KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — A Rwandan man was forcibly returned home from Uganda in apparent violation of his refugee status, a watchdog group and a refugee official said Tuesday, raising concern about the man's safety in Rwanda.
Joel Mutabazi had lived in a "safe house" under Ugandan police protection before he was reported missing late last month, said Mohammed Adar, the Uganda representative for the United Nations refugee agency.
Adar said that Mutabazi's case was not subjected to a judicial review before he was handed over to Rwandan authorities. "We don't understand how he managed to get out of the country and how he was handed over to the Rwandan government," he said. "He survived two attempts in the past to take him back to his country...We are concerned about his safety."
Rwandan police are holding Mutabazi in an undisclosed location after he was arrested by a Ugandan police officer who then handed him to the Rwandans, according to Human Rights Watch, which said it was concerned he "could face an unfair trial in Rwanda," like "other alleged criminal suspects whom the government accused of having links with the opposition."
Rwandan officials have previously said that Mutabazi, a Rwandan army lieutenant who served on President Paul Kagame's security detail before defecting, was wanted back home over alleged robbery charges. He is accused of robbing a bank in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, more than two years ago.
Many journalists and former civilian and military officials have fled Rwanda, alleging persecution. In the most prominent case, Gen. Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a Rwandan army chief who once was a close Kagame ally, defected to South Africa in 2010 and later accused Rwanda's government of ordering a failed attempt to assassinate him. Rwanda denied the allegations.
Mutabazi, who had lived as a refugee in Uganda since 2011, "survived a bungled abduction" in August as well as an assassination attempt in July 2012 in Uganda, in both cases by unknown perpetrators, according to Human Rights Watch.