Human rights groups are calling on Rwanda’s government to institute thorough and independent investigation into the death of gospel musician, Kizito Mihigo.

The gospel music artist was found dead this week in a police cell, according to police officials.

Police officials also revealed that Mihigo was found dead just days after he was arrested near the border with Burundi.

The Musician was banned from leaving Rwanda but was accused of attempting to flee the country and join rebel groups fighting against Rwanda.

Police then arrested him and held him in detention before the latest incident of his death, which local media said was attributed to suicide.

Police explanation

Police spokesman JB Kabeera said in a statement that Mihigo’s body was found during a routine check by officers at Remera police station on Monday morning.

But rights groups including Human Rights Watch say Rwanda’s government “should ensure a thorough, independent, and transparent investigation into the death of Kizito Mihigo.”

In a statement Human Rights Watch said “Rwanda’s international partners should call for accountability for Mihigo’s death before and during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting scheduled to take place in Kigali in June 2020.

His death adds to the list of disappearances, murders, and suspicious deaths of perceived critics and opponents of the Rwandan government, and the authorities’ failure to deliver justice in these cases sends a deliberately chilling message.”

“Whatever the cause of Kizito Mihigo’s death, Rwandan police were responsible for his life and safety in detention,” Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch said.

He added that “When it comes to rule of law and respect for human rights, Rwanda’s partners and donors should not be silent. They should call for a credible investigation and an unequivocal commitment to deliver justice for this critical case.”

Rwanda rejects demands

Rwanda has already rejected demands by the human rights organisations for an independent investigation.

The spokesperson for Rwanda’s Investigation Bureau, Marie Michelle Umuhoza, told the BBC that “Rwanda is an independent, sovereign state capable of carrying out investigations on anything”.

Rwandan officials said their investigations suggested that Mihigo used bedsheets to strangle himself to death.

Mihigo is said to have committed the suicide two days after his family and lawyer visited in police custody, Police said.

The singer was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2015 after he was convicted of planning to kill President Paul Kagame.

He received a presidential pardon from the president in 2018 with the condition not to leave the country without judicial permission.




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