Rwanda human rights worry Amnesty

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The Independent Online
INTERNATIONAL efforts to prevent human rights violations in Rwanda are 'woefully inadequate', Amnesty International warned yesterday. It called for civilian police and military observers to be deployed in all districts of the country immediately.

A team from the human rights body, returning from an investigation into violations in Rwanda, concluded: 'It is scandalous that because of bureaucratic and political delay by governments, the unarmed observer component of the UN peace-keeping operation still is not fully deployed. Monitors alone cannot make the country safe, but their very presence can help build confidence and dissuade further human rights by government forces.

'Many villages in Rwanda are deserted, either because people living there were killed or had fled. The rumours that human rights violations are still taking place are creating a climate of fear that can only be dispelled if the truth is known.'

Some two million people had fled the country over fear of reprisals and arbitrary arrests; most witnesses of mass killings, torture and arrests had either escaped or were to frightened to speak. Amnesty welcomed a UN initiative to send further observers, bringing the total to 26. But it was not nearly enough.

'You need to have a visible presence in every one of the 70 districts in Rwanda,' said Nick Howen, Amnesty's legal director. 'This is something that must be implemented now. It cannot wait three to four months like other programmes have.'

Aid agencies were making desperate attempts yesterday to persuade Zaire to reconsider plans to close the frontier with Rwanda, halting the flood of Hutu refugees into the town of Bukavu.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Rwandan refugees were pouring over the border into Zaire at the rate of 30 a minute and might total 15,000 by the end of the day.

Abou Moussa, the UNHCR emergency co-ordinator, was in constant negotiations with the local governor and with Kinshasa to persuade them closure would be a mistake. He said: 'This was a decision taken unilaterally and without any co-ordination. We are continuing to negotiate and we are continuing to discuss.'

(Photograph omitted)