Rwanda: Takeover of Rights Group

Uhrra
By Uhrra August 14, 2013 22:10

Rwanda: Takeover of Rights Group

The leadership of the Rwandan League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights has been 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.

The organization, known as 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. The action violated the organization’s rules and the national law on nongovernmental organizations. Several members of the ousted board are known for their independence and courage in denouncing state abuses. On July 24, 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.

“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.”

Under Articles 3(7) and 12(3) of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance, which Rwanda has signed and ratified, citizens have a right to effective participation in the affairs of their country, and the state has a duty to “create conducive conditions for civil society organizations to exist and operate within the law.”

According to LIPRODHOR’s regulations and article 27 of the law on national nongovernmental organizations, any conflict that arises in the organization must first be referred to that organization’s internal conflict resolution organ. The organizers of the July 21 meeting bypassed this step. The newly elected president told Human Rights Watch that he had advised people at the meeting that they should go through the conflict resolution committee, but claimed that members at the meeting “did not think it would work.”

Several of the group’s members told Human Rights Watch that the July 21 meeting did not follow the usual procedures. They said that the organizers had called selected members but had not sent out a written notice. Key leaders of the organization, including the president, the vice-president, and the executive secretary, were not notified about the meeting.
The organization’s regulations specify that members should be notified in writing at least eight days before such a meeting. The ousted president told Human Rights Watch that neither he, nor his vice-president, nor the staff had seen any such letter, and that when they asked the meeting’s organizers for a copy, they failed to produce it. Human Rights Watch also asked one of the organizers for a copy, but he was unable to provide one.

Participants said the organizers presented the meeting as a “consultation” to review a July 3 decision by the board to withdraw from the Collective of Leagues and Organizations for the Defense of Human Rights in Rwanda (CLADHO), an umbrella body for human rights organizations. LIPRODHOR and two other member organizations of the umbrella group had withdrawn because of internal divisions, lack of support for member organizations, and disagreements over alleged irregularities in CLADHO’s board election.

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By Uhrra August 14, 2013 22:10

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