US$100 per person [to do this].[113]

Former detainees told Human Rights Watch they were beaten and tortured by Congolese military or intelligence officials at the “T2.” One former detainee told Human Rights Watch:

I was arrested in Goma ... and [taken to] the “T2.” I was interrogated there. They beat me and asked me if I was an FDLR soldier. I said, “No, [I have a job in Goma]” and I identified the place [where I worked]. I was beaten by someone speaking Kinyarwanda; he wanted me to admit I was FDLR. He beat me all over with a stick. I was injured on my left arm and on my nose.... One day they tied me up and took me across the border at 1 a.m.... Other Rwandans were taken across the border with me. We were maybe 17 in total. Eight of those men were killed at the “Gendarmerie” and at Mukamira.[114]

Some people arrested by the Congolese military and transferred to Rwanda claimed they were Congolese nationals. One of them told Human Rights Watch how he was arrested by Congolese military in March 2011:

I was going to Bunagana [a Congolese town near the Ugandan border] to look for a job. I came across [the FARDC] in Rutshuru. They asked me for my ID card. I showed it to them and they tore it up. They took me and tied my arms with a rope. They said I was FDLR.... They took me to the [military base] on the hill … and started beating me right away, to get me to admit I was FDLR. They beat me all over with a wooden stick and kicked me. I spent three days detained in Bunagana, in a hole in the ground with branches on top.... I was not questioned there, just told to confess.... Three days later, I was taken to the “T2” in Goma, and then to Rwanda the following night.[115]

Many of those arrested in Congo and transferred to Rwanda were later tried in Rwanda. In trials observed by Human Rights Watch (see Section IV), 29 defendants told judges that they had been arrested in Congo, and several said they had been detained at the “T2” or other military camps in Congo.[116] In one trial, the court confirmed that the accused were arrested in Congo by Congolese military and transferred to Rwanda. No details about the transfer procedures were provided in these trials.[117]

A beer trader, who had always lived in Congo with his Congolese mother, told the judges: “One day, after the FDLR forced me to carry drinks for them,[118] I was arrested by the FARDC. They were accompanied by the Rwanda Defence Force. They transferred me to Goma and to the “T2” prison, where to my surprise, they accused me of collaborating with the FDLR in trying to overthrow the government in Rwanda.” The next day, he told the court, he was transferred to Rwanda and detained for three months in Mukamira.[119]

Box 4 – Norbert Manirafasha: Abducted in Congo, Tortured in Rwanda[120]

Norbert Manirafasha, a political opposition activist in his thirties and a registered Rwandan refugee, was arrested by Rwandan intelligence agents in April 2014 in Goma, eastern Congo, and transferred to Rwanda the same day:

I was on the bus near the Virunga market [in Goma]. Suddenly a small jeep came and stopped the bus. It was a [Toyota] Rav-4 with Congolese plates. Men from the jeep got into the bus, looked at me and told me to get off. They were speaking Swahili.... They pushed me off the bus and into the car. I screamed, “I am being arrested!” When I entered the car, they covered my eyes and they started speaking Kinyarwanda. They said, “We have been looking for you.”

The men turned out to be Rwandan intelligence agents. They handcuffed and blindfolded him and took him to a house in Goma. After five hours, they told him he would be sent back to Rwanda.

I said, “It is my right not to go. I have been living here [in Congo] for many years.” Then [my guard] hit me twice in the side and said, “You know, if we kill you now, who will know about it? Your only chance now is to go to Rwanda. You can’t fight us. We decide your fate.” They blindfolded me again and told me to get up. They put me in a small car. There were men on either side of me in the car. I thought I was going to be killed. I didn’t know where we were going.

The intelligence agents took him to a house in Rubavu, Rwanda, where they interrogated him about his links with the opposition and asked him why he was living in Congo. They kicked him and threatened to kill him.

Then they drove him to Kami:

They put me in a room with a toilet. There was no bed. They locked a chain around my legs and locked my hands to the chain. They said, “Stay here. Someone will come for you.” A woman in civilian clothes came the same day. She asked some questions about who I was and said, “You need to pray because you may be killed.”

Over the next two days, men in military uniform repeatedly tortured Manirafasha, questioning him about his alleged links with opposition groups and the FDLR.

 [An army captain] kicked me and told one of the guards to bring a bag. They brought a black plastic bag. They handcuffed my arms behind my back, put the bag over my head and started to choke me. [The captain] said, “You see? You are very close to death.” He threw me on the ground. I couldn’t breathe. They put their feet on my back. I was sweating and gasping. Then they took the bag off. [The captain] said, “You are going to tell us how the FDLR works.”

The next day, the military repeated the same torture method and put a bag over his head again:

This time, when I could not breathe, I began urinating. So, they took the bag off. I was coughing and I said, “Ok, just kill me.” One of them said, “No, the hour of death is not here yet, but you will die in the end.”

A few days later, guards presented him with a statement that he said contained false information about his links with opposition groups and the FDLR. They forced him to read the statement on camera. He told Human Rights Watch, “They took off the handcuffs, but my legs were still chained. They put the camera on, but it was difficult for me to repeat everything [in the statement]. They slapped me and said, ‘If you do not do it correctly, we will kill you.’” They put a rifle on the chair next to him and forced him to sign a piece of paper. When he asked to read it, they slapped him again, so he ended up signing it.

Two weeks later, after renewed death threats, he signed another document, this time apparently prepared by the police. The following day, the military transferred him to a regular police detention center and presented him with official charges of threatening state security and working with criminals. They gave him the police document he had signed the previous day. It said he had been arrested in Rwanda, almost a month after his actual arrest date in Congo.

 At Musanze High Court, where he was tried in 2015, Manirafasha told judges he had been abducted in Goma, tortured, and forced to confess. The judges did not dismiss his earlier confession, even though he stated it was extracted under torture; nor did they order an investigation into his allegations.[121] On July 27, 2015, the court convicted Manirafasha and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. He is currently serving his sentence.

At the time of his abduction in Congo, Manirafasha was a refugee registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).[122] This status should normally provide refugees protection under international law.

Arrests and Transfers during Demobilization and Repatriation from Congo

Human Rights Watch documented the cases of seven individuals who were transferred from Congo to illegal military detention in Rwanda in 2010 and 2011 at various stages of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement of foreign armed groups (DDRRR) process. The process of DDRRR is supported in Congo by the UN mission in Congo, MONUSCO, and in Rwanda by the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RDRC).[123]

Human Rights Watch interviewed five of these seven individuals and received credible information about the two other cases from trial observation and interviews with other detainees. Human Rights Watch also interviewed family members, lawyers, and UN staff about these cases and observed several trials in Rwanda in which similar statements were made about transfers from Congo to illegal military detention in Rwanda during the DDRRR process.

In one case MONUSCO agents were allegedly directly involved in the illegal transfer of a Congolese citizen from Congo to military detention in Rwanda (see Box 5).

Three former FDLR combatants stated during their trial in Rwanda and in interviews with Human Rights Watch that they had been arrested in Congo and handed over to Rwandan military after they had started the DDRRR program and were already in contact with MONUSCO staff:

Case one: A former detainee told Human Right Watch and the judges during his trial in 2012 and 2013 that he had left the FDLR, contacted MONUSCO, and was registered in the DDRRR program and scheduled for repatriation for Rwanda.[124] But on the designated day of his repatriation to Rwanda, in February 2011, he was instead arrested by the Congolese police. He told Human Rights Watch:

I heard someone knock on the door of the place where I lived. I opened the door and they said they were from the police.... They handcuffed me and my wife and brought us in their vehicle to their office [at the “T2”].... Another man took me out [of the “T2”]. My wife stayed [in Congo]. They put me in a car, handcuffed me, and we crossed the border [to Rwanda].... They took me to Mukamira, and I stayed there for a month and a half.[125]

He said that the Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission (RDRC) looked for him and found him after one month in illegal detention in Rwanda.[126] His arrest in Congo and transfer to Rwanda was confirmed to Human Rights Watch by a UN staff member and another former detainee.[127] He told Human Rights Watch he was seriously beaten in Mukamira military camp.[128]

Case two: A former combatant told Human Rights Watch that Rwandan and Congolese military arrested him in January 2011 in Goma, after he had left the FDLR, spent seven months in a MONUSCO DDRRR camp and had requested asylum in Congo (he did not want to go back to Rwanda). He was then transferred to Rwanda where he was tortured and illegally detained for more than five months, first in the military barracks of the “Gendarmerie,” then in a private house, and later in the Kami military camp.[129] Another former detainee confirmed that he saw him in Kami.[130] After his transfer to a regular police station in Kigali, a MONUSCO staff member visited him in Rwanda after being contacted by the detainee’s wife.[131] He was released soon after. His arrest in Congo, the transfer to Rwanda, and the visit by a MONUSCO staff member were confirmed by a UN official.[132]

Case three: A former FDLR combatant stated during his trial in Rwanda in 2013 that he had been arrested in Congo by the Congolese military who then handed him over to the Rwandan military after he was already in contact with MONUSCO staff to start the DDRRR process. Human Rights Watch spoke to two former co-detainees who confirmed his arrest in Congo and said he was later illegally detained in Kami military camp in Rwanda.[133]

Three former FDLR combatants said they were arrested in Rwanda and ill-treated in military detention shortly after MONUSCO had facilitated their transfer from Congo to Rwanda as part of the DDRRR process:

Case four: A former FDLR combatant said during his trial in 2011 that, in September 2010, Rwandan military intelligence officials arrested him in the Mutobo demobilization center in Rwanda, took him to the premises of the Ministry of Defence in Kigali, and told him that, if he did not want to die, he had to sign a statement saying he had returned to Rwanda to launch attacks on behalf of the FDLR.[134] In the appeal proceedings, the Supreme Court confirmed that “the trial file shows that [name of the accused] was arrested in Congo, handed over to MONUSCO and brought to Mutobo camp where he was arrested by military intelligence.”[135]

Case five: A former FDLR combatant told Human Rights Watch, “When I arrived in Rwanda [in 2010], MONUSCO handed me over to the leaders of Rubavu district, but while members of the [Rwandan] demobilization commission were questioning me, I saw Rwandan military intelligence officials arriving. They separated me from the others and took me to a military camp in Gisenyi [Rubavu].” Rwandan military intelligence arrested him and illegally detained him in various military detention facilities, including Kami military camp, for six months. He was regularly beaten.[136] A former co-detainee corroborated his story.[137]

Case six: A former FDLR combatant told Human Rights Watch that, after MONUSCO had transferred him to Rwanda in September 2011, he was taken to Mukamira military camp, where he was detained for two months and regularly beaten.[138] He was held at Mukamira with another former detainee, who confirmed that the former combatant was seriously beaten in Mukamira.[139]

Box 5 – Case seven: Arrested and Illegally Transferred to Rwanda by the UN

In 2011, a Congolese citizen, “Théophile,” was illegally transferred from Congo to military detention in Rwanda and subjected to serious abuses in both Congo and Rwanda. MONUSCO staff are alleged to have been directly involved in his illegal transfer. The former detainee told Human Rights Watch that Congolese military arrested him in April 2011, at the request of a member of MONUSCO’s DDRRR unit.[140] This was confirmed by two members of the DDRRR team.[141] His arrest appeared to be at least partly linked to internal problems within the DDRRR unit.

“Théophile” spent around five months at the “T2” military intelligence prison in Goma, where he was severely tortured. He told Human Rights Watch:

[The FARDC] started beating me.... They put a stapler in my mouth and they tied my mouth shut with a shirt. They turned me over and continued beating me. They were saying, “You will accept you were a soldier!” At one point during the beating, the staples went down my throat [and] one got caught there. Later it hurt so much when I tried to eat. About two months later, the staple came out of my throat.[142]

Members of MONUSCO’s DDRRR unit visited him in detention, but said this was an issue for the Congolese military to handle.[143] Human Rights Watch spoke with two individuals who separately confirmed his detention at the “T2.”[144]

After five months at the “T2,” “Théophile” was taken to the DDRRR camp in Goma, where he was processed as a combatant, even though he denied being one. He was then taken to Rwanda in a MONUSCO vehicle, and a MONUSCO staff member intervened at the border crossing to secure his transfer to Rwanda.[145]

On the Rwandan side of the border, “Théophile” was first taken to the “Gendarmerie,” together with a former FDLR combatant. They were both then transferred to Mukamira military camp, where they stayed for around a month.[146] Both men were then transferred to an official detention center and brought to trial, accused of endangering state security. “Théophile” was acquitted.[147]

Human Rights Watch staff noted in 2013 that liquid came out of a hole in his throat after he drank, as a result of his 2011 ordeal at the “T2.”

On April 14, 2017, MONUSCO responded to written questions submitted by Human Rights Watch. Regarding individuals detained in military custody after they were repatriated through the DDRRR process, MONUSCO said:

Whenever [we] received reports that a person repatriated through DDR/RR was in military custody in Rwanda, a member the DDR/RRR [sic] team would visit the person and organize his/her release. However, since MONUSCO does not have, and never did have, DDDRR [sic] staff in Rwanda it is not always aware of such cases.

Since 2015, possibly before, but this cannot be confirmed, no ex-combatant has ever been arrested subsequent to entering the MONUSCO DDRRR process. If a legitimate candidate for DDR/RR is arrested and MONUSCO is made aware, MONUSCO intervenes if the person has expressly his/her wish [sic] to surrender to MONUSCO.[148]

Regarding the case of “Théophile” (above), the peacekeeping mission wrote, “Unfortunately, MONUSCO cannot effectively trace the 2011 incident without [more information]. MONUSCO therefore cannot comment at this stage on the lawfulness of a transfer and detention.”[149]

IV.Leaving Military Detention

After detaining them unlawfully for several weeks or months, the Rwandan military or intelligence operatives either released detainees or transferred them to the regular justice system to stand trial. However, Human Rights Watch has documented several cases in which people believed to be detained by the Rwandan military or intelligence services never reappeared. Their fate remains unknown; they continue to be victims of enforced disappearances.

Many of the detainees whose cases went to trial told judges about their detention and torture in military centers, despite pressure not to reveal such information. However, in the trials that Human Rights Watch observed, judges did not dismiss confessions or evidence allegedly obtained under torture or order in-depth investigations into allegations of torture. Many detainees were too scared to file a formal complaint against those who had abused or tortured them, even though several of them knew the perpetrators’ identity.

Release

The RDF released some detainees as suddenly and as arbitrarily as they had arrested them, often in groups, without any charges or judicial procedure. Two detainees told Human Rights Watch that after spending more than a month in Kami, they were driven in a convoy back to their home region and simply released.

Another former detainee described to Human Rights Watch how the authorities released him and a group of other detainees from Kami in 2011:

[After seven months of detention] they told me I was forgiven. They said, “We will forgive you as you won’t accept your crime.” They put us in a military bus … and took us to the [bus] station at Nyabugogo. They gave us 5,000 francs (about US$6) each and told us to go home.[150]

A female former detainee told Human Rights Watch that, one day in March 2011, after she had spent eight months in Kami, she was told to wash to prepare to return home. “[The soldiers] said to me, ‘We forgive you … go home and join your children. Do not talk about this place.... If someone asks where you have been, say you were in Kigali.’”[151] The soldiers drove her back to her home province and gave her money for a motorcycle taxi to go home.

Into the Regular Justice System

Most of those who were not released were transferred to the regular civilian or military justice system. They were taken to an official detention center, such as a police station or a recognized prison, and a prosecutor questioned them. Most were then charged and, after a lengthy period of pre-trial detention, brought before a judge (see below). Six of the trials Human Rights Watch observed took place in a civilian court and one in a military court.[152]

Before transferring them to official detention facilities, military, intelligence, or police officials made detainees sign documents stating they had been arrested on the date of their transfer, rather than their actual date of arrest, thereby erasing their military detention from the record. One former detainee told Human Rights Watch, “They brought me a piece of paper [and] told me to sign it. I asked to read it but they slapped me. So, I just signed it.”[153] The paper was his police statement and was dated 25 days after he was arrested and taken to Kami.

Officials at the military detention centers told detainees not to talk about their detention there. A former detainee told Human Rights Watch, “When we were at Kami, we were told not to say where we had been or what had happened. They said this to everyone.”[154] Another former detainee told Human Rights Watch in June 2012, “We were forbidden to talk about Kami. When we were preparing to leave, Karemera[155] and Murenzi[156] said that if we spoke about Kami, we would be sent back there.”[157]

After detainees were transferred to official detention centers or prisons, prosecuting authorities warned several detainees again not to speak about what happened to them.

In their statements, some detainees mentioned their illegal detention and forced confessions, but hesitated to tell the prosecutor about the torture they had endured. One detainee who was held in Kami told Human Rights Watch:

We were taken to Nyamirambo [in Kigali]. I was alone in front of the prosecuting authorities. I think it was the assistant prosecutor. He had a copy of what I had signed and he started to ask me questions. He said, “You admitted to this, so admit to everything. How did you plan this [crime]?” I said, “I did not do that. I signed because I was in a bad situation.” He said, “Why didn’t you just refuse to confess?” I said, “There were military everywhere and I was scared, but before a public prosecuting official, I have to tell the truth.” I was still scared to say I was beaten. I said that I had spent nine months at Kami and he wrote that down.[158]

A former detainee who was arrested in September 2011 and was badly beaten in Mukamira told Human Rights Watch:

When we were leaving to be transferred to Nyabihu district police office, [the soldiers at Mukamira] said, “If you don’t confess, we will bring you back here [to Mukamira].” They said to me, “Don’t say you were detained at Mukamira. Say you were at Nyabihu.” I agreed. I was taken to Nyabihu with four other detainees.... At Nyabihu, we were taken to the sector [local government] office and questioned by a judicial official. He asked me why I was arrested. I told the story about coming from Congo and I said I had been in Mukamira for a month. He said, “How were you detained in a military camp?” I said, “I was driven there, I was beaten there, I was told to accept things and I accepted.” He said, “No, you are all FDLR in this group.” I denied it. He said, “Don’t lie.” He wrote down what he wanted and said, “Ok, you will spend 30 days in jail.” I just replied to his questions. I didn’t read the document.[159]

Visits

Most family members only saw their disappeared relatives when the authorities released them, transferred them to a regular prison, or put them on trial—or, in some cases, only after their conviction. A man arrested in Burundi in September 2010 told Human Rights Watch that he only saw his family when the authorities transferred him to an official prison in March 2012, after his conviction. “My sister said they thought I was dead. She said they had looked everywhere. My father died of a heart attack when he learned I had been arrested.”[160]

The lack of knowledge about the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones caused serious psychological harm for many family members of the disappeared. Some families organized mourning periods for relatives they assumed to be dead, only to discover many months later that they were alive.

Several former detainees from Kami and Mukamira told Human Rights Watch that staff from the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) visited them in detention. A former detainee in Kami told Human Rights Watch that it was thanks to the ICRC, who visited him, that he survived his eight months in detention.[161] Some detainees were punished for talking to ICRC staff. A detainee who was in Kami in April 2014 told Human Rights Watch:

After the ICRC staff left, soldiers came to ask us what we had told them. I said, “Nothing.” The soldiers said, “You are a traitor. You talked for a long time with the ICRC and, what’s more, in a language we don’t understand.” After the ICRC left, they tortured me.[162]

Two former detainees told Human Rights Watch that following their transfer to a regular prison in 2014, ICRC staff members visited them there. A prosecutor then came to see them, accompanied by men who said they were from the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) and from a nongovernmental organization. One of the detainees told Human Rights Watch:

There were four men, but we thought they were all soldiers. They looked like soldiers. [The prosecutor] said, “It is not good that you spoke with those white people. You don’t need to speak to white people. It will make your problems worse.”[163]

The other former detainee said that the people introduced to them as NCHR staff asked him questions about his arrests and detention conditions, and then said: “You don’t have any more problems anymore, right?” The prosecutor told him, “The white people come to tell lies. They are lying to you. They are fooling you.”[164]

A former detainee told Human Rights Watch that during his detention in Mukamira in May 2016, he was questioned by someone whom an army captain introduced as being from ‘human rights,’ probably referring to the NCHR:

He was there to question us. There were also two soldiers in the room when I was interviewed.... [The army captain] said, “You have the good fortune to be given the chance to confess. Tell the truth.” The man from ‘human rights’ said, “Yes, I am from human rights, you must tell the truth.”[165]

Human Rights Watch saw six letters written to the NCHR by people close to individuals who disappeared in 2014, alerting the NCHR about the disappearances and providing additional information. Human Rights Watch documented the illegal detention in Kami military camp of three of the cases described in these letters. Two of them were detained in Mukamira military camp before their transfer to Kami. Two were seriously beaten in illegal detention, to extract confessions.

The NCHR has the responsibility to visit all places of detention “with the purpose of inspecting whether the rights of detainees are respected and urge relevant authorities to address identified cases of violation of the rights of detainees.”[166] In its annual reports between 2010 and 2016, however, the commission has never reported on military detention.[167]

In an April 2016 meeting with the NCHR, representatives told Human Rights Watch, “There is no torture in Rwanda.” One representative told Human Rights Watch that he had been to Kami multiple times, but that there were no detainees there.[168] In January and August 2017, Human Rights Watch wrote to the NCHR to request its response to the findings in this report and several questions, but received no response.

Trials

Human Rights Watch observed seven trials related to security offenses in Rwanda,[169] including the following:

  • Trial of Jean Berchmans Mukeshimana and 29 co-accused, Kigali, January 2012

    Thirty people were tried by the Kigali High Court in relation to their alleged participation in a series of grenade attacks in Rwanda since 2008. Several defendants confessed to participating in the attacks and being members of the FDLR; others denied the charges. Twenty-five defendants made statements in court about their illegal detention in military custody; six said they had been detained in Kami, two in MINADEF. Six accused said they had been tortured with a view to extracting confessions. Only four defendants were assisted by a lawyer. On January 13, 2012, the court handed 22 defendants sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment, for participation in terrorist activities, offenses against internal state security, murder, attempted murder, and forming a criminal gang. The court acquitted and subsequently released eight defendants.[170] On March 4, 2016, in appeal, the Supreme Court confirmed the sentences handed down during the first instance judgment.[171]

  • Trial of Jean-Baptiste Kanyamuhanda and 12 co-accused, Musanze, December 2012

    Thirteen people were tried by the High Court in Musanze on charges of endangering state security, in collaboration with the FDLR. Several confessed being FDLR combatants; others denied the charges. Eight defendants said they were detained in Mukamira, one after transiting through the “Gendarmerie.” Four said they had been tortured. Only four defendants were assisted by a lawyer during the trial. On December 6, 2012, the court convicted nine defendants to life imprisonment for endangering state security. Two others were sentenced to eight and ten years in prison, and one was acquitted. Their appeal at the Supreme Court has been set for October 16, 2017.[172]

  • Trial of Janvier Ndayambaje and 15 co-accused, Musanze, January 2013

    Sixteen people were tried by a specialized chamber of Musanze High Court on charges of creating an armed group, as FDLR combatants, spies, or recruiters. One said he had been detained in Mukamira, and two others said they had been tortured. None of the defendants were assisted by a lawyer. On January 8, 2013, the court sentenced seven defendants to seven years in prison and one defendant to twenty years, for conspiring against the government by organizing the recruitment of FDLR fighters. One defendant who confessed to collaborating with the FDLR saw his sentence reduced to three years. The court acquitted seven others because of lack of evidence.[173] In appeal, the sentences of those who interjected appeal were reduced, from seven to six years and from twenty to ten years.

  • Trial of Jérôme Nsanzimana and 17 co-accused, Musanze, March 2013

    Eighteen people were tried by the Musanze High Court on charges of membership of an unrecognized armed force (the FDLR). The prosecution accused them of planning attacks in Rwanda and spying. Four defendants confessed in court that they were former members of the FDLR. Eleven defendants mentioned their illegal detention, of which ten told the judges that they had been detained in Mukamira. Three said they had transited through the “Gendarmerie.” Four said they had been tortured. Only one defendant was assisted by a lawyer. On March 21, 2013, the court sentenced seven defendants to three and a half to eight years in prison, and acquitted eight others, who were subsequently released. The case of three others was dissociated from the trial and treated separately.[174] In appeal, the sentences of four convicted who interjected appeal was upheld and one was freed.

  • Trial of Aboubacar Nsabiyeze and seven co-accused, Musanze, May 2014
    Eight people were tried by the Musanze High Court on charges of endangering state security by collaborating with the FDLR, including by spying or otherwise providing support to the FDLR. Several accused retracted earlier confessions in court. Some confessed that they had been with the FDLR in the past, but denied the accusations against them. On May 22, the Court convicted one defendant to fifteen years in prison, six others to ten years, and acquitted the last one. [175]
  • Trial of Xaverina Mukashyaka and 12 co-accused, Musanze, July 2015

    Thirteen people were tried by Musanze High Court on charges of complicity in offenses against the government and in terrorist acts. The prosecution accused them of inciting the population to collaborate with the FDLR. Five defendants stated they had been detained in Kami. Five told the judges they had been tortured, to extract confessions and to incriminate others. Five defendants were assisted by a lawyer. On July 29, 2015, the court sentenced six defendants to twenty years in prison and acquitted seven others, who were subsequently released. At the time of writing, the appeal at the Supreme Court is still pending.[176]

  •  
  • Trial of Joel Mutabazi and 15 co-accused, Kigali, October 2015

    Sixteen people were tried by the Military High Court in Kigali on several security-related charges. Joel Mutabazi, a former presidential bodyguard, was accused of planning to kill President Paul Kagame and of coordinating grenade attacks in 2013 (see Box 6). Eight defendants, including Mutabazi, stated in court that they had been tortured. One said he had been detained in Kami. Most were assisted by a lawyer. In October 2014, the court sentenced Joel Mutabazi and one co-accused to life imprisonment. Twelve other defendants received sentences ranging from four months to twenty-five years, and two were acquitted. Eleven defendants, including Mutabazi, have appealed to the Supreme Court. At the time of writing, no date has been announced for the appeal.[177]

Box 6 –

Joel Mutabazi: Tortured in Kami, Abducted from Uganda, Sentenced to Life Imprisonment

Joel Mutabazi, a former bodyguard of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was arrested in April 2010 and detained in Kami. Four former detainees informed Human Rights Watch that they saw him while he was detained there. He was reportedly arrested because of his suspected links with the RNC and because he had a picture in his phone of Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former senior military official currently in exile and leader in the RNC. Former detainees said he was regularly beaten in Kami, permanently handcuffed, and had padlocks on his ankles. Mutabazi was quoted in a news article saying that he had been half-suffocated and was given electric shocks.[178] He was released from Kami in October 2011.

Mutabazi’s wife and brother stated, in an unrelated extradition hearing in the United Kingdom, that they had seen evidence of torture on Mutabazi’s body after his release from Kami, which the court found “compelling.”[179] Mutabazi later stated in his own trial that he had been tortured and forced to sign statements in Kami.[180]

Mutabazi fled Rwanda and sought asylum in Uganda in October 2011. He was granted refugee status. After an assassination attempt in July 2012 by unknown perpetrators, he was moved to a safe house for his protection. In August 2013, a bungled-up abduction attempt failed. But in October 2013, he was abducted and forcibly returned by Ugandan police to Rwanda.[181] His whereabouts were unknown for six days, until the Rwandan police announced that he was in their custody. Several of his co-accused were arrested around the same time.

In October 2014, the military high court in Kigali found Mutabazi guilty of terrorism, forming an armed group, and other offenses linked to alleged collaboration with the RNC and the FDLR, as well as accusations that he had planned to kill President Paul Kagame and had coordinated grenade attacks in Kigali in 2013. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Several of Mutabazi’s family members were also arrested and stood trial with him. His younger brother, Jackson Karemera, who also lived in Uganda, was sentenced to four months in prison in the same trial, released, and then rearrested. The fate and whereabouts of Karemera remain unknown. Mutabazi’s brother-in-law, John Ndabarasa, a journalist, disappeared in Kigali on August 7, 2016. He resurfaced in Kigali on March 6, 2017, nearly seven months after his disappearance. He told media that he had fled the country, but decided voluntarily to come back.This story raised suspicions among many observers. Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases in Rwanda, some outlined in this report, where former detainees were forced to make false claims following months of illegal, secret detention, and torture.[182]

Allegations of Torture and Illegal Detention in Court, and Unfair Trials

In numerous trials observed by Human Rights Watch, judges put pressure on defendants to prevent them from testifying about their time in military detention. Despite this, in trials observed by Human Rights Watch, at least 51 defendants[183] stated in court that they had been detained illegally, often mentioning Kami, Mukamira, the “Gendarmerie,” MINADEF, or other locations. Twenty-nine defendants stated in court during trials observed by Human Rights Watch that they were tortured, and some described the torture methods in detail (for more information, see the table in Appendix I).

One defendant told the court:

I was kidnapped on April 25, 2014, and I was taken to a military camp where I was illegally detained for 40 days. The torture they inflicted on me is beyond comprehension. They tied a string to my genitals weighed down with a stone and forced me to stand up and walk while pulling that string. Let me undress to show you how I suffered from that torture.[184]

The judge responded:

No, you don’t need to undress because it won’t prove what you are saying. Instead, prove to me that you were kidnapped and made to disappear. Do not come back to [the issue of] torture. You don’t have any evidence to prove it.[185]

In the appeal proceedings in another trial, the Supreme Court took a similar position:

The court thinks that even if [name of the accused withheld] says that he was beaten by intelligence agents and that he was ill-treated, what brought him to confess that he is a member of the FDLR and contributed 20,000 Rwandan Francs [about $24] [to the FDLR]? This doesn’t clear his charges, as he has not been able to prove [the allegations of mistreatment].[186]

These responses illustrate the attitude of many Rwandan judges to defendants’ torture allegations. In all the trials observed by Human Rights Watch, judges failed to order a thorough and independent investigation into torture allegations, as required by their obligations under international human rights law. On the contrary: judges placed the onus on defendants to prove they had been tortured, which, in most cases, was very difficult, as significant time had elapsed since the torture, and most torture victims had not had access to medical examinations. In cases where the defendants wanted to show the judges evidence of torture, such as scars, photographs, or medical documents, the judges often refused to consider such evidence. In some cases, judges told defendants who said they had been tortured that they were lying. In the conclusion of the trial of Mutabazi and his co-accused, the president of the court said that the court had sentenced several defendants to long prison terms because they had lied about being tortured.[187]

Citing what they claimed was absence of proof, judges also refused to dismiss evidence or confessions which, according to the defendants, were obtained under torture. Under Rwandan law, an individual can only withdraw a confession when he or she is able to prove that it was a result of physical torture.[188] However, under international law, the obligation is on the state, not the accused, to ensure that any statement “made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”[189]

Several defendants in the trials observed by Human Rights Watch were convicted solely based on their earlier confessions, which they said were extracted under torture and which they retracted during the trial. Others were convicted based on accusations of their co-defendants, some of whom also told the judges that they had been tortured. This raises serious questions about the fairness of such trials.

Only a small number of defendants in trials observed by Human Rights Watch were assisted by a lawyer. Those who were assisted told Human Rights Watch about the limitations of their legal assistance. One former detainee told Human Rights Watch that his lawyer withdrew from the case before the trial started, because he was afraid.[190] Another said his lawyer had advised him not to speak about the torture inflicted on him, as it would complicate his case.[191] Several detainees confirmed that lawyers were afraid to take on such sensitive cases and reluctant to mention their clients’ torture and illegal detention in court. Some lawyers, however, did mention in court that their clients had been tortured or illegally detained.

Box 7 – Military Court Fails to Investigate Torture Allegations

 

The conviction of three former Rwandan military officials in a flawed trial in 2016 is a clear example of the military high court’s disregard of torture allegations. 

Starting in January 2015, three (retired) military officials—retired Brig. Gen. Frank Rusagara (former secretary general of the Defence Ministry and military attaché in the Rwandan High Commission in the United Kingdom), Col. Tom Byabagamba (former head of the presidential guard), and retired Sgt. François Kabayiza—were tried by the Military High Court in Kanombe. Rusagara and Byabagamba were charged with inciting insurrection and tarnishing the government’s image, in relation to private comments critical of government policy.

Kabayiza said in court that military personnel had tortured him in detention. The judges did not order an investigation into his allegations, claiming he had no proof that he was tortured.

On March 31, 2016, the court sentenced Byabagamba and Rusagara to 21 and 20 years in prison respectively, and sentenced Kabayiza to five years for concealing evidence. Byabagamba and Rusagara are being detained in Kanombe military camp. All three announced they would appeal. At the time of writing, the date of the appeal has not been set.[192]

Impunity for Perpetrators

Former detainees, including a former soldier, told Human Rights Watch that several officials who detained and ill-treated them were working for the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). The DMI, officially known as “J2,” is the branch of the RDF responsible for military intelligence and security.[193] Since the late 1990s, military intelligence officials have been involved in numerous cases of human rights violations such as those documented in this report.[194] Former detainees also mentioned the involvement of other military, police, and local government officials, as well as officials of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the civilian intelligence agency.

Many former detainees knew the identity of some of the officials who tortured or ill-treated them. Human Rights Watch received information about dozens of officials involved in such practices, but this report only names those cited by multiple former detainees.

At least five former detainees mentioned the involvement of each of the following officers in illegal detention and torture in MINADEF and Kami in 2010 and 2014:

  • Lt. Emmanuel Karemera: Nine former detainees mentioned his presence in Kami in 2010. Several described him as a commanding officer who oversaw detention in Kami and said he was involved in threatening and torturing detainees.[195]
  • Lt.-Col. Faustin Tinka: Seven former detainees mentioned his involvement in interrogations at MINADEF and Kami in 2010. Several told Human Rights Watch that Tinka worked for military intelligence. One of them knew Tinka personally from before his arrest.[196] In 2012, Tinka was appointed defense attaché at the Rwandan High Commission in Tanzania.[197]
  • Captain Murenzi: Eight former detainees told Human Rights Watch that an official known as “Captain Murenzi” oversaw interrogations, forced confessions and torture in Kami and MINADEF in 2010. Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm his first name. One detainee could read his name on his military uniform. Another mentioned his involvement in arrests in 2014.[198] Murenzi was believed to be responsible for operations at the NISS.
  • Major Prosper, alias “Kaceri”: Six former detainees mentioned to Human Rights Watch his involvement in interrogation and threats against detainees in MINADEF and Kami in 2010. One said that in 2010, he worked at DMI. He showed his ID card to one detainee and told another his name.[199] In one trial, one of the accused mentioned that, “he confessed after being tortured and repeated [the same confession] again [during questioning] at the prosecutor’s office. Major “Gaceri” [“Kaceri”] was present during interrogations by the military prosecution and forced him to repeat the same thing in front of the civilian prosecutor.”[200]
  • Capt. Richard Ndakaza: Six former detainees told Human Rights Watch that he oversaw interrogations, forced confessions, and torture at Kami in 2014.[201]

At least two defendants mentioned the names of Lt. Emmanuel Karemera, Captain Murenzi, and Major Prosper, alias “Kaceri,” in their appeal trial submission at the Supreme Court. One also mentioned Lt.-Col. Faustin Tinka.[202]

Human Rights Watch is not aware of any investigation, by any official Rwandan institution, into allegations of illegal detention, torture or ill-treatment in military centers, or into the alleged role of the above-named officers, or their commanding officers.

The military intelligence department of the RDF (J2) is headed by Colonel Jeannot Kibenzi Ruhunga, who replaced Maj. Gen. Richard Rutatina when the latter was dismissed in February 2016. Rutatina served as head of military intelligence for two periods between 2011 and 2016. In 2011 he replaced Dan Munyuza, who became head of external intelligence at NISS, before both were suspended in January 2012 on grounds of indiscipline.[203] Rutatina was replaced by Lt.-Col. Franco Rutagengwa,[204] but took back over in October 2015.[205] Dan Munyuza is currently the deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations.

Between 2010 and 2016, the NISS was headed by Colonel Dr. Emmanuel Ndahiro (until July 2011), Lt. Gen. Karenzi Karake (July 2011 – March 2016) and Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzwabamwita (March 2016 – current). Karake was security and defense advisor of president Paul Kagame, until he retired in July 2017, a post previously occupied by Rutatina (until July 2011) and Lt.-Col. Patrick Karuretwa (July 2011 – March 2016), now principal private secretary to president Kagame.[206]

There have been a few cases in which members of the police were tried and convicted for torture. In 2013, two police officers were sentenced to seven years and one to three and a half years in prison on charges related to torture.[207] The NCHR has intervened in response to a number of complaints of ill-treatment by police, resulting in administrative sanctions and the conviction of two policemen in 2009 and two others in 2015.[208] However, none of the NCHR’s annual reports between 2010 and 2016 mention unlawful or arbitrary detention or torture in military custody, nor has the NCHR intervened on behalf of detainees in such cases, to Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, despite the fact that former detainees wrote to the NCHR to bring their cases to its attention. Furthermore, the NCHR has the power to visit detention sites and request relevant organs to bring to justice any person suspected of having committed human rights violations.[209]

The office of the Ombudsman also has the power to receive complaints and to investigate actions of government institutions “in which the population finds injustice,” to request disciplinary sanctions against government employees, to prosecute any offence in its mission and to request the Supreme Court to reconsider and review last instance judgments by ordinary and military courts “if there is any persistence of injustice.”[210] Human Rights Watch is not aware of any action by the office of the Ombudsman on cases of unlawful detention or torture in military custody.

Both chambers of parliament—the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate—have the responsibility to exercise oversight over government activities and have the power to ask written and oral questions, organize hearings, and set up commissions of inquiry.[211]

None of the detainees or former detainees interviewed by Human Rights Watch had filed a complaint against officials for illegal detention or torture, partly out of fear and partly out of a lack of faith in the independence of the justice system and in the possibility of obtaining redress. One former detainee had filed a complaint at a lower instance court after military and police beat him in August 2008, but an RDF major called the detainee’s lawyer to try to dissuade him from filing the complaint. He still filed the complaint but the court rejected it.[212]

After Release

Several of those released from military detention continued to face difficulties with the authorities and with their community after their release, as they were perceived as collaborators of the FDLR or other opposition groups. Many found it hard to reintegrate into normal life because of this stigma, as well as the serious physical and psychological problems caused by torture and their experiences in detention.

A former detainee held in Mukamira and Kami, who was released in July 2015 after being acquitted, told Human Rights Watch:

People I know are scared of me. They don’t talk to me. I try to find work, but I’m told I’m dirty. People call me an “infi"ltr"ator.” My friends don’t want to speak to me because they don’t want to be associated with me. I had to move house.... Because of the torture I suffered, it is difficult for me to do manual labor. It is difficult to get medicine because I have no money.... I have a problem with my eyes. I was beaten in the head at Mukamira and Kami and now I’m seeing spots.[213]

Human Rights Watch documented several cases of people who were released from military detention and rearrested. A man who was detained in the “Gendarmerie” and Mukamira in 2011, and was later tried and acquitted, told Human Rights Watch that he was rearrested in March 2013 and taken to Kami, where he was interrogated again about his links with the FDLR.[214]

Another man, who was detained in the “Gendarmerie” in early 2014, told Human Rights Watch that when he arrived home after his release, he found that his house had been robbed. When he reported this to the local authorities, they called the military, who rearrested him, because he had mentioned his detention in the “Gendarmerie.” He spent six days in a police cell and was then released.[215]

V.    Government response

On December 14, 2016, Human Rights Watch sent a detailed letter to the Rwandan justice minister, its principal interlocutor within the Rwandan government, presenting the research findings described in this report and requesting a response to specific questions. Despite more than 10 reminders, Human Rights Watch received no reply. A senior Human Rights Watch staff went to Kigali in February 2017 to discuss these findings with the Rwandan government, but no Rwandan government official was willing to meet him. Human Rights Watch sent a second detailed letter to the justice minister on August 23, 2017 (see Appendix II), but did not receive a response.

The Rwandan government has stated on other occasions that, “There is no unofficial detention in Rwanda.”[216] In a submission for the United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT), a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture, the government said that “Kami is a military barracks in Kinyinya sector and not a place of detention. As such no individuals are held or interrogated there.”[217] Justice Minister Johnston Busingye previously voiced this position during a review before the Human Rights Committee (HRC), a body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its state parties, in March 2016, where he stated that “no interrogation of suspects is carried out” in Kami, and “no people are imprisoned there.”[218]

During the HRC review, Busingye said that “by law and practice, the RDF does not detain individuals.”[219] In a meeting with Human Rights Watch in May 2014, he said, “You can be temporarily detained by the military, even a citizen can arrest you, but then you must be taken to a police station.”[220]

In the same meeting Busingye said that arbitrary arrests are against the law, but can still happen for different reasons. He explained that Rwandan law allows victims or family members to take proactive steps to find their loved ones who may be arbitrarily detained, and that this can then result in an order from a judge to either release the individual or legalize the detention. If a judge finds that the detention was unlawful, Busingye said, a judge can decide to prosecute the person who is responsible, and can reduce the time in illegal detention when the victim is convicted.[221]

In its submission to the CAT, the government asserted that “appropriate measures and steps have been put in place to effectively protect all persons from enforced disappearance” and that “all cases of alleged disappearances reported to the police have been duly investigated.”[222]

During the HRC review, Minister Busingye said that there should be zero tolerance for torture.[223] He told Human Rights Watch in 2014 that if there is proof of torture, “there must be institutional measures taken to stop it” and that “the individual responsible must be brought to account.” He said: “Let us agree that if this happens, then it should stop. Torture is not needed to gather evidence and it is not needed to get a confession.” He added: “If there are scores of RDF doing these bad things, then we will address it.”[224]

In its presentation at the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, a periodic review of the human rights record of UN member states at the UN Human Rights Council, the Rwandan government delegation said, referencing the CAT and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Rwanda is party, that “all security forces, including the military and police, were required to uphold the tenets of those important international standards in the conduct of their work, and failing to do so would result in disciplinary as well as legal action.”[225] In reply to a recommendation to ensure conformity of military detention centers with Rwanda’s laws and international standards, the delegation said that the “compliance of the conditions in military detention centres and prisons was taking place.”[226]

In its UPR roadmap and National Human Rights Action plan for 2017-2020, the government committed to improve conditions in detention facilities to ensure that they meet international standards, including by capacity building of the Ministry of Defence.[227]

In the May 2014 meeting with Human Rights Watch, Busingye said he was told that lawyers are reluctant to raise torture during judicial proceedings, but that he did not know if this was correct. He said that “judges are due to make determinations on these things [torture allegations] when raised.”[228]

In its submission for the upcoming review at the CAT, the government said that there had been a small number of torture cases prosecuted in Rwandan courts.[229]

On incommunicado detention, Busingye said in March 2016 that it is not acceptable and that victims should present such cases to court.[230]

 

VI.National and International Legal Standards

The violations documented in this report are in clear violation of Rwandan and international law, which prohibit enforced disappearances, arbitrary and unlawful arrest and detention, and the use of torture and other ill-treatment. Rwandan and international law require detainees to be held in humane conditions and treated with dignity, and impose legal obligations regarding procedural safeguards for arrest, detention, and the treatment of detainees. Rwanda is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), all of which prohibit violations of these fundamental norms.

Torture and Forced Confessions

Rwanda’s constitution states that “no one shall be subjected to torture or physical abuse, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”[231] Torture is a crime under Rwanda’s 2012 penal code, which uses a definition largely inspired by the wording of the Convention against Torture. Torture is punishable with up to two years in prison, increased to seven when there are permanent consequences, or life imprisonment when torture results in the death of a victim. Maximum sentences are applied when the offender is a security service officer or a civil servant.[232]

Under international law, states are obligated to ensure that any statement “made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”[233] States must ensure that, even without an official complaint, allegations of torture are promptly, impartially, independently, and thoroughly investigated, that victims have access to an effective remedy and receive reparation, and that those responsible are brought to justice.[234]

According to Rwandan law, a victim has the right to be interrogated in the presence of a trusted person, to remain silent, and to be protected if he or she expresses concern for his or her safety.[235] Rwandan law prohibits “torture or brain washing to extort an admission from the parties or the testimony of witnesses.”[236] Illegally obtained evidence is considered null and void before Rwandan courts.[237] However, Rwandan law relating to evidence and its production states that a person cannot retract a judicial admission unless it can be proved it was a result of physical torture. But the same law specifies that a judicial admission refers to “statements the accused or his or her representative makes before the court.” [238] Signed confessions submitted by prosecutors do not therefore supersede the defendant’s statement in court.

International law prohibits anyone from being compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt.[239]

During its latest review of Rwanda in March 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) expressed its concern about “allegations that torture and ill treatment has been practiced in these places [unofficial detention centers] as a means to elicit confessions.” The CAT expressed similar concerns during its 2012 review of Rwanda, mentioning beatings and electric shocks in Kami. Both committees recommended prompt investigations into these violations and action to bring the perpetrators to justice.[240]

On June 30, 2015, Rwanda ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), thereby allowing visits to places of detention by the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT), a UN body. The SPT has a state visit to Rwanda planned for mid-October 2017. The OPCAT requires ratifying states to set up a national preventive mechanism for the prevention of torture at the domestic level, at the latest one year after its entry into force, ratification or accession.[241] Rwanda has yet to create such a mechanism, despite accepting a recommendation during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to “swiftly” establish one.[242]

Safeguards and Procedure for Arrests and Detention

Under Rwandan law, judicial police officers enjoy the power to arrest and detain suspects, subject to several conditions. Intelligence officers of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) also have powers of judicial police.[243]

Under the 2008 counterterrorism law, other security agents or “any other authorized person” can arrest persons suspected of having or attempting to commit acts of terrorism, but must hand them over to the nearest police station within 48 hours.[244]

After a person is arrested, a judicial police officer must prepare a case-file or a statement, and submit it to a competent prosecutor. If the prosecutor decides that is appropriate to prosecute the accused, he/she shall petition the court to order provisional detention of the suspect. The court shall be required to try the case on merit within 15 days of receipt of the case file.[245]

A person held in custody must be informed about the charges against him or her and about his or her right to be assisted by a lawyer.[246]

Military police officers, responsible for enforcing law and order within the army, can detain “members of the military and their co-offenders and accomplices” in custody facilities at each Brigade Headquarters or “at any other appropriate facility as may be determined by the Defence Management Committee.”[247] If a suspect is arrested under the terrorism law, he or she could be held in “another place,” for a maximum of 48 hours. Under international law, detainees should only be held in “places officially recognized as places of detention.”[248]

Under international law, the grounds and procedure for any deprivation of liberty must be established by law, which should be precise, clear, and public. Persons who are deprived of their liberty must be informed at the time of arrest about the reason for the arrest and promptly of any charges against them. An arrested suspect has the right to defend him or herself through legal representation of his or her choosing at all stages of legal proceedings, including prior and during any questioning. Arrest and detention must be subject to prompt judicial review and the detained person is entitled to a trial in reasonable time.[249]

Detainees should be held only in facilities officially acknowledged as places of detention.[250] States are obliged to ensure that detainees have access to necessities and services that satisfy their basic needs, including appropriate provisions for living accommodation, personal hygiene, food, and medical service.Every detainee has the right to health, including healthcare and adequate conditions of detention.[251]

International human rights law and all the rights protected therein apply to all forms of arrest and detention including in the context of counterterrorism. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has affirmed that, “African States should ensure that the measures taken to combat terrorism fully comply with their obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international human rights treaties, including the right to life, the prohibition of arbitrary arrests and detention, the right to a fair hearing, the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading penalties and treatment.”[252]

All detainees are to be given all reasonable facilities to communicate with and receive visits from family and friends. The former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for authorities to inform relatives of the arrest and place of detention within 18 hours.[253] The Principles on Fair Trial in Africa state that any confession or admission made during incommunicado detention should be considered as having been obtained by coercion, and therefore must be excluded from evidence.[254] The former UN Special Rapporteur on torture has also noted that “torture is most frequently practiced during incommunicado detention” and that “[i]ncommunicado detention should be made illegal.”[255]

Arbitrary and Illegal Detention and Enforced Disappearances

According to Rwandan law, detention in violation of the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure is unlawful and punishable, including “detaining a person in a place other than a relevant custody facility.”[256] When a civil servant detains a person without order or judgment in conformity in the law, he or she is liable to a term of imprisonment equivalent to the term incurred by the illegally detained person.[257]

Several treaties to which Rwanda is a party prohibit arbitrary or unlawful detention.[258] Unlawful detention is defined as deprivation of liberty that is not imposed either on grounds provided for in law or not in accordance with procedures as established by law.[259] The concept of “arbitrary” however is broader and includes “elements of inappropriateness, injustice, lack of predictability and due process of law, as well as elements of reasonableness, necessity and proportionality.”[260] Most detentions documented in this report can be categorized both as “arbitrary” and “unlawful.”

UN bodies have repeatedly condemned secret and incommunicado detention as a serious rights violation that should be proscribed by law.[261] Incommunicado detention is generally understood as a situation of detention in which an individual is denied access to family members, an attorney, or an independent physician.

In Rwandan and international law, a person deprived of liberty has the right to habeas corpus, meaning that they can request a court to order a review of the lawfulness of his detention and release, if the detention is not lawful.[262] Under Rwandan law, any action against unlawful detention can be instituted by the victim or “any other person with knowledge of such injustice.”[263] A Rwandan judge may order an official detaining an individual to appear personally with that individual and justify the reasons and circumstances of the detention. The judge can then order that person’s detention or release, and can immediately try the person holding the other in detention.[264] According to the Rwandan government, there have occasionally been habeas corpus cases in Rwanda,[265] but relatives of disappeared persons are often too afraid to take the cases to court or doubt the effectiveness of such legal proceedings.[266]

Box 8 – Rugigana Ngabo: Habeas Corpus Case at the East African Court of Justice

Kayumba Nyamwasa’s brother, Lt.-Col. Rugigana Ngabo, a serving military officer in Rwanda, was arrested in August 2010 and held incommunicado in military custody for five months. Even though a Rwandan army spokesman said Ngabo was being held in Kanombe military prison,[267] family members were unable to locate him and were intimidated by intelligence officials.[268] A former detainee in Kami military camp told Human Rights Watch that he saw Ngabo while he was detained at Kami during that period.[269]

In November 2010, Ngabo’s family filed a habeas corpus application at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ), the court of the East African Community established in Arusha, Tanzania.

In January 2011, the Military High Court in Kigali ruled that Ngabo’s detention had been irregular and contrary to Rwandan law, but nevertheless ordered for him to remain in pre-trial detention due to the gravity of the charges of endangering state security.

The EACJ ruled in December 2011 that Ngabo’s incommunicado detention without trial had been illegal.[270] The Rwandan government appealed this decision, but it was upheld by the EACJ’s appellate division in June 2012.[271]

Despite the EACJ ruling, Ngabo’s trial at Rwanda’s Military High Court began in November 2011, behind closed doors.[272] According to an individual at the trial, Ngabo said in court that his trial was related to Nyamwasa’s problems with the government and criticized the evidence used against him for lack of credibility.[273] In July 2012, the court sentenced him to nine years in prison for endangering state security and inciting violence.[274]

The prohibition of enforced disappearances is codified in the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and as a crime in the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).[275] The convention describes an enforced disappearance as “the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”[276]

Rwanda is not a party to either treaty and has not made enforced disappearance as a discrete violation a crime in national law. However, after its 2015 Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the Rwandan government described recommendations to ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances as “implemented or in the process of being implemented.”[277] The absolute prohibition of enforced disappearances is, however, part of customary international law.[278] It simultaneously violates multiple human rights, including the prohibition of torture and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, and has multiple victims, including family members of the disappeared.[279] An enforced disappearance is also a “continuing crime”: it continues to take place so long as the disappeared person remains missing, and information about his or her fate or whereabouts has not been provided.[280] Most arrests described in this report can be categorized as “enforced disappearances.” Individuals were deprived of their liberty by agents of the state and the authorities refused to acknowledge their detention or reveal their whereabouts.

During their last reviews of Rwanda, both the CAT (2012) and the HRC (2016) noted the Rwandan government’s denial of the existence of military detention centers, but expressed concern about continued unlawful detention in unofficial detention centers. The CAT mentioned 45 cases of unlawful detention in military camps between 2010 and 2011, with detention lasting between ten days and two years. Both committees called for action to ensure that no one is detained in unofficial places of detention and that legal safeguards are provided. The CAT called on the government to close these military detention sites and establish and make public, in law, an official list of all places of detention.[281]

During its 2015 UPR, Rwanda accepted recommendations to “ensure due process and conduct effective and objective investigations regarding cases of alleged arbitrary arrest and detention, including those which may constitute enforced disappearance” and to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that all reported cases of enforced disappearance are thoroughly investigated.”[282]

To Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, the Rwandan government has not implemented these recommendations.

Acknowledgments

This report was researched and written by several researchers in the Africa division of Human Rights Watch between 2010 and 2017. It was reviewed by Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director, Aisling Reidy, senior legal advisor, and Babatunde Olugboji, deputy program director. Production and editing assistance was provided by Jean-Sébastien Sépulchre, associate in the Africa division Madeline Cottingham, publications and photography coordinators, Fitzroy Hepkins, administrative manager, and Jose Martinez, senior coordinator, provided production assistance.

Danielle Serres translated the report into French. Peter Huvos, French website editor, and Jean-Sébastien Sépulchre vetted the French translation.

Human Rights Watch wishes to thank many former detainees and others who were willing to speak about their experiences, sometimes at great personal risk.

 

Glossary and Explanation of Terms

African Charter: African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights. Ratified by Rwanda in 1983.

CAT: Committee Against Torture. United Nations body which monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by state parties. The CAT reviewed Rwanda in 2012 and will review it again in 2017.

CNDP: National Congress for the Defence of the People (Congrès national pour la défense du people). A former rebel group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

DDRRR: Disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration, and resettlement of foreign armed groups. In the context of this report, DDRRR is used to describe the process through which FDLR combatants (see below) are demobilized in Congo, transferred to Rwanda, and reintegrated into civilian life there. The DDRRR program in Congo is coordinated by the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO.

DMI: Rwanda’s Department of Military Intelligence, officially known as “J2,” responsible for matters concerning military intelligence and security.

EACJ: East African Court of Justice. Organ of the East African Community, located in Arusha, Tanzania.

FAR: Rwandan Armed Forces (Forces armées rwandaises), the Rwandan army before and during the 1994 genocide. “Ex-FAR” refers to its former members.

FARDC: Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo), the Congolese national army.

FDLR: Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Rwanda). A predominantly Rwandan Hutu armed rebel group, based in eastern Congo, some of whose members and leaders participated in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The FDLR has also been responsible for serious human rights abuses in Congo.

FDU-Inkingi: United Democratic Forces-Inkingi (Forces démocratiques unifiées-Inkingi). A Rwandan opposition party which has been unable to register as a political party.

HRC: Human Rights Committee. UN body which monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by state parties. The HRC reviewed Rwanda in March 2016.

ICC: International Criminal Court. Rwanda is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the treaty which established the ICC.

ICCPR: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Ratified by Rwanda in 1975.

ICRC: International Committee of the Red Cross. One of its objectives is to secure humane treatment and conditions of detention for all detainees.

MINADEF: Rwanda’s Ministry of Defence. The term is also used in this report to describe the Ministry of Defence’s premises in Kimihurura, in the capital, Kigali.

MONUC: United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, renamed “MONUSCO” in July 2010.

MONUSCO: United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as “MONUC” until July 2010.

NCHR: National Commission for Human Rights of Rwanda.

NISS: National Intelligence and Security Service, the civilian intelligence agency of Rwanda.

OPCAT: Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Ratified by Rwanda on June 30, 2015.

RCS: Rwandan Correctional Services. Responsible for the management of Rwanda’s official prisons. Overseen by the Ministry of Justice.

RDF: Rwanda Defence Force, the national army of Rwanda.

RDRC: Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission. A government body responsible for the demobilization and reintegration of former members of armed groups.

RNC: Rwanda National Congress. An opposition group in exile, composed mainly of former members or supporters of the RPF (see below).

RPA: Rwandan Patriotic Army. The Rwandan army formed by the RPF (see below) in July 1994. In May 2002, it was renamed “RDF.”

RPF: Rwandan Patriotic Front. Rebel group that ended the genocide in 1994 and has been Rwanda’s ruling party ever since.

SNR: National Intelligence Service of Burundi (Service national de renseignement).

SPT: Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, a UN body established pursuant to the provisions of the OPCAT.

UNHCR: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. UN agency responsible for the protection of refugees worldwide.

UPR: Universal Periodic Review. A periodic review of the human rights record of UN member states at the UN Human Rights Council. Rwanda’s last UPR took place in November 2015.

[1] The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a politico-military movement made up largely of ethnic Tutsi, invaded Rwanda in 1990 from its base in southern Uganda with the declared aim of assuring the right to return of refugees, many of whom had been living in exile for a generation, and of ending the rule of President Juvenal Habyarimana, who was, like most government officials at the time, an ethnic Hutu. After nearly three years of alternating between combat and negotiations, an airplane carrying Habyarimana was shot down in April 1994. Combat resumed and the Rwandan government, assisted by tens of thousands of soldiers, militia fighters and ordinary citizens, carried out a genocide against Tutsi civilians, whom they treated as enemy combatants. For a detailed account of the genocide in Rwanda, see Human Rights Watch/Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme, Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda (New York: Human Rights Watch/ Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme, 1999), https://www.hrw.org/reports/pdfs/r/rwanda/rwanda993.pdf.

[2] The Interahamwe (meaning “those who stand or attack together” in Kinyarwanda) were the youth wing of the former ruling party in Rwanda, the Mouvement républicain national démocratique (MRND). The term “Interahamwe” is often used more widely to refer to militia and other armed groups and individuals who participated in the genocide.

[3] “Infi"ltr"ator,” or “abacengezi” in Kinyarwanda, is a term often used to describe those who wish to destabilize Rwanda, particularly those with links to the FDLR and former Interahamwe who have infi"ltr"ated Rwanda from Congo and other neighboring countries.

[4] Thousands of Rwandan and Congolese civilians were killed by the RPA and their Congolese allies, as documented in a 2010 mapping report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. For details, see “DR Congo: Q & A on the United Nations Human Rights Mapping Report,” Human Rights Watch Q & A, October 1, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/10/01/dr-congo-q-united-nations-human-righ.... The Rwandan army continued to support Congolese rebel groups who committed serious human rights abuses, at least until 2013. See, for example, “DR Congo: M23 Rebels Kill, Rape Civilians,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 22, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/07/22/dr-congo-m23-rebels-kill-rape-civilians.

[5] See Human Rights Watch, “You Will be Punished”: Attacks on Civilians in Eastern Congo, December 13, 2009, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2009/12/13/you-will-be-punished.

[6] See “DR Congo: Arrest Rebel Leader Wanted by ICC,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 13, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/07/13/dr-congo-arrest-rebel-leader-wanted-... and “Arrest DR Congo Warlord,” Human Rights Watch dispatch, July 13, 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/07/13/arrest-dr-congo-warlord.

[7] See “DR Congo: German Court Convicts Two Rwandan Rebel Leaders,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 28, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/09/28/dr-congo-german-court-convicts-two-r....

[8] UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, “Final Report,” S/2016/466, May 23, 2016, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2016/466 (accessed October 5, 2017), para. 7.

[9] UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, “Midterm Report,” S/2016/1102, December 23, 2016, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2016/1102 (accessed October 5, 2017), pp. 5-9.

[10] Ministry of Defence press release, April 16, 2016, http://mod.gov.rw/news-detail/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=3016&cHash=b75b07d... (accessed September 26, 2017).

[11] Théophile Niyitegeka, “Rubavu residents arrest 24 suspected FDLR collaborators,” Igihe, June 20, 2016, http://en.igihe.com/news/rubavu-residents-arrest-24-suspected-fdlr.html (accessed September 26, 2017).

[12] “Trois dirigeants couvrent les Fdlr dans leur attaque dans le secteur Bugeshi/Rubavu,” Igihe, April 28, 2016, http://fr.igihe.com/arts/securite/trois-dirigeants-couvrent-les-fdlr-dan... (accessed September 26, 2017).

[13] UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, “Final Report,” S/2017/672/Rev.1, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2017/672/Rev.1 (accessed October 5, 2017), August 8, 2017, p. 7.

[14] MONUSCO, statistics of ex-combatants of foreign armed groups, http://monusco.unmissions.org/en/statistics-ex-combatants-foreign-armed-... (accessed September 26, 2017).

[15] UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, “Midterm Report,” December 23, 2016, S/2016/1102, annex 7.

[16] Letter from MONUSCO to Human Rights Watch, April 14, 2017, copy on file with Human Rights Watch.

[17] “Kayumba plans to re-energize the FDLR – Col. Bisengimana,” The New Times, February 21, 2011, http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/28651/ (accessed September 26, 2017); Bosco R. Asiimwe, “Terror suspects implicate Kayumba,” The New Times, June 23, 2011, http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/32365/ (accessed September 26, 2017); and Edwin Musoni, “Kayumba terror network busted,” The New Times, June 29, 2011, http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/32538/ (accessed September 26, 2017).

[18] “Rwanda: Repression Across Borders,” Human Rights Watch news release, January 28, 2014, https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/01/28/rwanda-repression-across-borders.

[19] See, for example, “Ex-Military Officers Convicted Over Comments,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 1, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/01/rwanda-ex-military-officers-convicte....

[20] President Kagame and the ruling RPF won both elections with a large majority, in a context of tight restrictions on freedom of expression and political space. See “Attacks on Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Association and Freedom of Assembly in the Run-up to Presidential Elections, January to July 2010,” Human Rights Watch chronology, August 2, 2010, https://www.hrw.org/news/2010/08/02/rwanda-silencing-dissent-ahead-elect....

[21] Rwandan government statistics on grenade attacks carried out in Rwanda between December 2009 and March 2011, in UN Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of Congo, “Final Report,” S/2011/738, December 2, 2011, http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/2011/738 (accessed September 26, 2017), Annex 20, p. 195.

[22] Carina Tertsakian, Le Château: The Lives of Prisoners in Rwanda (London: Arves Books, 2008), pp. 218-235.

[23] Human Rights Watch, World Report 1997 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1997), Rwanda chapter, https://www.hrw.org/reports/1997/WR97/AFRICA-07.htm.

[24] Amnesty International, “Rwanda: no business of the military: Illegal detention and beatings of civilian tea workers in Mukamira army camp result in death,” February 1, 2000, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr47/002/2000/en/ (accessed September 26, 2017).

[25] National Commission for Human Rights, “Annual Report 2003,” July 2004, http://www.cndp.org.rw/fileadmin/user_upload/reports/Annual%20report%202... (accessed September 26, 2017),   p. 18.

[26] United States of America v. François Karake et al., United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Criminal Action No. 02-0256(ESH), August 17, 2006, p. 2.

[27] Wikileaks, “Uganda Hands Rwanda 10 Members of Dissident Group,” March 21, 2007, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/07KIGALI291_a.html (accessed September 26, 2017).

[28] “RDF rehabilitates Kami Barracks,” Ministry of Defence press release, date unknown, http://mod.gov.rw/news-detail/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=687&cHash=a6450b0d... (accessed September 26, 2017).

[29] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Kigali, March 28, 2011 and November 28, 2011; Kanombe, October 3, 2014; and Musanze, May 27, 2015. Prosecutor v. Mukeshimana Jean Berchmans et al., Kigali High Court, Case No. RP0027/11/HC/KIG-RP 0036/11/HC/KIG, January 13, 2012. Prosecutor v. Mukeshimana Jean Berchmans et al., Supreme Court, Case No. RPA 0090/12/CS, March 4, 2016.

[30] Prosecutor v. Mukeshimana Jean Berchmans et al., Supreme Court, Case No. RPA 0090/12/CS, March 4, 2016, para. 101.

[31] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cyangugu, June 13, 2012.

[32] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, May 5, 2014.

[33] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, October 28, 2014.

[34] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, October 29, 2014.

[35] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, October 12, 2016.

[36] Amnesty International also reported on the use of electric shocks at Kami. See Amnesty International, “Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy: Illegal detention and torture by military intelligence,” October 8, 2012, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/AFR47/004/2012/en/ (accessed September 27, 2017), p. 17.

[37] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Goma, DR Congo, October 28, 2014.

[38] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Huye, June 27, 2012.

[39] Human Rights Watch phone interview with former detainee, September 12, 2016.

[40] Appeal hearing documents on file with Human Rights Watch, February 2012 and October 2015.

[41] “Rwanda: Eight-Year Sentence for Opposition Leader,” Human Rights Watch news release, October 30, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/10/30/rwanda-eight-year-sentence-oppositio.... See also Amnesty International, “Rwanda: Justice in Jeopardy: The First Instance Trial of Victoire Ingabire,” March 23, 2013, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/AFR47/001/2013/en/ (accessed September 30, 2016).

[42] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Kigali High Court, November 11, 14, and 21, 2011; and April 11, 2012.

[43] Human Rights Watch interviews with former detainees, Cyangugu, June 13, 2012; and July 17, 2014, Rubavu, January 29, 2014.

[44] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cyangugu, June 13, 2012.

[45] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 30, 2014.

[46] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Uganda, July 10, 2012.

[47] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Burundi, April 29, 2012.

[48] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Kigali High Court, March 28, 2011.

[49] Seven former detainees mentioned in 2010 Lt.-Col. Faustin Tinka’s involvement in interrogations at MINADEF and Kami. Several former detainees told Human Rights Watch that Tinka worked for the military intelligence services.

[50] Eight former detainees told Human Rights Watch that an official known as Captain Murenzi oversaw interrogations, forced confessions and torture in Kami and MINADEF in 2010. Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm his first name or his function.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kampala, Uganda, July 10, 2012.

[52] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kigali, June 22, 2012.

[53] In 2012, Amnesty International also reported that two former detainees had mentioned the use of electronic devices during interrogations in MINADEF. See Amnesty International, “Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy,” p. 17.

[54] Many former detainees mentioned names of military and other officials involved in torture and other abuses. This report only mentions the names of those whose presence was confirmed by multiple sources.

[55] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kampala, Uganda, July 10, 2012.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Bujumbura, Burundi, April 29, 2012.

[57] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kigali, May 24, 2012.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 23, 2013.

[59] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, March 6, 2013.

[60] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, February 28, 2013.

[61] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, October 11, 2016.

[62] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Musanze High Court, December 13, 2012.

[63] The expression “negative force” is used to refer to armed groups such as the FDLR who oppose the Rwandan government.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with RDF member, Rubavu, January 31, 2013.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with wife of former detainee, Musanze, December 7, 2012.

[67] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 24, 2013.

[68] The “Gendarmerie” was a law enforcement institution in Rwanda until 2000, when the Rwanda National Police was created. Many people continue to refer today to former gendarmerie premises as the “Gendarmerie.”

[69] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Musanze High Court, October 15, 2011 and December 13, 2012.

[70] Interview with former detainee, Musanze, October 11, 2016.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, October 11, 2016.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 29, 2014.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, April 30, 2013.

[74] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Musanze High Court, October 15, 2012.

[75] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, April 30, 2013.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, October 12, 2016.

[77] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee Rubavu, January 31, 2013.

[78] Ibid.

[79] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, October 28, 2014.

[80] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, February 28, 2013.

[81] Ibid.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cyangugu, June 14, 2012.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Huye, May 16, 2012.

[84] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Huye, June 27, 2012.

[85] A 2012 Amnesty International report also mentions “reports of a network of safe houses used to detain suspects in Kigali.” See Amnesty International, “Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy: Illegal detention and torture by military intelligence,” p. 17. Kizito Mihigo, a well-known singer, was also detained incommunicado in an anonymous house near Kigali, after his arrest on April 6, 2014, in Kigali. He was beaten by police officers, threatened and forced to confess. In his trial, Mihigo and his three co-accused were accused of collaborating with the RNC and the FDLR. Mihigo pled guilty. One of Mihigo’s co-accused was quoted in the media telling the court he had been detained incommunicado for a month in an unknown place and that he had confessed under torture to his involvement in grenade attacks. He retracted his confession in court. On February 27, 2015, Mihigo was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His three co-accused were respectively acquitted, sentenced to 25 years and 30 years in prison. See “Key suspect in Rwanda terror trial alleges torture,” The East African, November 29, 2014, http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/Key-suspect-in-Rwanda-terror-trial-... (accessed September 28, 2017); “Rwandan accused of plotting against regime alleges torture,” Agence France-Presse, November 28, 2014, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-2853028/Rwandan-accused-plo... (accessed September 28, 2017).

[86] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cyangugu, June 13, 2012.

[87] Human Rights Watch phone interview with former detainee, November 25, 2016.

[88] Human Rights Watch phone interview with former detainee, June 5, 2015.

[89] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, May 5, 2014.

[90] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, March 6, 2013.

[91] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Bujumbura, Burundi, April 29, 2012.

[92] Ibid.

[93] Amnesty International also reported on a system of “specialization” or “regime” in Kami, in which some detainees were held in especially severe conditions. See Amnesty International, “Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy: Illegal detention and torture by military intelligence,” p. 18.

[94] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cyangugu, June 13, 2012.

[95] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Huye, June 27, 2012.

[96] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, April 30, 2013.

[97] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, May 5, 2014.

[98] See “Killings in Kiwanja,” Human Rights Watch news release, December 11, 2008, https://www.hrw.org/report/2008/12/11/killings-kiwanja/uns-inability-pro....

[99] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, June 26, 2016.

[100] Six former detainees mentioned to Human Rights Watch the involvement of Major Prosper in interrogating and threatening detainees in MINADEF and Kami in 2010.

[101] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kigali, June 22, 2012.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, October 29, 2014.

[103] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, May 5, 2014.

[104] Ibid.

[105] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, March 5, 2014.

[106] Between 2010 and 2013 (when most of these transfers took place), Rwanda and Burundi maintained good relations. The relationship between the two countries began to deteriorate with Burundi’s political crisis from April 2015 onwards. In 2015 some Burundian armed opposition members were trained in Rwanda. See “Burundi: Abductions, Killings Spread Fear,” Human Rights Watch news release, February 25, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/25/burundi-abductions-killings-spread-fear.

[107] Human Rights Watch has documented numerous abuses by the SNR. See “Burundi: Intelligence Services Torture Suspected Opponents,” Human Rights Watch news release, July 7, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/07/07/burundi-intelligence-services-tortur... and “Burundi: Spate of Arbitrary Arrests, Torture,” Human Rights Watch news release, August 6, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/08/06/burundi-spate-arbitrary-arrests-torture.

[108] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Bujumbura, Burundi, April 29, 2012.

[109] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kigali, June 12, 2012.

[110] Ibid.

[111] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cyangugu, June 13, 2012.

[112] Relations between Rwanda and Congo have often been tense, and sometimes extremely hostile, over the past 20 years, with Rwanda backing a succession of Congolese armed opposition groups. However, in January 2009 the two governments launched a joint offensive against the FDLR, known as “Umoja Wetu” (“0ur unity” in Swahili), marking an important collaboration between the two countries, at least in terms of tackling the FDLR. Relations turned sour again in 2012 when Rwanda backed a new Congolese rebel group, the M23. See, “DR Congo: M23 Rebels Committing War Crimes,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 11, 2012, https://www.hrw.org/news/2012/09/11/dr-congo-m23-rebels-committing-war-c.... More recently, there seems to be some renewed collaboration between the two countries.

[113] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 24, 2013.

[114] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, April 30, 2013.

[115] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Goma, DR Congo, March 6, 2013.

[116] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Kigali High Court, March 3 and November 28, 2011, and Musanze High Court, October 15, December 13, 2012, and May 27, 2015; Prosecutor v. Mukeshimana Jean Berchmans et al., Kigali High Court, Case No. RP0027/11/HC/KIG-RP 0036/11/HC/KIG, January 13, 2012; Prosecutor v. Janvier Ndagijimana et al., High Court of Musanze, Specialized Chamber, case No. RP 0108/11/HC/MUS, December 31, 2012; Prosecutor v. Jérôme Nsanzimana et al., High Court of Musanze, case No. RP 004611/HC/MUS, March 21, 2013; and Prosecutor v. Aboubacar Nsabiyeze et al., Musanze High Court, Case No. RP0052/13/HC/MUS, May 22, 2014.

[117] Prosecutor v. Aboubacar Nsabiyeze et al., Musanze High Court, Case No. RP0052/13/HC/MUS, May 22, 2014, para 1.

[118] The FDLR often force Congolese civilians to carry goods for them and assist them in other ways, sometimes under threat of death or ill-treatment.

[119] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Musanze High Court, December 13, 2012.

[120] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, July 17, 2014.

[121] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Musanze High Court, May 27, 2015.

[122] UNHCR registration number 01412H00058.

[123] The RDRC is co-funded by the Rwandan government and the World Bank, which also operates a trust fund with contributions from the governments of Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, and Japan, as well as UNICEF. See Rwanda Demobilization and Reintegration Commission, “International partners,” no date, http://demobrwanda.gov.rw/partners/international.html (consulted on October 4, 2017).

[124] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Musanze High Court, December 13, 2012 and March 21, 2013; Prosecutor v. Jérôme Nsanzimana et al., High Court of Musanze, case No. RP 004611/HC/MUS, March 21, 2013; and Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, May 3, 2014.

[125] Signed trial statement of former detainee, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[126] Ibid.

[127] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 24, 2013; Human Rights Watch interview with UN staff member, Goma, DR Congo, May 18, 2013.

[128] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, May 3, 2014.

[129] Human Rights Watch phone interview with former detainee, November 25, 2016.

[130] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, August 26, 2011.

[131] Human Rights Watch phone interview with former detainee, November 25, 2016.

[132] Human Rights Watch interview with UN staff member, Goma, DR Congo, May 18, 2013.

[133] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Prosecutor v. Jérôme Nsanzimana et al., High Court of Musanze, case No. RP 004611/HC/MUS, March 21, 2013. Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, May 7, 2014; Human Rights Watch interview with former detainees, Rubavu, May 7, 2014.

[134] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Kigali High Court, March 28 and November 28, 2011; Prosecutor v. Mukeshimana Jean Berchmans et al., Supreme Court, Case No. RPA 0090/12/CS, March 4, 2016, para. 129.

[135] Prosecutor v. Mukeshimana Jean Berchmans et al., Supreme Court, Case No. RPA 0090/12/CS, March 4, 2016, para. 132.

[136] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, March 31, 2016.

[137] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kampala, July 10, 2012.

[138] Human Rights Watch phone interview with former detainee, October 26, 2016.

[139] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 24, 2013.

[140] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 24, 2013.

[141] Human Rights Watch interview with MONUSCO staff member, Goma, DR Congo, February 28, 2013; Human Rights Watch interview with MONUSCO staff member, Goma, DR Congo, May 18, 2013

[142] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 24, 2013.

[143] Ibid.

[144] Human Rights Watch interview with family member of former detainee, Goma, DR Congo, January 30, 2013; Human Rights Watch interview with MONUSCO staff member, Goma, DR Congo, May 18, 2013.

[145] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, January 24, 2013.

[146] Human Rights Watch phone interview with former detainee, October 26, 2016.

[147] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Musanze, 2012.

[148] Letter from MONUSCO to Human Rights Watch, April 14, 2017, copy on file with Human Rights Watch.

[149] Ibid.

[150] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cibitoke, Burundi, July 1, 2012.

[151] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Bugesera, Rwanda, June 25, 2012.

[152] Under Rwandan law, military courts have authority to try offenses by military personnel and their co-accused, even when the co-accused are civilians. See Organic law determining the organization, functioning and jurisdiction of Courts, N° 51/2008, arts. 137 and 148.

[153] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, July 17, 2014.

[154] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kigali, June 22, 2012.

[155] Eight former detainees mentioned the presence of Lt. Emmanuel Karemera in Kami in 2010. Several described him as a commanding officer who oversaw detention in Kami and said he was involved in threatening and torturing detainees.

[156] Eight former detainees told Human Rights Watch that an official known as “Captain Murenzi” oversaw interrogations, forced confessions and torture in Kami and MINADEF in 2010.

[157] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cyangugu, June 14, 2012

[158] Ibid.

[159] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, March 6, 2013.

[160] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cyangugu, June 13, 2012.

[161] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kigali, August 26, 2011.

[162] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Goma, DR Congo, October 28, 2014.

[163] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, July 17, 2014.

[164] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Rubavu, October 29, 2014.

[165] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, October 12, 2016.

[166] Law determining missions, organization and functioning of the National Commission for Human Rights, no. 19/2013 of 25/03/2013, art. 6.

[167] In its annual report of 2003, the NCHR reported that a military official had been illegally detained in Kami. Representatives discussed this issue with military authorities and visited the detainee. The NCHR also mentioned a complaint from an individual who had allegedly spent 21 days in Mukamira military camp. Following the complaint, the NCHR requested the military prosecution and the military authorities to investigate into this case and prosecute the individuals involved. National Commission for Human Rights, “Annual Report 2003,” July 2004, http://www.cndp.org.rw/fileadmin/user_upload/reports/Annual%20report%202... (accessed September 28, 2017), p. 18, 56, and 57.

[168] Human Rights Watch interview with members of the National Commission for Human Rights, Kigali, April 26, 2016.

[169] On May 14, 2014, the Ministry of Justice gave Human Rights Watch a table of trials related to crimes against state security. The table included most of the cases described in this chapter, and contained references to several other trials, including that of Jean de la Croix Tuyisenge and 19 other people accused of stealing television sets and other electronic goods. Human Rights Watch researched this case and observed several hearings. Many of the accused were detained unlawfully by the police for several weeks in two unofficial detention centers in Kigali, known as Chez Kabuga and Chez Gacinya. At least 13 of them stated in court that the police had tortured them, mostly in Chez Gacinya. The judges dismissed their claims on the basis that they lacked evidence and failed to order investigations into their alleged torture. Human Rights Watch interviews, Kigali and Rubavu, August 2012 to December 2013 and Human Rights Watch trial observation, Gasabo Intermediate Court, Kigali, July 23, August 16 and August 22, 2012. See also Tuyisenge Jean de la Croix et al., Gasabo Intermediate Court, case No. RDP0386/12/TGI/GSBO-006170/S2/12/DC/MJB, August 23, 2012. For details on Chez Kabuga and Chez Gacinya, see Human Rights Watch, “Why Not Call This Place a Prison?”: Unlawful Detention and Ill-Treatment in Rwanda’s Gikondo Transit Center, September 24, 2015, https://www.hrw.org/report/2015/09/24/why-not-call-place-prison/unlawful....

[170] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Prosecutor v. Jean Berchmans Mukeshimana et al., Kigali High Court, Case No. RP0027/11/HC/KIG-RP 0036/11/HC/KIG, January 13, 2012.

[171] Prosecutor v. Jean Berchmans Mukeshimana et al., Supreme Court, Case No. RPA 0090/12/CS, March 4, 2016.

[172] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Prosecutor v. Jean Kanyamuhanda, Musanze High Court, Case No. RP 0054/11/HC/MUS, December 6, 2012.

[173] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Prosecutor v. Janvier Ndayambaje et al., High Court of Musanze, Specialized Chamber, case No. RP 0108/11/HC/MUS, January 8, 2013.

[174] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Prosecutor v. Jérôme Nsanzimana et al., High Court of Musanze, case No. RP 004611/HC/MUS, March 21, 2013.

[175] Prosecutor v. Aboubacar Nsabiyeze et al., Musanze High Court, Case No. RP0052/13/HC/MUS, May 22, 2014,

[176] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Prosecutor v. Xaverina Mukashyaka et al., High Court of Musanze, case No. RP 0021/14/HC/MUS, July 29, 2015.

[177] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Military Prosecutor vs. Joel Mutabazi et al., Military High Court, Kigali, RP 0003/013/MHC, October 3, 2015.

[178] Jerome Starkey, “On the run from Rwandan assassins: ‘Paul Kagame has no mercy. He is a killer,’” The Times, October 8, 2012, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/on-the-run-from-rwandan-assassins-pau... (accessed September 28, 2017).

[179] The Government of the Republic of Rwanda v. Vincent Brown, et al., Westminster Magistrates’ Court, December 22, 2015.

[180] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Military High Court, Kigali, May 13, and October 3, 2014.

[181] “Uganda/Rwanda: Forcible Return Raises Grave Concerns,” Human Rights Watch news release, November 4, 2013, https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/11/04/uganda/rwanda-forcible-return-raises....

[182] “Rwanda: Opposition Activist Missing,” Human Rights Watch news release, September 29, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/09/29/rwanda-opposition-activist-missing.

[183] A total of 51 defendants stated in trials observed by Human Rights Watch that they had been illegally detained. Human Rights Watch also spoke to many of these defendants about their conditions of detention.

[184] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Musanze High Court, May 27, 2014.

[185] Ibid.

[186] Prosecutor v. Mukeshimana Jean Berchmans et al., Supreme Court, Case No. RPA 0090/12/CS, March 4, 2016, para. 102.

[187] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Kigali High Court, October 3, 2014.

[188] Law relating to evidence and its production, No. 15 of 12/06/2004, art. 110.

[189] Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Convention against Torture), adopted December 10, 1984, entered into force June 26, 1987, ratified by Rwanda December 15, 2008, art. 15.

[190] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Huye, June 27, 2012.

[191] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kampala, Uganda, July 10, 2012.

[192] Human Rights Watch trial observation, Military prosecutor v. Tom Rusagara et al., Military High Court, case No. 0006/014/HCM, March 31, 2016. For more information, see “Rwanda: Ex-Military Officers Convicted Over Comments,” Human Rights Watch news release, April 1, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/01/rwanda-ex-military-officers-convicte....

[193] Presidential Order determining the responsibilities, composition and functioning of the decision making councils of the Rwanda Defence Force, No. 34/01 of 03/09/2012, art. 34.

[194] See for example Human Rights Watch, Rwanda: The Search for Security and Human Rights Abuses, Vol. 12, no. 1(A) April 2000, https://www.hrw.org/reports/pdfs/r/rwanda/rwan004.pdf, p. 4.

[195] Human Rights Watch interviews with former detainees, Cyangugu, Kigali, Rubavu, Kampala (Uganda), and via phone, between August 2011 and September 2016.

[196] Human Rights Watch interviews with former detainees, Cyangugu, Rubavu, Bujumbura (Burundi), Cibitoke (Burundi), and Kampala (Uganda), between April 2012 and March 2016.

[197] “Itangazo ry’ibyemezo by’Inama y’Abaminisitiri yo kuri uyu wa 16 Werurwe 2012,” Igihe, March 16, 2012, http://igihe.com/amakuru/u-rwanda/itangazo-ry-ibyemezo-by-inama-y-abamin... (accessed September 28, 2017); “High Commission Staff,” High Commission of the Republic of Rwanda in Tanzania, no date, http://tanzania.embassy.gov.rw/about-the-high-commission/high-commission... (accessed September 28, 2017).

[198] Human Rights Watch interviews with former detainees, Cyangugu, Kigali, Rubavu, Bujumbura (Burundi), Kampala (Uganda), and over the phone, between May 2012 and September 2016.

[199] Human Rights Watch interviews with former detainees, Cyangugu, Huye, Kigali, Cibitoke (Burundi), Bujumbura (Burundi), between April and July 2012.

[200] Prosecutor v. Mukeshimana Jean Berchmans et al., Supreme Court, Case No. RPA 0090/12/CS, March 4, 2016, para. 75.

[201] Human Rights Watch interviews with former detainees, Rubavu, between July and October 2014.

[202] Submission for appeal trial proceedings, on file with Human Rights Watch.

[203] James Karuhanga, Top RDF officers suspended,” The New Times, January 19, 2012, http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/article/2012-01-19/38726/ (accessed September 28, 2017).

[204] “Rwanda: RDF Gets New Army Chief of Staff,” News of Rwanda, July 19, 2016, http://www.newsofrwanda.com/ibikorwa/11326/rwanda-rdf-army-chief-staff/ (accessed September 28, 2017).

[205] Rodrigue Rwirahira, “New changes in RDF leadership,” The New Times, October 29, 2015, http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/article/2015-10-29/193931/ (accessed September 28, 2017).

[206] Edmund Kagire, “New security chiefs appointed,” The New Times, July 14, 2011, http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/article/2011-07-14/33013/ (accessed September 28, 2017); “Itangazo Riturutse Muri Perezidansi Ya Repubulika,” Rwandan presidency press release, March 22, 2016.

[207] Government of Rwanda, “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 10 of the Convention, Second periodic reports of States parties due in 2016, Rwanda”, CAT/C/RWA/2, September 5, 2016, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?sy... (accessed September 28, 2017), para. 89.

[208] National Commission for Human Rights, “Annual Activity Report July 2012 – June 2013,” September 2013, http://www.cndp.org.rw/fileadmin/user_upload/reports/Annual%20Report%202... (accessed September 28, 2017), pp. 70-74; National Commission for Human Rights, Annual Activity Report July 2013 – June 2014, September 2014, http://www.cndp.org.rw/fileadmin/user_upload/Annual_Report_2013-2014.pdf (accessed September 28, 2017), pp. 59-60; and Izuba Rirashe, “Ubushinjacyaha bukomeje gukurikirana Abapolisi bakekwaho gukora ‘iyicarubozo,’” Igihe, April 23, 2015, http://igihe.com/amakuru/u-rwanda/article/ubushinjacyaha-bukomeje (accessed September 28, 2017).

[209] Law determining missions, organization and functioning of the National Commission for Human Rights, no. 19/2013 of 25/03/2013, art. 7.

[210] Law determining the mission, powers, organization and functioning of the Office of the Ombudsman, No 76/2013 of 11/9/2013, arts. 4, 6, 10, 13, and 15.

[211] Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 2003, revised in 2015, arts. 128 and 131.

[212] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Cibitoke, Burundi, July 1, 2012.

[213] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, October 12, 2016.

[214] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kampala, Uganda, June 30, 2013.

[215] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Musanze, May 3, 2014.

[216] Government of Rwanda, “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention, Second periodic reports of States parties due in 2016, Rwanda,” CAT/C/RWA/2, September 5, 2016, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?sy... (accessed September 28, 2017), para. 101.

[217] Ibid. para. 104.

[218] Human Rights Watch observation of Human Rights Committee review of Rwanda, Geneva, March 18, 2016.

[219] Ibid.

[220] Human Rights Watch meeting with Justice Minister Johnston Busingye, Kigali, May 13, 2014.

[221] Ibid.

[222] Government of Rwanda, “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention, Second periodic reports of States parties due in 2016, Rwanda,” para. 114.

[223] Human Rights Watch observation of Human Rights Committee review of Rwanda, Geneva, March 18, 2016.

[224] Human Rights Watch meeting with minister of justice Johnston Busingye, Kigali, May 13, 2014.

[225] Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Rwanda,” A/HRC/31/8, December 18, 2015, http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/17/4&Lang=E (accessed September 28, 2017), para. 16.

[226] “Human Rights Council adopts outcomes of Universal Periodic Review of Rwanda, Nepal, and Austria,” Human Rights Council press release, March 16, 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=17241&L... (accessed September 28, 2017).

[227] Rwandan Government, “Roadmap for implementation of Rwanda’s UPR Recommendations 2015,” Recommendation No. 13; Ministry of Justice, “National Human Rights Action plan of Rwanda: 2017-2020,” pp. 35-36.

[228] Human Rights Watch meeting with Justice Minister Johnston Busingye, Kigali, May 13, 2014.

[229] Government of Rwanda, “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention, Second periodic reports of States parties due in 2016, Rwanda,” CAT/C/RWA/2, para. 89.

[230] “Human Rights Committee reviews the report of Rwanda,” OHCHR press release, March 18, 2016, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=18473&L... (accessed September 28, 2017).

[231] Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 2003, revised in 2015, art. 14.

[232] Organic Law instituting the penal code, No. 01/2012/OL of 02/05/2012, arts. 176 and 177.

[233] Convention against Torture, art. 15.

[234] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 31, The Nature of the General Legal Obligation Imposed on States Parties to the Covenant, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add. 13 (2004), paras. 15 and 16; UN Committee Against Torture, General Comment No. 3, Implementation of article 14 by States parties, U.N. Doc. CAT/C/GC/3 (2012), para. 27.

[235] Law relating to the code of criminal procedure, No. 30/2013 of 2013, art. 53.

[236] Law relating to evidence and its production; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976, art. 14(g); and Convention against Torture, arts. 1 and 15.

[237] Government of Rwanda, “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention, Second periodic reports of States parties due in 2016, Rwanda,” CAT/C/RWA/2, September 5, 2016, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?sy... (accessed September 28, 2017), para. 92; Law relating to evidence and its production, arts. 6, 7, and 8.

[238] Law relating to evidence and its production, art. 110.

[239] ICCPR, art. 14(g); and Convention against Torture, arts. 1 and 15.

[240] Human Rights Committee, “Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Rwanda,” CCPR/C/RWA/CO/4, May 2, 2016, http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=CCPR/C/RWA/CO/4&Lang=E (accessed September 28, 2017), paras. 19 and 20; Committee Against Torture, “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention, Concluding observations of the Committee Against Torture, Rwanda,” CAT/C/RWA/CO/1, June 26, 2011, http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?sy... (accessed September 28, 2017), paras. 10 and 11.

[241] Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), adopted December 18, 2002, G.A. res. A/RES/57/199, [reprinted in 42 I.L.M. 26 (2003)], entered into force June 22, 2006, arts. 3 and 17.

[242] Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Rwanda,” A/HRC/31/8, December 18, 2015, http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/HRC/17/4&Lang=E (accessed September 28, 2017); see also Human Rights Watch, “Submission to the Human Rights Committee in advance of the fourth periodic review of Rwanda,” February 12, 2016, https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/02/12/submission-human-rights-committee-ad.... The Universal Periodic Review is a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council that periodically examines the human rights record of member states.

[243] Law determining the powers, mission, organisation and functioning of the national intelligence and security service, No. 73/2013, art. 9.

[244] Law on counter terrorism, No. 45/2008, arts 44 and 45.

[245] Law relating to the code of criminal procedure, arts. 34 and 37.

[246] Law relating to the code of criminal procedure, arts. 38 and 39.

[247] Law relating to the code of criminal procedure, art. 40, Ministerial Order determining custody facilities for suspects being investigated by the military judicial police, No. 06/MINADEF/2014.

[248] UN Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 20, “Prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 7),” A/44/40, March 10, 1992, para. 11.

[249] ICCCPR, art. 9; ACHPR, art. 6; Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 35, Article 9 (Liberty and security of person), UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/35 (2014); African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Guidelines on the Conditions of Arrest, Police Custody and Pre-Trial Detention in Africa, 55th Ordinary Session (2014).

[250] Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 35, paras. 58 and 20.

[251] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted December 16, 1966, entered into force January 3, 1976, article 12; Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, rule 17.

[252] African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Resolution on the Protection of Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the Fight against Terrorism, No. 88 (2005); African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Principles and Guidelines on Human and Peoples’ Rights while Countering Terrorism in Africa (2015).

[253] Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Report to the 59th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights, E/CN.4/2003/68, para. 26(g).

[254] Human Rights Council, “Joint study on global practices in relation to secret detention in the context of countering terrorism,” A/HRC/13/42, February 19, 2010; African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, “Principles and guidelines on the right to a fair trial and legal assistance in Africa,” No. DOC/OS(XXX)247, para. N6(d)(i).

[255] Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Report to the UN General Assembly, A/56/156, para. 39 (f).

[256] Law relating to the code of criminal procedure, art. 90.

[257] Organic Law instituting the penal code, arts. 273 and 668.

[258] ICCCPR, art. 9; ACHPR, art. 6.

[259] Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 35, Article 9 (Liberty and security of person), para. 11.

[260] Ibid., para. 12.

[261] Human Rights Council, “Joint study on global practices in relation to secret detention in the context of countering terrorism,” A/HRC/13/42, February 19, 2010; African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, “Principles and guidelines on the right to a fair trial and legal assistance in Africa” No. DOC/OS(XXX)247, para. N6(d)(i).

[262] ICCPR, art 9(4) and Law Nº 30/2013 of 24/5/2013 relating to the code of criminal procedure, art. 92.

[263] Law relating to the code of criminal procedure, art. 92.

[264] Ibid., art. 91.

[265] Minister of Justice of Rwanda, “Response to Reference,” in Plaxeda Rugumba vs. the Secretary General of the East African Community and The Attorney General of the Republic of Rwanda, No. 8 of 2010, December 23, 2010, para. 4.i., Human Rights Watch interview with Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye, Kigali, May 13, 2014.

[266] Amnesty International, “Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy: Illegal detention and torture by military intelligence,” October 8, 2012, https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/AFR47/004/2012/en/ (accessed September 27, 2017), pp. 22-23.

[267] BBC, “Arrested brother of Rwanda ex-army chief ‘alive’”, August 23, 2010, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11064408 (accessed September 28, 2017).

[268] Amnesty International, “Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy,” p. 23.

[269] Human Rights Watch interview with former detainee, Kigali, May 24, 2012.

[270] Plaxeda Rugumba vs. The Secretary General of East African Community and The Attorney General of the Republic of Rwanda, East African Court of Justice, December 1, 2011, Case No. 8 of 2010.

[271] Plaxeda Rugumba vs. and The Attorney General of the Republic of Rwanda, East African Court of Justice (Appellate Division), Case No. 1 of 2012, June 22, 2012.

[272] “Rugigana Ngabo trial opens in substance,” Ministry of Defence new release, no date, http://mod.gov.rw/news-detail/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=742&cHash=3d1cce8e... (accessed September 28, 2017).

[273] Human Rights Watch interview with individual present at trial of Rugigana Ngabo, Kigali, August 3, 2012.

[274] Bosco Asiimwe, “Military court hands nine years to Rugigana,” The New Times, July 26, 2012, http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/article/2012-07-26/55495/ (accessed September 28, 2017).

[275] United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, adopted December 18, 1992, G.A. res. 47/133, 47 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 49) at 207, U.N. Doc. A/47/49 (1992), Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome Statute), A/CONF.183/9, July 17, 1998, entered into force July 1, 2002, art. 7.

[276] Ibid., art. 2.

[277] Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Rwanda.”

[278] See International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Henckaerts & Doswald-Beck, eds., Customary International Humanitarian Law (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press 2005), rule 98.

[279] United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

[280] Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, “General Comment on Enforced Disappearance as a Continuous Crime,” A/HRC/16/48 (2010).

[281] Human Rights Committee, “Concluding observations on the fourth periodic report of Rwanda,” paras. 19 and 20; Committee Against Torture, “Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention, Concluding observations of the Committee Against Torture, Rwanda,” paras. 10 and 11.

[282] Human Rights Council, “Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Rwanda.”

Author: Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

Rwanda’s military has routinely unlawfully detained and tortured detainees with beatings, asphyxiations, mock executions and electric shocks.

Human Rights Watch has documented unlawful detention in military camps and widespread and systematic torture by the military.

Judges and prosecutors ignored complaints from current and former detainees about the unlawful detention and ill-treatment, creating an environment of total impunity.

Rwandan authorities and United Nations bodies should investigate immediately.

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

(Berlin) – Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) arbitrarily detained a Ukrainian woman, held her incommunicado, and tortured her, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities charged the woman, Daria Mastikasheva, with treason, and a court in Dnipro has ordered her pretrial detention pending investigation.

Mastikasheva, 29, a Ukrainian citizen living in Moscow, was visiting her mother and her 10-year-old son in the town of Kamenskoye, in the Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine. On August 15, 2017, the security services abducted her and held her incommunicado for two days. On August 17, the SBU head, Vasili Gritsak, told the media, that the SBU had opened a criminal investigation and charged Mastikasheva with treason and illegal use of weapons.

“Ukrainian authorities should immediately investigate the allegations that Mastikasheva was unlawfully detained and tortured,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Ukraine has a record of torture and other ill-treatment in custody compounded by virtual impunity for such abuse.”

Daria Mastikasheva on August 17, 2017.© 2017 Private

Mastikasheva’s mother told Human Rights Watch that Mastikasheva was planning to catch a bus on August 15 to return to Russia. Mastikasheva’s lawyer said she told him that she was in her own car at about 2 p.m. when two black cars blocked the way. Four armed men in black face masks jumped out, yelling “police” and “SBU” and hitting her car with their weapons.

They dragged Mastikasheva out of her car, pushed her to the ground, handcuffed her, put a mask over her head and pushed her into one of their vehicles. Then, the lawyer said, the men began to punch her in her stomach, chest, and head. When she asked what they wanted, they said she would find out soon.

The lawyer said that the men drove for several hours, then took Mastikasheva to the basement of an apparently abandoned building where they removed the mask, and she saw more SBU officers. She said she was held there overnight, and repeatedly tortured. She told the lawyer that the agents repeatedly put a plastic bag over her head, cutting off the air until she passed out. They ordered her to read a script on camera. She refused several times, she said, but agreed when the men threatened to hurt her mother and son.

The men gave her a text to memorize for the camera, which said that she was an agent of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and had travelled to Ukraine to recruit veterans of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine to commit terrorist attacks in Russia, which the FSB would blame on the Ukrainian government. The head of the SBU later showed this video at the news conference on August 17.

Mastikasheva told her lawyer that on August 16, her captors put her in a car and drove her to the SBU headquarters in Dnipro, the administrative center of the Dnipropetrovsk region. They held her at the SBU headquarters for several hours and then took her to a place where her car was parked. The men searched the car and found grenades, explosives, detonators, maps of Russian towns and other documents and memory sticks that did not belong to her and had not been there when she was forced out of it earlier. They took her back to their Dnipro headquarters, holding her overnight in the pretrial detention facility.

On the evening of August 17, the SBU investigators questioned her in the presence of a lawyer for the first time. Her current lawyer said that during the interrogation, Mastikasheva retracted her confession and said that she had only made it under torture and when the agents threatened violence against her family.

On August 18, a Dnipro court ordered Mastikasheva detained until October 16, pending the investigation.

Mastikasheva’s mother said that she did not know her daughter’s whereabouts for almost two days despite repeated phone calls and visits to local law-enforcement agencies. She said that around midnight on August 16, several SBU officials came to search her country house. She asked to see a search warrant but they refused to show it. The SBU searched the house until 3:30 a.m., then left, having asked Mastikasheva’s mother to hand over her savings to them.

Mastikasheva’s mother saw her daughter for the first time in the morning of August 17, when the SBU took Mastikasheva to a Dnipro hospital for a forensic evaluation. The evaluation, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, stated that Mastikasheva’s injuries were minor and sustained a couple of days before her detention by the SBU, which they only acknowledged on August 17.

Mastikasheva’s mother said she saw her daughter very briefly, but took a photo of her with her mobile phone, which Human Rights Watch saw. The photo shows bruises and abrasions on her face. Her right eye is bruised, swollen, and completely shut. Her mother said that she also saw bruising on her daughter’s neck and arms, and that she could not walk independently and had to be assisted by SBU officers.

Mastikasheva’s current lawyer, who started working on her case on August 28, told Human Rights Watch that her first lawyer quit after he allegedly began receiving threats from the SBU.

He also said Mastikasheva, despite her repeated requests, had not received medical attention for her injuries and continues to feel unwell.

The lawyer said that the SBU also detained a man, Aleksandr Korotai, accusing him of helping Mastikasheva recruit Ukrainian war veterans for the FSB. The lawyer said that Korotai was also tortured and forced to give a false confession.

Torture and inhuman or degrading treatment of people in custody is absolutely prohibited under international law, and countries have an obligation to prosecute those responsible.

In 2016, Human Rights Watch, together with Amnesty International, documented that both the Ukrainian government authorities and Russia-backed armed groups in eastern Ukraine held civilians in prolonged, arbitrary detention, without contact with the outside world, including their lawyers and families. Human Rights Watch documented several cases that confirmed the secret detentions and torture of civilians in Ukraine security service custody. In some cases, the detentions constituted enforced disappearances, because the authorities refused to acknowledge the person was being held, or refused to provide any information on their whereabouts or fate.

Most of those detained suffered torture or other ill-treatment. Several were denied needed medical attention for resulting injuries. Human Rights Watch has not been able to identify any meaningful efforts to investigate the documented abuses and bring those responsible to justice.

A June 2016 report by the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine noted that the cases of incommunicado detention and torture in Ukraine brought to their attention in late 2015 and early 2016 “mostly implicate SBU.”

“By grabbing civilians, disappearing, and torturing them, the SBU and other law enforcement authorities in Ukraine demonstrate appalling disregard for the rule of law,” Williamson said. “Mastikasheva’s horrific ordeal in SBU custody makes clear that civilians are being denied the most basic human rights protections and remain vulnerable to severe abuse.”

Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am

An Egyptian activist holds a poster calling for justice in the case of Giulio Regeni in Cairo, Egypt, April 15, 2016. 

REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Tomorrow, the new Italian ambassador will take up office in Cairo, almost a year-and-a-half after Italy recalled its former emissary in protest over Egypt’s “unsatisfactory” investigation into the February 2016 torture and murder of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni, allegedly at the hands of Egyptian security forces.

Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, defending the decision to normalize relations, said Egypt was “an unavoidable partner” with whom it was “impossible not to have high-level political and diplomatic relations.” Regeni’s parents called the move a “dressed-up surrender.”  

The parents’ wish to know the truth about what happened to their son – whose tortured body was found on a desert roadside in Cairo – and bring his murderers to justice is an all-too-familiar agony for many Egyptians. Last week, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting widespread and systematic torture by Egyptian security forces, including beatings, electric shocks, stress positions, and sometimes rape. The country’s torture epidemic, matched by near total impunity for perpetrators, is a potential crime against humanity.

Alfano insists Italian authorities will not give up the quest for truth in the Regeni case, and that they are planning ways to commemorate the young researcher. But memorials and ceremonies are not what his family, or country, expect. Italy and its new ambassador should, first and foremost, redouble their efforts to secure a transparent and effective investigation in Regeni’s case and ensure that his torturers face justice. Secondly, they should work with European allies to press Egypt to end torture and enforced disappearances and ensure accountability. For example pressing Egypt to create a special independent prosecutor to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture. It also includes supporting United Nations experts on torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances to access Egypt.  

The best way to honor Giulio Regeni’s memory is to pursue justice for his murder, and not to forget the Egyptians who share the same fate. 

Author: Human Rights Watch
Posted: January 1, 1970, 12:00 am