15 January 2013

Rwanda: Uwinkindi Wants Further Trial Delay

Lawyers representing Genocide suspect, Jean Uwinkindi, have asked the Special Chamber of the High Court to stay his trial pending a petition filed before the Supreme Court.

De ja vu?

The events before the Special Chambers of the High Court yesterday was like a de ja vu of what transpired in the same court last week when another Genocide suspect, Leon Mugesera was arraigned for trial.

Uwinkindi, who was transferred to Rwanda from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, is charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.

His trial was due to begin in substance yesterday where he was expected to enter a guilty or not guilty plea, but one of his lawyers, Gatera Gashabana, told the court that his client filed another case in the Supreme Court and asked for the delay of the trial in substance hearing.

"We filed a case before the Supreme Court on the unconstitutionality of the law related to transfer of cases from ICTR and other countries and it is on this not that we ask the court to delay the hearing until the superior court pronounces its decision," said Gashabana.

However, prosecution led by Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga asked Judge Alice Rulisa to disregard Gashabana's request, saying the case before the Supreme Court has no implication to that in the High Court.

"Filing a case doesn't necessarily mean another case that is properly constituted should stop unless there was a separate order by the Supreme Court instructing the suspension of other trials. We don't have such an order, so let this court order the commencement of the trial in substance," said Ngoga.

Unprepared defence

In response, the defence said the law authorises a halt to all other related cases if there if an unconstitutionality case filed in the Supreme Court. However, the team could not clearly justify before the court which specific law and the articles they were alluding to.

This forced the judge to question how prepared the team was and how afor seeking a stay of trial.

"You should not act surprised in any way. You are aware that by law you have to share your submissions well-documented. It is on this note that court orders both the defence and prosecution to share your well-drafted submissions and give a copy to the court. Trial resumes today," Judge Rulisa ruled.

Uwinkindi had on November 3, 2012, filed a plea to the Supreme Court challenging the law related to the transfer of cases from ICTR and other countries to Rwanda saying that it contradicts the constitution.

The Supreme Court was also due to hear the case yesterday, but adjourned it to Monday next week because the State representative in the case was yet to share his submissions with Uwinkindi's lawyers.

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