HRW slams opposition attacks
Kigali - Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday condemned the harassment of political opposition figures in Rwanda, which holds presidential elections in August.
"Opposition party members are facing increasing threats, attacks, and harassment in advance of Rwanda's August 2010 presidential election," the New York-based rights group said in a statement.
The group urged the government to investigate all such incidents and to "ensure that opposition activists are able to go about their legitimate activities without fear".
"In the past week, members of the FDU-Inkingi and the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda - new opposition parties critical of government policies - have suffered serious incidents of intimidation by individuals and institutions close to the government and the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front," HRW said.
The group cited an incident in which FDU member Joseph Ntawangundi was attacked in front of a local government office.
"The attack appeared to have been well co-ordinated, suggesting it had been planned in advance," HRW said.
Ntawangundi has since been jailed after being sentenced in absentia in 2007 to 19 years by a gacaca court, one of the grassroots tribunals set up to try the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide.
"The Rwandan government already tightly controls political space," said Georgette Gagnon, Africa director at HRW.
"These incidents will further undermine democracy by discouraging any meaningful opposition in the elections," she warned.
President Paul Kagame, who has been in power since the end of the genocide, has been regularly accused of muzzling the opposition and is widely expected to seek and secure re-election in August.