8 November 2012

Rwanda: No Surrender

Ingabire plans to appeal 8 year sentence:

The convicted Rwandan opposition leader Victorie Umuhoza Ingabire plans to appeal against the eight year jail term handed to her by the High court on October 30 according to one of her lawyers, Ian Edwards.

Charged with six counts of genocide ideology, complicity in terrorism, discrimination and sectarianism, willingly disseminating rumors, creating and recruiting into an armed force with the aim of waging war, and attempt to national security by using war, and genocide denial, Ingabire was convicted of only two crimes-genocide denial and creating an armed group.

The verdict which took slightly over four hours to read by the panel of three judges also saw Ingabire's co-accused sentenced to between 2-4 years in jail. That means Col. Tharcise Nditurende, Lt.Col Noel Habiyaremye, Maj. Vital Uwumuremyi and Capt Jean Marie Vianney Karuta will serve a much lower sentence, taking into account time served so far but all five were also ordered to pay court fees of Rwf2million.

Presiding Judge Alice Rulisa explained that Ingabire was found guilty of denying genocide due to speeches she made at the Genocide Memorial in Gisozi, Kigali city, where she pronounced words that clearly suggested "Double Genocide."

"At the site, she was quoted by media saying: 'If you look at this memorial centre, it only shows one side of the Genocide. There is another side of the Genocide committed against the Hutu because they are also hurting and asking themselves when their grievances will be settled,'" Judge Rulisa said.

Athough he seemed surprised by the lighter sentence given to his client, Edwards alleges that the prosecution's evidence was concocted and that an appeal in the Supreme Court will be lodged as soon as possible.

"We are still waiting for the written verdict, which we will translate and then proceed with the appeal. We plan to go as far as the African Human rights court," Edwards says refusing to say whether he trusts Rwanda's justice system.

Ingabire, who also heads the unregistered FDU-Inkingi political party, was not in court during the reading of the verdict after boycotting mid way over claims that it was not impartial, something that her counsel says "did not legally help her case."

Edwards further says that his client will participate fully in the appeal and later adds that there are some features about the Rwandan justice system that are good.

"Court hearings are public, proceedings can be translated into English, these are some of the good attributes about the Rwandan justice system," says Edwards, adding that there are some grave concerns, which he does not highlight.

Ingabire's verdict was received with mixed feelings; athough prosecution said they were going to first consult before revealing their next course of action, their gestures in court revealed their disappointment and possible appeal. Prosecution had requested life imprisonment for Ingabire.

Rights group, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on October 30 that the ruling is "the culmination of a flawed trial that included politically motivated charges," adding that it was concerned Ingabire did not receive a fair trial.

"Several factors lead us to conclude that Ingabire did not receive a fair trial.

"These include the politically motivated charges, doubts about the reliability of some of the evidence, senior government officials' public statements before the trial about Ingabire's guilt, and broader concerns about the lack of independence of the Rwandan judiciary in politicised cases," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

However Rwanda's Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama, a former High court judge dismisses the accusations that the trial and the verdict were politically motivated.

"Why should we have politically motivated charges? This was a public trial, and there was evidence adduced in the court of law. I want to believe that the judges that made the decision made it from the basis of the weight and the evaluation of the evidence that was adduced before the court of law. And it would be a shame if people do not accept that the judicial process should take place openly and fairly, and they want to judge the judges, something they cannot do in their own system," Karugarama says.

He adds that the guilty verdict of Ingabire was based on proof beyond reasonable doubt, adding that if she is not satisfied with the verdict, she can appeal to the Supreme Court for a review.

"The prosecution, indeed the investigative machinery of the judicial apparatus produced evidence in court as provided for by the law. But at the end of the day, the court made the verdict, made a decision. It must be recall that there were a total of six charges and she was acquitted on four of them," he further says.

Jean de Dieu Mucyo, former director of Public Prosecution and now Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide says the most important aspect of the trial is that Ingabire was found guilty of some charges.

"I believe in the Rwandan Judiciary, definitely the judges sat and made their own analysis, they concluded by giving her eight years."

Ingabire left Rwanda in 1994 and came back in January 2010 after 16 years in The Netherlands. His trial has been going on for at least two years.

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