June 29, 2010

President Paul Kagame
Office of the President
BP 15
Urugwiro Village
Kigali, Rwanda
Fax: +250 572431

Police Commissioner Emmanuel Gasana

Commissioner General
Rwandan National Police
Kigali, Rwanda
Fax: +250 58 66 02

Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga

National Public Prosecution Authority
BP 1328
Kigali, Rwanda
Fax: +250 589 501

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the murder of journalist Jean Leonard Rugambage.

According to our information, shortly after 10:00 p.m. on June 24, 2010, Jean Leonard Rugambage, deputy editor of the banned newspaper Umuvugizi, was shot dead outside his home in Nyamirambo, a suburb of Kigali. His exiled Managing Editor-in-Chief, Jean-Bosco Gasasira, has stated that witnesses who heard the gunshots saw the unknown assailant drive away in a car. Police arrived at the scene soon afterwards, but Jean Leonard Rugambage was already dead. Police have confirmed that Jean Leonard Rugambage’s body remained at Kigali’s Police Hospital and would not be released for burial until a later date. Police investigations have been opened.

Prior to his murder, Jean Leonard Rugambage had been threatened and harassed, and it is believed that he was being targeted for an article he had published earlier on the day of his murder that alleged government involvement in the attempted assassination of Kayumba Nyamwasa, an exiled former Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army. In the days before his murder, Jean Leonard Rugambage had told colleagues that he felt that the surveillance on him had intensified.

In April 2010, the Rwandan High Media Council, a regulatory body aligned with the government, suspended Umuvugizi for six months alleging the paper had incited opposition to the government and divided the army. The High Media Council later started court proceedings to initiate a permanent ban against the newspaper. After the suspension, Umuvugizi continued to publish on its web site, launched in May, though it was not accessible from within Rwanda.

Over recent years, Rwandan journalists working for non-state media have frequently been threatened and physically assaulted. Criminal sanctions have also been used against them to stifle freedom of expression.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Jean Leonard Rugambage was targeted because of his legitimate journalistic work, in violation of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Rwanda is a signatory. We therefore urge authorities to ensure that any autopsy of his body is undertaken by independent medical experts, and that to establish an independent commission of inquiry into his murder and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to trial promptly and in accordance with international fair trial standards. Lastly, we call on the authorities to make public assurances that all Rwandan journalists can work freely, independently and with full protection from the state authorities.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                       
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                 

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador James Kimonyo
Embassy of Rwanda
1714 New Hampshire Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009
Fax: (202) 232-4544

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