U.N. torture watchdog ends trip to Rwanda, citing obstruction

KIGALI (Reuters) - The U.N. subcommittee on torture prevention has suspended a visit to Rwanda, citing obstructions imposed by the government that compromised its fact-finding mission.

Rwandan authorities barred the U.N. delegation from accessing some detention sites and made it impossible for them to conduct “private and confidential interviews”, a statement from the U.N. body published on Friday said.

The body said it was only the third time in 10 years it had suspended a mission. It called on Rwanda to cooperate with the body and “abide by its international obligations”.

The incident further mars the human rights record of the government led by President Paul Kagame, which faces mounting criticism for what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, a muzzling of independent media, and suppression of political opposition.

The U.N. body said the people the group interviewed before suspending its seven-day mission said they feared reprisals. “We must not place the persons that have cooperated with us in danger,” it said.

The Rwandan authorities were not immediately available for a comment, but it has denied accusations of unlawful detention and torture documented most recently by Human Rights Watch in a report published this month. The report said the government routinely tortured detainees with beatings, asphyxiations, mock executions and electric shocks.

A prominent critic of Rwandan president who was barred from running for presidency, Diane Shima Rwigara, was detained in Kigali in September and faces charges of forgery of electoral documents and inciting insurrection.

She said in court last week said that her family and supporters were subjected to torture. Judges have said they will rule on her bail request on Monday.

Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Editing by Maggie Fick and Stephen Powell