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Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 192nd session
(Quito, 27 March 2013)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Mr. Léonard Hitimana, who disappeared 10 years ago, on 7 April 2003, while he was a member of the Transitional National Assembly of Rwanda, which was dissolved on 22 August 2003, and to the resolution it adopted at its 190th session (April 2012); referring also to the report of the on-site mission carried out by the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians in June 2011 (CL/189/11(b)-R.3),

Recalling the following information on file:

  • Mr. Hitimana disappeared on the evening of 7 April 2003, the day before he was to have refuted accusations in parliament that his party, the Republican Democratic Movement (MDR), was fomenting ethnic strife and division; the MDR was to be banned and dissolved on the basis of those accusations;

  • The authorities have always maintained that Mr. Hitimana fled to a neighbouring country, that an Interpol yellow notice for missing persons was issued with special emphasis on neighbouring countries where the authorities believed Mr. Hitimana might be living, and that they were optimistic that he would soon be located; Mr. Hitimana nevertheless continues to be missing ten years after his disappearance; the authorities have stated on various occasions that Mr. Hitimana was not a key political figure and that it was therefore highly unlikely that he would have been the target of a forced disappearance; according to them, Mr. Hitimana's disappearance had nothing to do with his imminent statement in parliament; in past letters, the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament stated that both the Police and the National Human Rights Commission had looked into the sources’ allegations and concluded that they were unfounded and that they were unaware of any new evidence having emerged since the IPU mission carried out in June 2011;

  • The following picture has emerged from the information provided by various sources over the years of the alleged circumstances of Mr. Hitimana's disappearance:
    • According to eyewitness accounts, Mr. Hitimana’s car was intercepted late in the afternoon of 7 April 2003 by Rwandan Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) agents; the agents are alleged to have taken Mr. Hitimana to Kami military camp, where, on the orders of superiors, he was tortured and killed in May 2003 by Mr. John Karangwa, who was Deputy Director of Counterintelligence at the time; Mr. Hitimana’s remains were then removed to an unknown destination; persons making their rounds at the Kaniga border post say they saw Mr. Hitimana’s car and that of the military; Mr. Hitimana’s car was allegedly moved by police or intelligence officers to Byumba, where it was apparently kept for a month; Mr. Hitimana’s representatives subsequently retrieved the car and were told by the police that it was in the condition in which they had found it close to the border with Uganda; according to the representatives, the car’s electrical cables had been cut, the key was no longer in the ignition and there were bloodstains on the front seat;
    • The suspected perpetrator, DMI officer John Karangwa, has been accused by non-governmental sources not only of having killed Mr. Hitimana but also of having abducted and executed, in April 2003, Mr. Augustin Cyiza, the Vice-President of Rwanda’s Supreme Court, the President of Rwanda’s Cassation Court and a founding member of two Rwandan human rights organizations;
    • The sources believe that Mr. Hitimana was abducted by the DMI in order to silence any opposition to the dissolution of his party;
    • In 2003, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment sent urgent appeals to the Rwandan Government regarding the arbitrary detention and alleged torture of detainees at Kami and other military camps; 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 about “the lack of information from the State party regarding the disappearance of Mr. Léonard Hitimana”;
    • According to the sources, Mr. Hitimana's family has been harassed, including his elderly father - now 87 years old - who was arrested, detained and finally declared innocent by a Gacaca court, only to be rearrested shortly thereafter, reportedly on the strength of “new information”, convicted and sentenced to a 15-year prison term for his involvement in the 1994 genocide; Mr. Hitimana senior remains in prison despite repeated requests that he be released on humanitarian grounds owing to his age and failing health,

Recalling that the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament, in their letter of 19 October 2012, stated that the investigations were ongoing but had achieved no results to date, that the Rwandan judicial system respects the rights of witnesses and ensures their protection and that videoconferencing is used in Rwanda when required for the purposes of an investigation,

Considering that, according to information provided by the sources in December 2012, Mr. Hitimana's disappearance had still not been seriously investigated and his father remains in prison,

  1. Is extremely concerned about Mr. Hitimana’s continued disappearance, ten years after he was last seen; considers that the lack of any serious investigation supports the long-standing accusation that he was the victim of an enforced disappearance; stresses that Mr. Hitimana was not a junior politician but played an important role in his party and that the fact that he was slated to speak in parliament the following day against the party’s dissolution in a pre-electoral context in which it was considered a serious contender constitutes a serious motive for the crime;

  2. Recalls that enforced disappearances are a serious human rights violation 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 parliament represents, as it can only encourage the repetition of such acts;

  3. Again urges the authorities to carry out an independent, prompt and effective investigation examining all lines of enquiry, including by questioning Mr. John Karangwa, Deputy Director of Counterintelligence at the time of Mr. Hitimana’s disappearance; recalls in this regard that the Minister of Justice pledged, during the Committee’s 2011 mission, that he would ensure that the investigation would also examine the possibility that Mr. Hitimana had been assassinated in Rwanda; is convinced that if new lines of inquiry are effectively followed, new evidence will soon emerge and looks forward to receiving information to this effect;

  4. Takes note of the authorities’ affirmation that the Rwandan judicial system guarantees witness protection and that videoconference means exist and are used to take the statements of witnesses located at a distance when necessary; recalls, however, that witness fear of reprisals and lack of effective protection were major obstacles encountered by the mission and affect the pursuit of justice; remains anxious, therefore, to know whether the planned witness protection law has been adopted and what practical steps have been taken as a result, and whether other initiatives have been taken to reassure potential witnesses in Rwanda that their safety will be fully guaranteed if they come forward; reaffirms its belief that the investigation would benefit from hearing any witnesses living abroad in their countries of residence, in particular by means of videoconferencing; repeats that it wishes to know whether the authorities have explored this possibility;

  5. Is dismayed that, contrary to what the mission was told, Mr. Hitimana’s father, who is over 80 years old and in poor health, has yet to be released on humanitarian grounds; urges the competent authorities to release him as a matter of urgency and to provide information on the measures taken to that end and the reasons why the release procedure has lasted almost two years, as this appears excessive, particularly considering the age and deteriorating health of Mr. Hitimana’s father and the risk that he may soon die in detention;

  6. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the parliamentary authorities, the Attorney General, the President of the Republic, and the sources;

  7. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and to report back to it in due course.
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