Takeover of human rights NGO: a weapon in the arsenal of Rwanda’s Government

August 22, 2013

Repressive governments are using different and increasingly ‘indirect’ means to silence human rights defenders.  Intimidation, administrative restrictions, fiscal regulations aimed at reducing funding, terminating rental agreements,  judicial harassment, etc.  According to a report by Human Rights Watch of 14 August 2013, Rwanda is practicing a slightly different tactic: wholesale infiltration and ‘take over’ of independent NGOs.HRW_logo

HRW states that “Rwanda’s domestic human rights movement has been almost destroyed by a combination of state intimidation, threats, manipulation, infiltration, and administrative obstacles. Most leading human rights activists have fled the country. The government’s actions to silence human rights groups are part of a broader pattern of intolerance of criticism, which extends to independent journalists and opposition parties.”

In July 2013 the leadership of the Rwandan League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights [LIPRODHOR] was ousted because of its independent stance. People believed to be favorable to the government have taken over the organization in what has become a typical state tactic to silence human rights defenders. LIPRODHOR, is the country’s last effective human rights group. On July 21, 2013, a small number of members organized a meeting which voted in a new board and 3 days later the Rwanda Governance Board – the state body with oversight of national nongovernmental groups – wrote a letter to the organization taking note of the decision and recognizing the new board.

The report by HRW explains in more detail how the action violated the organization’s own rules and the national law on nongovernmental organizations and how LIPRODHOR was pressurised in the past. In the meantime, “International actors should condemn this blatant hijacking of Rwanda’s last independent group that exposes human rights abuses,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “If LIPRODHOR is silenced, it will be a big loss for all Rwandans.”

via Rwanda: Takeover of Rights Group | Human Rights Watch

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