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Rwanda's 'J2' military intelligence used torture and secret detention - New report

Rwanda’s military intelligence department known as “J2” has illegally held scores of civilians in military detention without charge or trial and allegedly tortured them into making false confessions, Amnesty International said today in a new report. 

The 42-page report - “ Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy, Illegal Detention and Torture by Military Intelligence ” - reveals a pattern of unlawful detention, enforced disappearances, and a series of allegations of torture carried out by J2 operatives, including subjecting victims to electric shocks, severe beatings and sensory deprivation.

After conducting over 70 interviews, including with individuals previously detained by the military, family members of people disappeared and lawyers, Amnesty has documented 45 cases of unlawful detention and 18 allegations of torture or ill-treatment at Camp Kami, Mukamira military camp, and in safe houses in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Detention periods ranged from ten days to nine months without access to lawyers, doctors or family members. Most had been rounded-up by the military from March 2010 onwards after grenade attacks in Kigali, the departure of the former army chief Kayumba Nyamwasa, and in the run-up to the August 2010 presidential elections. Many of these detainees were later charged with threatening national security. 

Some of the detainees have stated in court that they had been tortured and coerced to confess. In violation of international law, judges typically asked them to prove torture, rather than ensuring that the allegations were investigated. The failure of judges to probe confessions that defendants claimed to have been coerced undermines the credibility of the Rwandan justice system, said Amnesty.

Meanwhile, two individuals - Robert Ndengeye Urayeneza and Sheikh Iddy Abbasi - are still missing since their enforced disappearance in March 2010.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Rwandan authorities have denied that cases of unlawful detention and torture have occurred. Rwanda’s Deputy Prosecutor General told Amnesty that “there is no torture in our country and we can’t investigate on a false allegation.” Amnesty said that the number of new cases has declined over the last year, but the Rwandan authorities’ failure to prosecute those responsible makes it likely that J2 could revert to these practices in response to actual or perceived security threats.

Amnesty International Acting Deputy Africa Director Sarah Jackson said:

“The Rwandan military’s human rights record abroad is increasingly scrutinised, but their unlawful detention and torture of civilians in Rwanda is shrouded in secrecy.

“Donors funding military training must suspend financial support to security forces involved in human rights violations.”

Generally, victims and even lawyers are afraid to raise allegations of unlawful detention and torture in Rwanda, fearful for their safety. One family took their case to the East African Court of Justice in Tanzania instead, with the court finding that the detention of Lieutenant Colonel Rugigana Ngabo, without trial or charge for five months, violated Rwanda’s international treaty obligations.

Following its obligation under the Convention against Torture, Rwanda has recently criminalised torture in its Penal Code and Amnesty noted that the Rwandan authorities have taken some positive steps to combat torture. These include agreeing to ratify the optional protocol to the torture convention and inviting the Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit Rwanda. However, no Rwandan official has yet committed to investigating the cases profiled in the Amnesty report.

Read the full report - Rwanda: Shrouded in Secrecy: Illegal Detention and Torture by Military Intelligence (PDF)

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