Arusha, 29 December 2008 (FH) - The Rwandan government has admitted to have barred Human Rights Watch's Senior Adviser on Africa, Dr Alison Des Forges, from entering Rwanda as " an individual case", but did not state categorically for what reasons.

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The pro-government Rwanda Times quoted Rwanda's Director of Immigration and Emigration, Mr Anaclet Kalibata, as saying that Dr Des Forges case was "personal problem" and that it was different from making her organization's human right's work in Rwanda difficult. "It is true that we have barred her from entering, but it is an immigration issue... it has nothing to do with human rights, it is an individual case" claimed Mr Kalibata.

Kalibata added that Human Rights Watch has an office in Kigali that was still operating, which was a testimony that Rwanda has no problem with the organization's activities.

The Human Rights Watch last week called on the Rwandan government to reverse its decision over Dr Des Forges.

"Des Forges, who has been working to promote human rights in Rwanda for 17 years, won the prestigious MacArthur Award for her reporting on1994 genocide" wrote HRW. Dr Des Forges was author of a book titled: "Leave None to Tell the Story".

"A nation like Rwanda, which has seen such deadly violations of human rights, should show the world that it welcomes review of its record," said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

"We've asked Rwandan authorities why they have excluded this highly respected human rights advocate but haven't gotten any official response. Unofficially the only explanation we have been given is that they don't like our criticism."

The Rwandan government first refused Dr Des Forges entry at a border crossing with Burundi on September 4, 2008. She was refused a second time on December 2, when she flew to Rwanda to attend an international conference on legal aid for poor. On that occasion, Rwandan officials prevented her from leaving the plane and which forced her to return to Belgium.

On December 3, the Rwandan authorities delayed for a day another Human Rights Watch staff member at Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), border crossing. However, finally she received permission to enter Rwanda in the evening.

In addition to monitoring human rights, the US-based body has worked to see justice delivered on behalf of victims of 1994 genocide and of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which according to UN estimates ,claimed lives of about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Dr Des Forges has provided expert testimony in 11 genocide trials before the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), including that of Col. Theoneste Bagosora and two others found guilty on December 18. She has testified also in genocide trials in Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Canada.

On several occasions, most recently on December 12, Human Rights Watch called on ICTR Prosecutor to ensure it carried out its full mandate by examining alleged cases against the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), dominant force in the current Rwandan government.

In the past, staff members of other international organizations, journalists, and academic specialists thought to be critical of the government, have also been refused permission to enter or work in Rwanda.


© Hirondelle News Agency