Detained Since: September 22, 2017.
Charges: Forgery, sectarian practices, and inciting insurrection.
Biography: Diane Rwigara is an accountant, former presidential candidate, and activist. She is the daughter of Assinapol Rwigara, a key financial supporter of the Rwandan Patriotic Front who grew estranged from the party and died under suspicious circumstances in 2008.
In May 2017, Rwigara announced that she would run in the upcoming presidential election against President Kagame. Within 72 hours of this announcement alleged nude photos of Rwigara were posted on social media. The National Electoral Commission subsequently barred Rwigara from participating in the election, ruling that hundreds of signatures she submitted to validate her candidacy were forged. Within this same time period, the Rwandan Revenue Authority notified the Rwigara family they owed $6.7 million in taxes. As a result, the government closed the family tobacco business and froze their bank accounts. After her failed presidential bid, Rwigara started the People’s Salvation Movement to challenge the regime’s human rights record. In particular, she spoke out about suspicious murders of government critics.
On August 29, 2017, Rwigara and several family members were detained and interrogated by the police. Rwigara, her mother, and sister were officially arrested September 4 on a variety of tax and forgery offenses. Rwigara was also charged with using false documents during her presidential candidacy. The police claimed that the arrest was conducted because the women failed to respond to three separate summonses. The women were released from custody on September 5, but re-arrested on September 22, under new charges. Rwigara’s mother was charged with inciting insurrection and sectarian practices, while Rwigara’s sister was charged with inciting insurrection. Rwigara herself was charged with forgery, sectarian practices, and inciting insurrection.
Pre-trial hearings began on October 6, 2017 before the Nyarugenge Intermediate Court in Kigali. Some of the evidence presented against Rwigara are non-violent statements she made criticizing the government’s human rights record. Since Rwigara has been in prison there have been allegations of torture, denial of medical care, and prevention of family visits. On October 23, 2017, Rwigara’s sister, who is a U.S. citizen, was released.
On October 5, 2018, Rwigara and her mother were released on bail. However, their trial remains ongoing and their future is uncertain. A verdict is expected on December 6.
Diane Rwigara and her mother Adeline have been ACQUITTED OF ALL CHARGES.
Advocate: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR)
Advocacy Partner: Freedom Now
Diane Rwigara and her mother Adeline have been freed on bail. However, the charges against them have not been dropped and their future remains uncertain. (October 5, 2018, CNN)
The prosecution is seeking a 22-year prison sentence for Diane Rwigara for inciting insurrection and 15 years for inciting divisions for her mother. A verdict is expected on December 6. (November 7, 2018, CNN)
U.S. congressional lawmakers are pressing Rwanda's government against incarcerating dissident politician Diane Rwigara. (November 28, 2018, Voice of America)
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) gave a one-minute floor speech calling for justice for Diane Rwigara. (November 30, 2018, CSPAN)
A group of members of the U.S. Congress are calling on the Rwandan government to drop charges against Diane Rwigara. (December 4, 2018, CNN)
Rwanda’s high court acquitted Diane Rwigara of all charges against her, with the judge saying the prosecution failed to provide evidence of insurrection and forgery. Rwigara’s mother, Adeline, also was acquitted of inciting insurrection and promoting sectarianism. (December 6, 2018, Associated Press)