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Human rights cases

Leonard Hitimana, Rwanda

Leonard Hitimana is believed to have been abducted and murdered. Photo courtesy of Hitimana family

Leonard Hitimana vanished without trace in April 2003. Despite repeated IPU calls, a thorough investigation by Rwandan authorities into the MP’s disappearance has yet to take place.

Rwandan MP and doctor Leonard Hitimana disappeared from the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on 7 April 2003. Eyewitnesses have told IPU his car was stopped by security agents who drove him away.

The following day, he would have appeared in parliament to deny claims that his Hutu-dominated MDR party was fuelling ethnic tensions. The MDR, a serious contender in the 2003 elections, was later banned on the basis of these allegations.

During the 1994 genocide, when some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died, Leonard Hitimana worked as a doctor, treating everyone regardless of ethnicity and helping many people to safety. He received a Tribute to Courage from the organization African Rights and later testified before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) against people accused of genocide.

Eyewitnesses told an IPU Human Rights Committee mission to Rwanda in June 2011 that Leonard Hitimana’s car was stopped by agents from the Rwandan Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI). The agents are said to have taken him to Kami military camp on the outskirts of Kigali, where he is thought to have been tortured and killed in May 2003.

His wife had died eight months earlier, and the couple had three school-age children.

Leonard Hitimana’s car was later spotted on the Ugandan border, with its electrical cables cut, the key no longer in the ignition and bloodstains on the front seat.

Rwandan authorities told the IPU mission they believed he had left the country after being accused of taking part in sectarian meetings, but his party believes his car was placed at the border to make it look as if he had fled.  

The mission also learnt that his parliamentary salary and other benefits were suspended immediately after his disappearance, and his children and friends were allegedly harassed.

A resolution adopted at IPU’s 128th Assembly in 2013 expressed extreme concern about Leonard Hitimana’s continued absence. It considered that the lack of any serious investigation by Rwandan authorities supported the long-standing accusation that he was a victim of enforced disappearance. 

IPU continues to press the Rwandan authorities to conduct an independent and effective investigation examining all lines of enquiry. This includes interviewing the deputy director of counter-intelligence at the time of Leonard Hitimana’s disappearance.