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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Diane Taylor

Rwanda denies entry to senior human rights researcher

Two people holding up a black banner with no Rwanda written on top in red and white
Clementine de Montjoye had travelled to Rwanda for meetings with officials from foreign embassies but was told when she arrived that she was ‘not welcome in Rwanda’. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/Epa

The Rwandan government has barred a senior human rights researcher from entering the country, prompting accusations that officials are seeking to dodge independent scrutiny just weeks before the UK government is due to send asylum seekers there for the first time.

Rwandan immigration authorities denied entry to Clementine de Montjoye, a senior researcher in Human Rights Watch’s Africa division, when she arrived at Kigali International Airport on 13 May.

The east African government has defended its actions by accusing Human Rights Watch (HRW), which works in more than 90 countries, of fabricating its research.

De Montjoye had travelled for meetings with officials from foreign embassies but was told when she arrived that she was “not welcome in Rwanda” for undisclosed “immigration reasons”. Kenya Airways was instructed to ensure her removal from the country.

Tirana Hassan, executive director at HRW, condemned the Rwandan government’s actions.

“Rwanda touts itself as an open and welcoming destination, but the treatment reserved for those who may investigate abuse exposes the government’s deep-seated hostility to human rights monitoring and independent scrutiny of any kind,” she said.

“It is a brazen attempt to muzzle reporting on Rwanda’s compliance with its international human rights obligations.”

De Montjoye, a French-British national, had informed the Rwandan government of her travel plans and sent meeting requests to the Justice Ministry, HRW’s interlocutor in the Rwandan government, on 29 April and 7 May, but did not receive a response.

Her entry ban follows the publication of a recent HRW report documenting Rwanda’s systematic targeting of critics and dissidents beyond its borders.

HRW said De Montjoye’s case raises renewed questions about the UK’s Rwanda scheme.

On Saturday evening the Rwandan government issued a statement on X saying the researcher had been denied entry on immigration grounds and because “HRW has consistently fabricated reports and distorted the reality of Rwanda they can do so without forcing visits or being present in Rwanda”.

Toufique Hossain of Duncan Lewis solicitors, one of a team of lawyers challenging the UK’s Rwanda plans, said: “Human Rights Watch is a highly respected independent global organisation. The supreme court and organisations such as United Nations high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) have serious concerns about the safety and human rights record of Rwanda.

“No law passed by the UK government or treaty signed by it saying that Rwanda is safe changes that. It is concerning yet unsurprising to see that just weeks before the Home Office is due to send the first asylum seekers to Rwanda, its government is dodging independent scrutiny, barring entry to a researcher who wanted to investigate the state of human rights in the country.”

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