Nine more Rwandans who say they were illegally detained in Uganda have filed a case in the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) against the government of Uganda seeking damages.
The nine, namely Pastor Jean de Dieu Singirankabo, Silas Hategekimana, Moses Gakwerere, Musa Rusa, Elia Munezero, Jean Luc Izere, Thomas Gatabazi, Charles Kubwimana and Victor Murenzi say they spent lengthy periods in Ugandan jails on accusations of espionage before being deported back to Rwanda.
They join the other three individuals who also petitioned the regional court in June, seeking compensation from the Ugandan government for illegal detention, torture and inhuman treatment.
They filed the case at EACJ’s Sub-Registry in Kigali on Tuesday.
Singirankabo, a Pastor under ADEPR Pentecostal Church International Uganda (PCIU), said that he was arrested in May alongside other members of the church and were subjected to torture and other forms of abuse before being dumped on the Rwandan border and told never to go back to Uganda.
“I had lived in Uganda for 13 years before they started arresting us, accusing us of being soldiers working for Rwandan intelligence organs. Arresting ADEPR members started around March, even though more Rwandans were being detained before. Some would be released and others kept in jail,”
“I was arrested in May with six other people at my home. They took us to a Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence facility. They later moved us to another location. We would not be able to see because we would be blindfolded before being moved,”
“We were taken to the CMI detention in Kireka and found many Rwandans there. They informed us once again that we are spies working for the Rwandan government and had intentions to overthrow the Ugandan government. They said I am a captain by rank. I told them I have never been a local defence guard but they were not buying any of that,” Singirankabo narrated to journalists.
After 21 days in detention, on June 12, Singirankabo and 19 others were handcuffed and transported to the Uganda-Rwanda border, near Nyagatare district and asked to cross over to ‘their country’ and never return to Uganda.
The individuals, who denied any links to intelligence organs, say they were subjected to torture and horrendous jail conditions in order to extract a confession from them –actions they say have Rwandan exiled groups such Rwanda National Congress involved.
The 9 people say they were all involved in religious-related activities, business or had visited relatives in Uganda before they were picked up by security operatives while others will be starting from scratch, having lost everything they had worked for in the East African country.
“We asked them the fate of our children, wives, properties and other assets we had in Uganda, they told us to go and marry other wives, produce more children. They said what we had in Uganda is now gone and should be forgotten,” Singirankabo said.
Musa Rusa, a veteran journalist and missionary, said that he was arrested in Rwentobo, Ntungamo district, as he returned from visiting an elderly relative on June 26.
The 64-year old, who has children studying in Uganda, was also accused of spying for the Rwandan government and transported to Kampala where he was held in CMI facilities for close to a month.
“When I got to Kampala, I found more Rwandans in jail. I was interrogated for many days and I think they eventually noticed that they were wrongfully accusing me and they released me along with others. Uganda is not safe for East African citizens,”
“What we want is for the regional court to ensure justice for us because our rights were violated in a neighbouring country, which goes against the East African Community protocols. We want justice to prevail,” he said.
Rusa said that he was quizzed on suspected connections with intelligence organs or other high ranking Rwandan officials but he stood his ground, refusing to admit to the false accusations.
The 9 individuals, who are represented by Lawyer Emmanuel Butare of MRB Attorneys, are appealing to the regional court to compel the Ugandan government to compensate them over the losses incurred and the bodily harm suffered under Ugandan security agencies.
In the case, Mr Butare argues that the rights of the individuals were violated. The senior lawyers cited articles in the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community and different EAC protocols as well as international treaties on human rights which were violated by Ugandan authorities.
The petition of the nine follows another case filed by renowned city lawyer Richard Mugisha of Trust Law Chambers in June, on behalf of Venant Hakolimana Musoni, 35, a teacher by profession, Eziekel Muhawenimana, 36, and his wife Esperance Dusabimana, 35, both farmers from Rubavu district in Western Rwanda.
The trio also say their human rights and other rights were violated by the Government of the Republic of Uganda in total disregard of its obligations under the Treaty establishing the East African Community and the Common Market Protocol.
Under the treaty, all Partner States have committed to Good governance, the rule of law and democracy. In addition, Partner States have undertaken not to discriminate against nationals of the other Partner States on grounds of nationality.
However, the Government of Rwanda has in the past couple of years formally complained to Uganda over hundreds of Rwandans it says are illegally detained by Ugandan authorities, mostly without trial, while dozens have also been illegally deported back to Rwanda, despite entering Uganda legally, according to authorities.
Rwanda also accuses Kampala of backing forces hostile to the Government of Rwanda, mainly the RNC, which Rwandan authorities say is recruiting and conducting operations aimed at destabilizing Rwanda, inside Uganda.