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Amnesty International wants halt to repatriation of Rwandan refugees

The Swiss branch of the human rights group, Amnesty International, has called for a halt to the repatriation of Rwandans living in Switzerland whose requests for asylum have been turned down.

The Swiss branch of the human rights group, Amnesty International, has called for a halt to the repatriation of Rwandans living in Switzerland whose requests for asylum have been turned down. The appeal is based on a damning report of conditions in Rwanda, compiled after a government decision in February to send the asylum-seekers home.

In a letter to the Swiss justice minister, Ruth Metzler, Amnesty is urging the government to double-check the cases of the 160 Rwandans affected. The secretary-general of Amnesty Switzerland, Frauke Lisa Seidensticker, called for "an end to Rwandans being forcibly repatriated against their own free will".

On February 7, the Federal Refugee Office changed its policy after re-evaluating the situation in Rwanda. The reassesment was based largely on a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which (UNHCR) which said Rwanda was safe enough for refugees to return.

However, Amnesty challenged that conclusion in its own study released on Wednesday. In a report entitled "Rwanda: The Troubled Course of Justice", the human rights group says that under the present Rwandan justice system around 125,000 people are being held in prisons, under inhumane conditions.

The report blames the justice authorities for keeping people locked-up "who had not been charged with an offence". The report does admit that the situation since the genocide in 1994 has improved, but disputes the accuracy of the UNHCR report, arguing that "Rwandan army troops were still committing atrocities in 1997 and 1998, well after the genocide."

Amnesty International in Switzerland now intends to use the report to try to stop the repatriation of the rejected asylum-seekers.

swissinfo with agencies




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