Brussels, 18 December 2015

Dear High Representative,

After 16 years of exile in the Netherlands, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, president of the Unified Democratic Forces FDU-Inkingi, a coalition of Rwandan opposition parties, returned to Rwanda to run for presidential elections scheduled for August 2010. On 14th October she was arrested after weeks of police harassment, intimidation and media lynching, charged with genocide ideology, genocide denial, and conspiracy against the regime. Charges commonly used to silence any opposition in a country where freedom of expression is severely curtailed.

After a flawed trial, condemned among others by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Foundation Jean Jaurès, she was sentenced in first 8 years in prison. On appeal, the sentence was increased to 15 years. Yet, the Supreme Court had invalidated some of the evidences used to convict her in the first place.

Having lost all confidence in the justice of her country led by an authoritarian regime, she filed an application with the African Court of Human Rights and Peoples based in Arusha, Tanzania.

Nominated for Sakharov Prize in 2012, the fate of this mother, nicknamed by her followers as the Rwandan Aung San Suu Kyi, should challenge us. Pursuant to the resolution of our Parliament 2013/2641 (RSP) of 25 may 2013, we ask the European Commission to officially request the immediate release of Madam Ingabire. In the meantime, we urge the Commission to take action to improve her prison conditions by ensuring, among others, a free and easy access to legal counsel and her recognition as a political prisoner. We stress the urgent need of periodic visits of EU observers to evaluate the situation.

The case of Ms Victoire Ingabire is just the tip of the iceberg. On Friday 4th December 2015, her party deputy, Boniface Twagirimana, narrowly escaped a kidnap attempt. Thanks to the quick reaction of bypassers, he was taken to a police station where he spent 24 hours before being released without charges, since the kidnap attempt had been thwarted. This crackdown on opposition comes in the wake of a constitutional review referendum scheduled on 18 December 2015 that will allow the incumbent president to stay in power for another 17 years at least, contrary to the constitution which limits his term in office to two terms.

In this vein, we ask the commission to take further action beyond a mere disapproval in its dealing with the regime and formally condemn this new move to organize a referendum on the Constitutional change with such short notice, moreover in a climate of political repression.

Faithfully yours,

Lola Sánchez Caldentey

Rosa Estaràs Ferragut

Jordi Sebastià

Juan Carlos Girauta Vidal

Estefanía Torres

Miguel Urbán

Xavier Benito

Fabio de Masi

Tania Gonzalez

Reinhard Bütikofer

Maria Heubuch

Yanick Jadot

Ernest Urtasun

Ernest Maragall

José Bové

Karima Delli

Josep-Maria Terricabras

Julia Reda

Jean Lambert

Bart Staes

Marie-Christine Vergiat

Pascal Durand

Ian Hudghton

Tatjana Zdanoka

Bronis Ropè

Stelios Kouloglou

Ana María Gomes

Norbert Neuser

Barbara Spinelli

Luis de Grandes Pascual

Kostadinka Kuneva

Michèle Rivasi

Terry Reintke

António Marinho e Pinto

Gabi Zimmer

Ivo Vajgl

Laura Ferrara

José Inácio Faria

Dimitrios Papadimoulis

Marlene Mizzi

Beatriz Becerra

Izascun Bilbao

Liliana Rodrigues

Malin Björk

Teresa Gimenez barbat

Hilde Vautmans

Kostas Chrysogonos

Doru Frunzulica

Santiago Fisas Ayxelà

Claude Rolin

Jean-Luc Schaffhauser

Elly Schlein

Merja Kyllönen

Stefan Eck

Nathalie Griesbeck

Ignazio Corrao

Fabio Massimo Castaldo

Ramona Manescu

Brando Benifei

Javier Nart

María Teresa Giménez

Francesc Gambús

Nessa Childers

Johannes Cornelis Van Baalen