Freedom House released its complete report on transnational repression Thursday where it accused Rwanda of being one of the worst offenders. Transnational repression is a phenomena where a country will suppress dissent and target dissidents outside of its borders. The report documented the anti-repression policies of nine countries: Canada, Germany, South Africa, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The report consists of a database of 735 public, direct, physical incidents of transnational repression that happened between January 1, 2014, and December 31, 2021. Freedom House stated that transnational repression has been a prominent part of President Paul Kagame’s regime since he and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) came to power in 1994. During the early days of the regime, an RPF colonel and a businessmen were killed in Kenya in 1996 and former interior minister Seth Sendashonga was shot to death in 1998. Subsequently, in 2010, General Kayumba Nyamwasa, ex-Rwandan military, survived an assassination attempt in South Africa, and in the same time frame, two Rwandan exiles in the United Kingdom were threatened by a government hitman.
The Freedom House’s special report on Transnational Repression in the United States accuses Rwanda of being among the worst perpetrators of “transnational repression” in the US. Rwanda is said to including stalk, harass and threaten exiles. The report also accuses the governments of Iran, China, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other states of aggressively disregarding US legislation to threaten, harass, surveil, stalk, and even plot to physically harm people across the country.
The report highlights one ignominious incident where Paul Rusesabagina, a US permanent resident and well-known Rwandan activist, was arrested in 2020 while he was travelling from the Middle East to Burundi where he landed in Rwanda instead. Later, Paul was convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 25 years in prison in a seriously flawed and highly politicized trial where he and his legal representative was refused access to evidence, and President Kagame publicly denounced him as a criminal. Carine Rusesabagina, Rusesabagina’s daughter, and other Rwandan dissidents were reported to have been monitored by Pegasus spyware.
Isabel Linzer, one of the report’s authors draws attention to Rwanda’s atrocities,
People often focus on Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and Russia, but Rwanda is one of the most prolific perpetrators of transnational repression in the world. And it certainly has not received the same level of scrutiny as some of those other countries. The asylum deal between the UK and Rwanda is quite shocking given how frequently the Rwandan government has gone after Rwandans in the UK and the British government is well aware of that.
The report concluded that federal law enforcement in the U.S is becoming increasingly conscious of transnational repression, as are efforts to track the problem and engage with diasporas. The FBI has put in place procedures to classify records of crimes reported to its National Threat Operations Center as incidents of transnational repression.