Rwandan government officials have dismissed as false a report released by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) which accuses security forces of executing at least 37 people over the past few months.
Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye said on Twitter that the report is ‘fake’.
The report alleges that 37 people were executed in the western part of the country, in extrajudicial killings over petty offences.
It is not the first time the New York-based rights body has released a report that upsets Rwandan authorities, with the latest coming just a day before presidential election campaigns kick off.
The report which contains names, pictures and national identity cards of people allegedly killed in recent months has angered Kigali but the HRW says it sought government responses on the killings from concerned institution and received no response.
The 40-page report titled “All Thieves Must Be Killed: Extrajudicial Executions in Western Rwanda,” alleges that the security forces “summarily killed at least 37 suspected petty offenders and forcibly disappeared four others since April 2016” suspected of petty crimes “such as stealing bananas, a cow, or a motorcycle. Others were suspected of smuggling marijuana, illegally crossing the border from the DR Congo, or of using illegal fishing nets,” the rights body says.
“My response to @HRW report: It is clearly fake. HRW is desperate for attention. They have been duped, yet again,” Mr Busingye tweeted. “It’s high time these organisations became professional or quit human rights business.”
The HRW senior director for Africa Daniel Bekele says the Rwandan government should halt the killings and allow due process by bringing the suspects to justice.
The London-based organisation urged Kigali to initiate open up political space, allow genuine debate and diverse opinions.
The head of Rwanda Governance Board Prof Anastase Shyaka said that Amnesty International and other rights groups continue to ‘recycle’ the same biased reports ‘for decades’, using Rwanda to justify their relevance.
Rwandans vote on August 4, with President Kagame facing off with Frank Habineza of the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda and independent candidate Philippe Mpayimana.