Some of the suspects in the terror case involving Paul Rusesabagina and other members of FLN militia have resorted invoking the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement, saying they should be let off and reintegrated in the Rwandan community.
Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement is an accord signed in Lusaka, Zambia, on July 10, 1999 between Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Namibia, Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe as an effort to end armed conflict in DRC.
While appearing before judges of the High Court Chamber for International and Cross-Border Crimes on Friday, July 16, suspects argued that the agreement stated that members of armed groups who had committed genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity had to be prosecuted and tried in courts, but those who did not carry out such crimes would be demobilised and reintegrated.
This clause, they said, was intended to encourage the members of the armed groups to cease armed conflicts for demobilisation and reintegration purposes.
They were making their final submissions while reacting to the sentences sought for them by prosecution during earlier hearings, as the court resumed the trial of the case in which the 21 suspects face terrorism crimes.
Until now, the accused said, the national demobilisation and reintegration programme is operational, and that among those receiving civic education, there are even former senior commanders of militia groups.
Felicien Nsanzubukire, one of the suspects in the case, said that he was arrested on February 9, 2017 in DRC.
Nsanzubukire argued that he does not know FLN because it was created when he was already in custody as a member of FDLR/FOCA, insisting that he was never its (FLN) member.
Nsanzubukire, who features on the UN sanctions list owing to atrocities he committed, told the court that he did not have any involvement in the deadly and destructive attacks carried out by FLN in 2018 and 2019 in Rwanda.
However, he claimed that, while in FDLR/FOCA, he did not commit any genocide, war, crime nor crimes against humanity.
He requested forgiveness for the crime of joining the militia group (FDLR/FOCA).
He was responding to the charge of joining a terror group that the prosecution brought against him.
Prosecution had requested 20-year-sentence against him.
He requests to be transferred to Mutobo Demobilisation and Reintegration Centre in Musanze District so that he get civic education course and later reintegrated into the Rwandan community.
He however said that should court find him culpable, jusges should use their discretionary powers to give him a lesser sentence because he was a cooperative suspect.
Another suspect, Anastase Munyaneza, also told the court the same story.
Munyaneza said that the Lusaka Accords stated that efforts should be put in judicial pursuit against the members of armed groups who perpetrated the genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.
However, he said that prosecution was creating a contradiction when it held that a member of an armed group has to be tried in court just for the fact that they were in such a group - when they did not commit the indicated serious crimes.
"If everyone had to be prosecuted for the crime of just being a member of an armed group, then no one should be demobilised and reintegrated because all affiliates of such groups would have committed it," he said.
Munyaneza said that he categorically admits to the crime of being a member of an armed group for which he asks forgiveness, but, denied membership to a terror group.
He also denied involvement in the FLN attacks in which nine people lost their lives and many others injured.
Prosecution had also requested 20 years in prison against Munyaneza for alleged membership in a terror group.
Basing on the Lusaka accords, Munyaneza requested the court to allow him the opportunity to be taken to Mutobo Demobilisation and Reintegration Centre for his transition to civilian life.
In case this request is not granted, he implored court to give him a light punishment.
André Kwitonda, another suspect, said that he was conscripted into FDLR and FLN by force, pressure and threat.
The prosecution sought a 20-year-jail term against him for the charge of being a member of a terror group.
His request is not to be prosecuted, based on the Lusaka accords.
He argued that there is a 'kind of inequality before the law' because there are combatants of the armed groups who were arrested while still their members and were sent to Mutobo Demobilisation and Reintegration Centre.
"Me, I am being tried in court, yet I was arrested in Goma when I had parted ways with the armed groups, trying to return [in Rwanda]," he said.
The trial will continue next Thursday, July 22 when the court will be receiving submission from more suspects.