Home Op-ed HRW latest report reflects an obvious goal: to weaponize Mihigo’s death

HRW latest report reflects an obvious goal: to weaponize Mihigo’s death

By Alex Muhumuza

Human Rights Watch, run by Ken Roth since 1993, is out with a report full of allegations and assertions with the single intention of weaponizing the suicide of Kizito Mihigo.

The suicide of singer Kizito Mihigo is turning out to be quite a blessing for different groups or individuals with political, or other agendas against the Government of Rwanda. One of these of course is Human Rights Watch, which has long made it a habit to level charges or accusations against the Rwandan leadership that never stand the slightest scrutiny.

And so they (HRW) are at it again, this time with a report spuriously titled, “Kizito Mihigo Execution: 6 Months on, No Justice.”

Notice how the so-called defender of human rights arrogates itself the right to be the jury and judge, terming as “an execution” a death that Rwandan authorities investigated, and determined was a suicide?

That’s Human Rights Watch for you. They will say anything they please against “leaders from the Third World”, especially the African head of state that, for reasons best known to their monarch of 27 years – Ken Roth – have provoked their unending ire.

Anyone that is well informed about Mihigo’s demise; anyone that is not motivated by some political or personal reasons against Rwanda is under no doubt that the singer killed himself. There was no reason to doubt it when, on 17 February earlier this year, Rwanda Police announced that Mihigo had been found dead in his cell at Remera Police Station.

The authorities had no reason to lie. If Rwanda for instance were some kind of lawless state – as HRW likes to pretend it is – why would they go to the trouble of releasing Mihigo from prison, so as to “execute” him in a police cell? Mihigo was serving a ten-year prison term when the President granted him clemency after serving four.

Rwanda has arrested many self-declared enemies of the state: the Callixte Nsabimanas, LaForge Bazeyes, Abegas, Mushayidis, Habibs, and others. Upon arrest all these people had their day in court, got a fair trial, and are serving their sentences. When residents in Nyaruguru District arrested Mihigo, on 13 February, no one mistreated him. The residents handed him to the authorities, who detained him at Remera Police, to prepare a file to advance to prosecution.

In other words, due legal process was underway when a few days later Mihigo killed himself. The truth of the singer’s death is contained in the medical autopsy’s report of 26 February. “The cause of death was asphyxia, hypoxia, most probably from hanging,” it said. The National Public Prosecution Authority then issued a communiqué: “The report includes an analysis of the scene of the incident, a post-mortem examination by the Rwanda Forensic Laboratory, and a statement from witnesses.

NPPA also disclosed that Mihigo’s family was shown the contents of the autopsy report.

Prosecution then concluded that no further investigation would be carried out.

But here we are, six months later, with Human Rights Watch proclaiming “Rwandan authorities have not conducted ‘a credible and transparent investigation’ into ‘the suspicious death in custody’ of Kizito Mihigo, a well known singer.’”

This statement amazingly conveys two things. First is the insolence of groups like HRW – self-appointed watchdogs of Western values that bludgeon, as they please, governments of the poorer countries – obvious in the casual dismissal of the work, and communications of Rwandan state institutions. Moreover, regarding the death of a Rwandan citizen.

Secondly, with that statement Human Rights Watch has shown that the death of Mihigo is one it is turning into another weapon in its constant, vendetta-like targeting of the Rwandan administration, whether on not that is what it intended to convey.

But, to get back to the claim that Mihigo was “executed” (normally the kind of talk expected from deranged conspiracy nuts, not a so-called international rights group) what reasons does HRW give for that?

The first hinges on the assertion that “Rwandan authorities did not conduct ‘a credible investigation’”.

Parse that for a second. The facts show Rwandan authorities did indeed conduct a credible investigation. They saw the body, and announced it the very morning they saw it. The body then was taken to hospital, examined by medical professionals, who then wrote an autopsy reflective of their findings. The authorities then communicated these results to relatives of the deceased, before calling the media to make them public.

So what is HRW’s problem? That Kigali did not first contact them? That it didn’t invite HRW to rush to the death scene? Or that Rwanda did not invite American law enforcement, which presumably would make HRW happy?

HRW, perhaps aware of how nonsensical their claims might appear, then injects in a smoke and mirrors assertion that “Rwanda should have allowed an independent body ‘to carry out an impartial, thorough, and transparent investigation’”.

An “independent body” like which one though? And why would there be need for one if competent Rwandan law enforcement, medical, and judicial authorities did their work and communicated their findings?

One can think of no reason behind this demand beyond insolence, and the determination to weaponize Mihigo’s death for political ends.

Also, to proclaim a death “an execution”, beforehand, then turn around to demand an investigation is very revelatory of the mindset with which they’ve written their report. The truth, or the facts about Mihigo’s death is not their motivation. Propaganda is.

Everything in the so-called report is tendentious, including high-sounding legalistic claims about something called “the Minnesota Protocol” that, they say, “in some circumstances provide that states have a duty to cooperate internationally in investigations of potentially unlawful death.” HRW doesn’t say who it might have been that “requested cooperation” from Rwanda, and if so, whether Rwanda refused to cooperate with who that might be.

HRW’s latest diatribe against Rwanda is a litany of accusations against several officials in Rwanda’s leadership structure that one normally finds on the websites of apologists of the 94 Genocide Against the Tutsi, or deniers and trivializers of the same. These groups, many of them based in Europe or North America, have jumped on Mihigo’s death – as they do even when a goat dies in Rwanda – to shout, “murder!”

That is in line with their mission in life, which is to utter, write, or concoct any slander, however deranged, with the hope of discrediting Kigali.

HRW is in lockstep with them.

There is its first smear, that Mihigo was “executed”.

Then another, that “Mihigo was held incommunicado after arrest.” His own family members have debunked this particular falsehood, saying for the record they visited him a number of times at Remera Police.

There also is the dubious claim that “before Mihigo went to prison, he was made to attend a meeting with several high profile officials to inform him ‘the President wasn’t happy with him!’” Makes one wonder: who are these alleged high-ranking officials that have nothing to do but convene a meeting with a singer to tell him of the President’s unhappiness?

The HRW people are really amazing in regurgitating things they pick from groups like Jambo asbl – a Brussels-based association of offspring of some of the biggest perpetrators of the Genocide Against the Tutsi – whose mission unsurprisingly is to attempt to sanitize their genocidaire parents, while tarnishing Rwanda. 

When it comes to HRW’s stance on Rwanda, it has become difficult to distinguish it from Jambo asbl.

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