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Amnesty International Criticizes "Government-Orchestrated
Crackdown" on Political Opposition
 
April 23, 2003
Posted to the web April 23, 2003

NAIROBI, 23 April (IRIN) - The London-based human rights organisation
 Amnesty International (AI) criticized the Rwandan government on
Tuesday for what it said appeared to be a "government-orchestrated
crackdown on the political opposition", ahead of presidential and
parliamentary elections due to be held later in 2003. The Rwandan
government has rejected the allegation.
 
The criticism by AI follows a 15 April vote by the Rwandan parliament
to dissolve the Movement democratique republicain (MDR) after it was
accused in a parliamentary commission report of propagating a
"divisive" ideology. The report named 47 individuals, including two
government ministers and five Members of Parliament (MP) in the
transitional national assembly. The MDR party is one of eight parties in
Rwanda's government of national unity.
 
"The recent purge of MDR party members and alleged supporters prior
to a scheduled May constitutional referendum along with the August
presidential and October parliamentary elections, is a blatant
infringement of these individuals' human rights," AI said.
 
Rwandan government spokesman Joseph Bideri said on Wednesday the
vote to ban the MDR was purely a parliamentary affair and had nothing
 to do with the government.
"The government of Rwanda does not interfere in the work of
parliament," he said. "Parliament carried out its own investigations and
a commission made its recommendations. Even the prime minister,
Bernard Makuza, who is a very prominent MDR member, suggested
that the MDR should be proscribed."
 
Bideri said the investigation had been a very transparent process and
had been followed openly on television and radio.
AI called on the government to ensure the security of all people
mentioned in the report, saying that several, including MP Leonard
Hitimana, had "disappeared" since 1 April and that others had fled the
country.
"The parliament's action endangers the lives and well-being of all
those named in the report," the organisation said.
Bideri said certain individuals decided to leave the country once they
knew that they were under investigation. But he said others
mentioned in the report had felt no need to leave and remained in
Rwanda.
"We are not talking about disappearances" he said.