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Resolution unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 186th session
(Bangkok, 1 April 2010)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Mr. Léonard Hitimana, a member of the Transitional National Assembly of Rwanda dissolved on 22 August 2003, who disappeared in April 2003, as outlined in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/186/12(b)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 185th session (October 2009),

Taking into account the letter sent by the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of Rwanda of 15 January 2010 and the information provided by one of the sources,

Recalling that Mr. Hitimana disappeared in the evening of 7 April 2003, the day before he was to have refuted in parliament accusations that his party, the Republican Democratic Movement (MDR), was fomenting ethnic strife and division; the authorities have long stated their belief that Mr. Hitimana fled to a neighbouring country and were very optimistic that he would soon be located, which has not happened,

Considering that the sources have always believed that Mr. Hitimana was abducted by the Rwandan intelligence service (DMI) and that they have recently supplemented their account to the Committee regarding the circumstances of his disappearance:

  • The source affirms that from 2001 to April 2003 the MDR was harassed and demonized by the Rwandan authorities for fear of competing against the ruling Patriotic Rwanda Front in the run-up to the presidential and parliamentary elections; on 31 March 2003, President Kagame made a speech in Bwisige in which he said that he was going to dismiss the leaders opposed to his policy and crush those who thought that the elections would not produce the results he wanted and that his opponents, once hurt, would understand what they were doing; on 6 April 2003, the television and Radio Rwanda broadcast an announcement that President Kagame had asked the MDR President to resign from Government;

  • According to the source, the authorities set up a parliamentary committee to help expedite the dissolution of the MDR by claiming that it fomented ethic strife; in the afternoon of 7 April 2003 Mr. Hitimana, with two other MDR leaders, drafted the party's response to this parliamentary committee's report, which was due to be discussed the following day in parliament and which proposed dissolution of the MDR; according to one of the sources, around that time the DMI had Mr. Hitimana and his colleagues under surveillance; the MDR leaders had agreed that Mr. Hitimana, who had saved the lives of several Tutsis when working as a doctor at the time of the genocide and received a medal of merit for that, would take the floor in parliament to counter the allegations made in the report; later in the afternoon of 7 April, Mr. Hitimana was due to discuss the party’s written draft response with MDR colleague Isaie Mpayimana at his home; however, Mr. Hitimana never appeared; Mr. Mpayimana tried to contact him on his mobile telephone and, seeing that it no longer responded, feared the worst and fled the country; the following day, in the absence of Mr. Mpayimana and of Mr. Hitimana, who had the copy of the party’s response and had been entrusted with defending it, the other MDR parliamentarians were allegedly either humiliated or forced to agree with the recommendations of the parliamentary committee, which were subsequently adopted;

  • According to this source, witnesses saw that late in the afternoon of 7 April 2003, DMI officers intercepted Mr. Hitimana’s car in the street, closing it to the public, and took him to Kami military camp, where he was allegedly tortured and killed in May 2003 by a DMI officer named John Karangwa; his remains were then removed to an unknown destination; persons making their rounds at the Kaniga border post reportedly saw Mr. Hitimana’s car and that of the military; his car was moved by the police to its Byumba station, where it was kept for a month; Mr. Hitimana’s representatives subsequently retrieved the car and were told by the police that the car was in the state in which they had found it close to the border with Uganda; according to the representatives, the car’s electric cables had been cut, the key was no longer in the ignition and there were bloodstains on the front seat; they subsequently sold the car to a human rights organization called “Coforwa”,
Considering that human rights organizations have also accused John Karangwa of being responsible for the kidnapping and execution of Mr. Augustin Cyiza, Vice-President of the Supreme Court, President of the Cassation Court in Rwanda, and founding member of two Rwandan human rights organizations, who also disappeared in April 2003; considering furthermore that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture sent out urgent appeals in 2003 to the Rwandan Government regarding the arbitrary detention and alleged torture of detainees at Kami and other military camps, and that the use of military camps in Rwanda as secret detention facilities has been the subject of reports by the Special Rapporteur and human rights organizations, including Amnesty International; recalling that, at the hearing held with the Committee in October 2007, the President of the Senate said that no secret detention facilities existed in Rwanda,

Recalling that the United Nations Human Rights Committee, in its concluding observations (CCPR/C/RWA/CO/3) of 31 March 2009, expressed "concern about reported cases of enforced disappearances and summary or arbitrary executions in Rwanda and about the impunity apparently enjoyed by the police forces responsible for such violations", and "the lack of information from the State party regarding the disappearance of Mr. Léonard Hitimana"; it stated that "the State party should ensure that all allegations of such violations are investigated by an independent authority and that those responsible for such acts are prosecuted and duly punished.",

Considering that, in her latest communication, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies stated that in October 2009 the parliamentary committee on national unity, human rights and the fight against genocide had asked the National Human Rights Commission and the National Police about the status of the investigation, but that no developments had been reported; she affirmed that the National Police was continuing its investigation in cooperation with Interpol services in neighbouring countries,

Recalling the many reports concerning harassment of Mr. Hitimana's family, including his elderly father, who was arrested, detained and finally declared innocent by a Gacaca court, but nevertheless kept in detention, and only released 26 March 2007, after the Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission intervened, having considered his continuing detention to be arbitrary; that he was rearrested reportedly on the strength of “new information” brought to the attention of the Gacaca court; considering that, according to the latest information provided by the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Mr. Hitimana's father was convicted and sentenced to a 15-year prison term for his involvement in the 1994 genocide, and is being detained in the central prison of Muhanga,

  1. Is deeply disturbed that Mr. Hitimana increasingly appears to have been the victim of a forced disappearance and that no serious efforts seems to have been made to hold the perpetrator(s) to account;

  2. Considers that the wealth of information provided by the sources to show the circumstances of and explanation for his physical elimination contrasts sharply with the weak police reports and official thesis that, seven years after his disappearance, Mr. Hitimana is alive and living abroad; points out in this respect that Mr. Hitimana is not the only high-profile person critical of the authorities to have gone missing in 2003 and never reappeared;

  3. Is deeply concerned that the police reports on file do not show that the reported bloodstains in Mr. Hitamana’s car, which support the thesis that he was indeed taken by force, were ever investigated; considers that the information regarding the circumstances of Mr. Hitamana’s disappearance, the alleged place of his detention and execution, the state of his car and the identity of the presumed culprit have to be taken extremely seriously;

  4. Recalls that forced disappearances are a serious violation of human rights and that the forced disappearance of a member of parliament, if not elucidated and punished, stands as a threat to parliament as such, to all its members and in the final analysis to the people it represents, as it can only encourage the repetition of such acts;

  5. Urges the authorities to investigate these leads seriously forthwith; urges  the parliament to make use of its oversight function to ensure that real efforts are made to this end; and wishes to ascertain what action it will take to this end;

  6. Expresses its keen interest, in the light of the acquittal in 2007 by a Gacaca court of Mr. Hitimana’s father, his arbitrary detention thereafter, and his allegedly arbitrary second arrest, in ascertaining the legal basis of and facts adduced to substantiate his recent conviction; would appreciate therefore receiving a copy of the judgment against him;

  7. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the parliamentary authorities, to the President of the National Human Rights Commission, and to the source;

  8. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held on the occasion of the 123rd IPU Assembly (October 2010).
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