The work of human rights defenders in Rwanda is undermined by the authorities' claim that human rights defenders encourage 'genocidal ideology' and 'ethnic divisionism', playing on fears which are still prevalent following the 1994 genocide.
With elections due in 2017, the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front appears to be entrenching its political dominance, and human rights defenders face the brunt of that effort. In July 2013, the leadership of LIPRODHOR, Rwanda’s last remaining independent human rights organisation was effectively forced out and replaced by an executive committee favoured by the government and supported by the Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) –the state body with oversight on NGOs despite the fact that the ousted leadership protested against this move.
Human rights defenders face harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and unfair trials, while laws for the prevention of ethnic division and hatred are abused to restrict freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Especially vulnerable are corporate accountability and environmental rights defenders, who are frequently accused of being anti-development and risk threats of violence, intimidation and the closure of their organisations.