WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressmen Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Jim McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, welcome the acquittal of Diane Rwigara in Rwanda. Diane was listed as a prisoner of conscience under the Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project.
In May 2017, Diane declared her candidacy for the upcoming presidential election against longtime Rwandan leader Paul Kagame. Within 72 hours of her announcement, Diane’s character was targeted by the release of alleged nude photos of her on social media. The National Electoral Commission ultimately barred her from participating in the election, ruling that hundreds of signatures she submitted to validate her candidacy were forged. Diane then started the People’s Salvation Movement to challenge the regime’s human rights record.
Diane and her mother, Adeline, were arrested in September 2017. Diane was charged with forgery, sectarian practices, and inciting insurrection, and Adeline was charged with inciting insurrection and sectarian practices. The women spent a year behind bars before being released on bail in October 2018. Both Diane and Adeline were acquitted of all charges on December 6, 2018.
The Co-Chairs stated, “We are inspired by Diane’s steadfast commitment to advancing political pluralism and human rights in Rwanda. While we welcome Diane’s release, we strongly urge the Rwandan government to release all prisoners of conscience, including Frank Rusagara, Tom Byabagamba, and Francois Kabayiza – all cases highlighted a few weeks ago at our briefing on human rights and political prisoners in Rwanda.”
The Co-Chairs would also like to recognize Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici for her dedicated advocacy on behalf of Diane Rwigara, including a one-minute speech raising her case on the House Floor. Her efforts on behalf of Diane did not go unnoticed, and her example is one that Members of Congress can follow by choosing to advocate for a prisoner of conscience.
The bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was established by unanimous consent in the United States House of Representatives in 2008 to promote, defend and advocate for international human rights. The Commission undertakes public education activities, provides expert human rights advice and encourages Members of Congress to actively engage in human rights issues.