By Patience Kirabo
Relatives of Silas Hategekimana, one of the many Rwandan victims of illegal incarceration, mistreatment, and torture at the hands of Ugandan intelligence agencies, intends to pursue a lawsuit against the Ugandan Government. Hategekimana died in Rwanda. That was a few days after the Ugandan authorities dumped him and some other Rwandans at Gatuna Border Post.
The late Hategekimana and the others, upon stepping on Rwandan soil, revealed that their dumping followed a period of torture while illegally incarcerated in the dungeons of Mbuya Military Barracks in Kampala, headquarters of Ugandan Military Intelligence (CMI). Operatives of CMI abducted the Rwandan on 25 May last year, illegally detained, and tortured him up to a month.
His aggrieved relatives have disclosed they intend to pursue the case, filed at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) against the Uganda Government by the late Hategekimana before he passed away – only a couple of weeks after returning home. They demand justice and reparations for his arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and torture that subsequently led to his death.
“They damaged his internal organs, which caused his death,” said Nyirahabimana, the victim’s widow.
Before his death in August 2019, Hategekimana and a group of eight other Rwandan victims had filed a lawsuit against the Ugandan Government at the EACJ’s Kimihurura (Kigali) sub-registry seeking compensation for arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and torture by Ugandan security organs.
The case, now registered and pending under reference No 18 of 2019, of Izere Jean Luc and eight others v The Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda, the applicants stated that they were wrongfully arrested, detained and tortured by the Respondents’ agents, and were illegally deported and dumped at different border posts with Rwanda. They asserted that the arbitrary arrests and torture done to them by the Respondent’s security agencies caused them to endure and suffer physical injuries, permanent disabilities, and some developed terminal diseases.
“The said acts are an infringement and in contravention of Articles 5, 6, 7, 27, 30, 71(1)(d)(e)(f)(p)(2), 74, 76, and 104 of the EAC Treaty. The same acts that Hategekimana succumbed to as a result of injuries merely days after filing this lawsuit,” the suit reads.
A tearful Nyirahabimana, the wife of the deceased Hategekimana said: “My husband and I lived in Uganda since 2009 and we never broke any laws. We were in Uganda legally, and my husband did business lawfully there. It was so shocking to hear accusations against him of ‘spy for Rwanda’!” Hategekimana who also was a devoted Christian and a regular churchgoer regularly helped out in his congregation.
“All he did was preach the gospel and run our motorcycle business to feed our family,” his widow says. “He never involved himself in politics and never had an interest in it.”
A lot of Rwandans in Uganda have been arrested on charges of “spying.” However, “there are never any trials to give them a chance to defend themselves in court,” remarked Eron Kiiza, a lead attorney of many Rwandan nationals that have found themselves behind bars with no legal procedure at all.
Nyirahabimana expresses gratitude that the Rwandan government never abandoned them even in their time of need. “They have constantly been there mostly when I needed them. They brought me closure and answers to my children’s unending questions.” But the mother of three, and grandmother of two, is very determined in her quest to bring her husband justice and compensation.
The Rwandan government has formally (in a letter) requested Uganda to initiate criminal investigations into events prior to its citizen’s dumping at the border and subsequently death. In that letter, addressed to Uganda’s Attorney General William Byaruhanga, Rwanda’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye, said Silas Hategekimana died as a result of injuries of torture that he suffered while in illegal detention.
“I am in receipt of a demand, hereto attached, dated 10/09/2019 for an investigation into alleged torture, in Uganda, of one Mr. Hategekimana Silas, a Rwandan citizen, that resulted into his death,” reads part of Minister Busingye’s letter. It adds that a post-mortem report pointed to a “fractured rib and a lung abrasion.”
The letter continued: “an autopsy carried out later reported that Hategekimana had a 5th right rib fracture and right lung abrasion. There was also the presence of a right kidney laceration and a punctured spleen wound with mild old hemoperitoneum.”
According to the letter, the report, signed by five experts including two pathologists, describes the manner of Hategekimana’s death as “unnatural”, stating the cause as “severe chest and abdominal blunt trauma.”