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Rwanda: U.S. lawmaker seeks probe into human rights abuse

US congresman Chris Smith, chairman of Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee

US congresman Chris Smith, chairman of Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee

The chairman of a U.S. congressional subcommittee has called for a full investigation into the growing human rights abuse against civil society activists and political dissidents.

Chris Smith, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said an international team of investigators should be given “unfettered access” to government officials, logbooks and audio recordings to find out whether Rwandan death squads are killing dissidents.

“Otherwise I’d be concerned about a whitewash and more people dying,” said Mr. Smith, a New Jersey Republican who heads the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations.“I’m very worried that this is in escalation, not in decline,” Mr. Smith told a hearing into Rwandan human-rights abuses on Wednesday. “It just raises serious questions about how wide and how deep this will go, in terms of the killings.” “I think there are people very concerned within our U.S. Department of State … about these people who are turning up dead,” he told the subcommittee. “When you see a pattern, reasonable men and women say there’s a real problem here.”

A senior U.S. State Department official, Robert Jackson, testified that a wide range of Rwandans over the past year have “quietly reported the disappearance and suspected deaths of family members at the hands of the Rwandan security services.”

Willis Shalita, a Rwandan-American private investigator who testified to the subcommittee at the request of the Rwandan embassy, said the reports of government involvement in assassinations are “nothing but allegations.” But he said he agreed with Mr. Smith’s call for a full investigation. “All evidence should be brought in and verified,” he said.   Watch the entire hearing video here

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