17 December 2012

Rwanda: Mugesera Trial Opens With Defence Challenge

Photo: T. Kisambira/ The New Times
Leo Mugesera (in pink) talking to his lawyers in court (file photo).

Kigali — As the trial of Rwandan academic Léon Mugesera opened Monday in Kigali, his lawyers claimed the case was outside the temporal jurisdiction of the court. The court adjourned to December 24, when it will pronounce a decision.

Mugesera, who was extradited from Canada last January, is charged in connection with a 1992 speech. The five charges against him include planning and publicly inciting genocide.

His Kenyan lawyer Ottachi Bw'Omanwa said the trial was being held under a Rwandan law governing cases transferred from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and national jurisdictions. But the ICTR only has competence to try crimes committed between January 1 and December 31, 1994.

According to the lawyer, Rwanda and Canada agreed that Mugesera would be tried under this law. "If he was judged out of this law, it would be pure discrimination and against these conventions,"Bw'Omanwa argued.

Taking the stand himself, Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said the defence was misinterpreting the law which, he argued, makes a distinction between cases coming from the ICTR and those coming from other countries.

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