Rwanda / Burundi: an Independent Investigation Must Be Carried Out on the Bodies in Rweru Lake

09/10/2014
Press release
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Since July 2014, corpses of people who were probably executed were found in the Rweru Lake, at the boarder between Rwanda and Burundi. Our organizations are concerned by these macabre discoveries and call on the Rwandan and Burundian authorities to invite an international independent Commission of Inquiry to shed light on the identity, the origin and the circumstances in which these people were killed.

Since mid-July, the people living around the Rweru lake report having seen floating about forty naked bodies, tied up and/or enclosed in jute bags, giving reason to believe that they were tortured before being executed. On 25 August 2014, the Burundian and Rwandan authorities finally sent a joint fact-finding mission to the scene after having recovered - and immediately buried - four bodies, officially for sanitary reasons, without having conducted autopsies. According to testimonies gathered by human rights organizations and local and international media, these bodies were probably carried by the Akagera river coming from Rwanda.

The discovery of about 40 bodies these last 3 months is extremely worrying, and in the face of the failure of Rwanda-Burundi investigations, it must be investigated by an International independent commission capable of shedding light on the identity and the origin of the victims, and to identify the perpetrators of what appear to be executions declared Drissa Traoré, FIDH Vice-President.

Rwanda and Burundi declared having respectively led additional investigations. However, the spokesperson of the Burundian Ministry of Interior asserted on 24, September 2014 in international media that the investigation of the Burundian security forces was over. The spokesperson of the Rwandan police had already made similar statements, considering that his country did not need to investigate since nobody has disappeared in Rwanda. To date, the four recovered corpses could not be identified, and neither the precise provenance, nor the perpetrators and the circumstances of what appears to be extra-judicial killings are known. Two other bodies, recovered by the people living around the lake, have since then been thrown back into the lake, like the majority of the other spotted bodies.

The international commission of inquiry should include forensic experts who will be capable to establish in an independent manner the identity and the origin of these corpses. This will be decisive to stop this worrying phenomenon, whichever country these people were killed in declared Anschaire Nikoyagize, ITEKA President.

On 24 September, the spokesperson of the Burundian Ministry of Interior also declared that unknown persons had docked on the banks of the Rweru lake in Burundi, close to the place where the bodies had been buried. Disturbed by a guard, they abandoned in their flight tools and tarps, giving reason to believe that they wanted to dig out the bodies and make them disappear. Since then, the Burundian authorities have set up surveillance on the site.

Witnesses in Rwanda have claimed to have seen bodies drifting on the Akagera river, which would reinforce the presumptions that the bodies come from Rwanda. Without being able to link these phenomena with each other at this stage, the discovery of these bodies occurs at a time when the number of disappearances in Rwanda is drastically increasing declared Cyriaque Ndayisenga, LDGL President.

According to the information received by our organizations, dozens of people have disappeared in Rwanda since March 2014. A few people were arrested and are now subject to legal proceedings, while others are still missing.

Our organizations are concerned by these disappearances, and the difficulties that independent human rights organizations face when they operate and investigate in Rwanda. Since 21 July 2013, the Rwandan League for the promotion and defense of human rights (LIPRODHOR) is subject to an attempted takeover aiming its legitimate senior management, who are subject to legal proceedings preventing them from pursuing their normal activities and from expressing themselves.

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