Shocking testimonies from victims of torture and unlawfully detainees in Rwanda

Oct 18th, 2017 at 17:34 | By | Category: News analysis, Top news

In its recent report published on 10 October 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) affirms to have documented 104 cases of illegally detained persons. A majority of the cases were tortured – beaten, electrocuted, mock of execution – in the Rwandan army’s detention centers between 2010 and 2016.

Most of the victims were arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu rebel group based in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some of the founding members of the FDLR are said to have participated in the genocide in Rwanda. Other victims were detained under the supposition that they were members of Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an opposition group in exile that the Rwandan regime has repeatedly accused of collaborating with the FDLR.

HRW carried out various interviews with different victims of torture and tried to describe their horrific experience. It is affirmed that when some detainees refused to confess to the suspected accusations, Rwanda Defense Forces (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. (Page 24 of the report)

For others, a few days after their arrival, the beatings and interrogations started; a man arrested in April 2014:

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.

A former detainee, who was arrested in March 2014,  described some of the torture methods while  speaking to HRW as follows:

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.

The main purpose of these illegal detention methods is to extort information from believed or suspected members or sympathizers of the FDLR and the RNC. 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 .

Rwandan authorities reject torture charges. Responding to the Human Rights Watch report, the Rwandan Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye said: “There is no truth in the report of Human Rights Watch. Rwanda is a signatory to and respects the Convention against Torture, as well as its own laws“.

In other recent reports, HRW has also accused Rwanda of rounding up thousands of street children and sex workers and putting them in illegal detention centers. The authorities in Rwanda have also denied these accusations. In recent years, there has been increasing criticism from human rights advocates regarding the Rwandan government and President Paul Kagame, who has been in power since 2000, for suffocating freedom of expression and lack of political openness in Rwanda.


Turinimana Gatsinzi Egide


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One Comment to “Shocking testimonies from victims of torture and unlawfully detainees in Rwanda”

  1. Prof Patt says:

    Torture is cruel and inhumane as well as being pointless and ineffective, and its victims experience long-term physical and psychological damage. In recent years, there have been solid efforts toward its elimination internationally. Country-by-country reports are posted at


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