Tag Archives: FDU-Inkingi

Rights group denounces trial of Rwandan opposition leader

3 Nov

3/11/2012 (AFP)

Rwandan opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire is led to the Rwandan High Court (AFP/File, Steve Terrill)

NAIROBI — The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) on Saturday denounced what it called irregularities in the trial of Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, who was sentenced to eight years on terror charges and for denying the country’s genocide.

“The FIDH denounces the numerous irregularities that marred the fairness of the trial,” the federation said in a statement, adding that it regretted statements from the Rwandan government during the trial “suggesting the guilt of Madame Ingabire”.

Such statements harmed the “good functioning of justice and lead to doubts over political non-interference in judicial affairs,” FIDH president Souhayr Belhassen said in the statement.

“Rwandan authorities must respect the separation of powers and guarantee the independence of the justice system,” she added.

Ingabire, who was sentenced Tuesday, boycotted her trial mid-way through proceedings after the court cut short a witness who accused the Rwandan authorities of rigging evidence against her.

The FIDH faulted Rwandan judicial authorities for failing to take into account Ingabire’s objections.

Ingabire had returned to Rwanda in January 2010 from exile in The Netherlands, seeking in vain to run for president in polls that year that incumbent Paul Kagame won with 93 percent of the vote.

The genocide denial charges against Ingabire were triggered by remarks she made then at the memorial to the estimated 800,000 people, the majority of them Tutsis, who were killed in the slaughter.

Ingabire, herself a Hutu and the leader of the Unified Democratic Forces (FDU), a political grouping that has not been allowed to register as a party, said it was time Hutu war victims were also commemorated.

She was arrested in October 2010 and accused of trying to get an armed group to overthrow the Rwandan regime.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have also denounced the trial as unfair and flawed.

Source: AFP

Rwanda: Eight-Year Sentence for Opposition Leader

30 Oct

 

OCTOBER 30, 2012

Victoire Ingabire Found Guilty of Two Charges in Flawed Trial

(Nairobi) – The guilty verdict on October 30, 2012, in the case of opposition party leader Victoire Ingabire is the culmination of a flawed trial that included politically motivated charges. The High Court in Kigali found her guilty of conspiracy to undermine the established government and denying the genocide, and sentenced her to eight years in prison.

In this September 5, 2011 file photo, Victoire Ingabire wears handcuffs as she listens to the judge during her trial in Kigali, Rwanda.
© 2011 AP Photo

Ingabire, president of the FDU-Inkingi opposition party, was arrested in the capital, Kigali, on October 14, 2010. She was charged with six offenses. Three were linked to “terrorist acts” – creating an armed group, complicity in terrorist acts, and complicity in endangering the state through terrorism and armed violence. The remaining three − “genocide ideology,” divisionism, and spreading rumors intended to incite the public to rise up against the state − were linked to her public criticism of the government in the period before the 2010 presidential elections. In its judgment, the court changed two of these charges and acquitted her of four others.

“The prosecution of Ingabire for “genocide ideology” and divisionism illustrates the Rwandan government’s unwillingness to tolerate criticism and to accept the role of opposition parties in a democratic society,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The courts should not be used for such political purposes.”

Human Rights Watch cannot comment on the veracity of the charges relating to Ingabire’s alleged collaboration with armed groups, but is concerned that some of the evidence used to convict her appears to be unreliable.

The trial, which began in September 2011 and closed on April 25, was complex and marred by setbacks and delays. Ingabire, who pleaded not guilty, was tried alongside four co-defendants − Vital Uwumuremyi, Jean-Marie Vianney Karuta, Tharcisse Nditurende, and Noel Habiyaremye − who implicated her in alleged collaboration with armed groups.

All four pleaded guilty to charges of belonging to a terrorist movement, participating in terrorist acts, and creating an armed group. Uwumuremyi was sentenced to four years and six  months in prison,  Nditurende and Habiyaremye to three years and six months each, and Karuta to two years and seven months. All four are former members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed group operating in eastern Congo that consists in part of individuals who took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The FDLR has committed numerous atrocities against civilians in eastern Congo in recent years.

Ingabire was accused of collaborating with the FDLR and planning to form a new armed group, the Coalition of Democratic Forces (CDF).

“Several factors lead us to conclude that Ingabire did not receive a fair trial,” Bekele said. “These include the politically motivated charges, such as “genocide ideology,” 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 politicized cases.”

Possible Coercion in Military Custody and Witness Intimidation
During the trial, it emerged that three of Ingabire’s co-defendants had been detained at Camp Kami, a military camp. A witness for the defense cast doubt on the reliability of the testimony of at least one of them, raising questions about their detention conditions and the possibility of coercion.

Independently of its research into this trial, Human Rights Watch has received information that other detainees in military custody, including at Camp Kami, have been put under intense pressure, and in some cases tortured, to extract confessions. Some alleged that they were ordered to incriminate Ingabire and other government opponents, even though their cases were unrelated.

During Ingabire’s trial, a witness called by the defense undermined the credibility of testimony against Ingabire by Uwumuremyi, one of the co-defendants. The witness, Michel Habimana, said that he and Uwumuremyi had been detained together in Camp Kami in 2009. He claimed that Uwumuremyi was induced to incriminate Ingabire and had admitted to Habimana he did not even know her. Habimana said that Uwumuremyi had once asked him to collaborate with the intelligence services too to incriminate Ingabire, but that Habimana had refused. The court did not discount Uwumuremyi’s evidence, however.

Habimana, also known as Edmond Ngarambe, is a former spokesman for the FDLR and is serving a prison sentence in Kigali on genocide-related charges. After he testified in court, he was subjected to intimidation. Prison authorities searched his prison cell on the orders of the prosecution. Habimana told the court that all his personal documents were seized, including notes he had prepared for his court statement. In court the prosecution confirmed the search by producing the notes. In a highly unusual procedure, Habimana was also questioned out of court by prison authorities, without a lawyer.

Two of the other co-defendants, Nditurende and Habiyaremye, revealed in court that they too had been detained for several months incommunicado at Camp Kami. Nditurende stated that he had been questioned several times by people he believed were intelligence agents, without access to a lawyer.

Political Bias in the Justice System
The atmosphere surrounding Ingabire’s trial was politically charged long before her first court appearance. From early 2010 − several months before Ingabire was arrested − senior Rwandan government officials, including President Paul Kagame, publicly undermined the presumption of innocence, using language that strongly indicated their belief that Ingabire was guilty.

For example, Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told The Independent newspaper on August 7, 2010: “She is a criminal… She is bad news, she is connected to the FDLR and terrorist groups and she has a criminal history” and told The East African on May 3, 2010: “There is no place for people like Ingabire in Rwanda. Not now and not in many years.”On June 30, 2010, Local Government Minister James Musoni was quoted by the Rwanda News Agency as saying: “Ingabire is like the advance party of the FDLR.”

Such comments were amplified in pro-government newspapers, in particular The New Times, which published numerous articles extremely hostile to Ingabire, particularly in the months leading up to the 2010 presidential elections.

“The odds were stacked up against Ingabire before any evidence had been produced,” Bekele said. “In these circumstances, it was highly unlikely she would receive a fair trial.”

Human Rights Watch noted that the Rwandan justice system has undergone positive reforms, but said that these have been undermined by the politicization of the judiciary. The Rwandan justice system lacks independence, and judges, prosecutors, and witnesses remain vulnerable to pressure from the government, especially in cases involving opponents and critics.

Crushing Dissent

The 2008 genocide ideology law, under which Ingabire was charged, has been used as a tool to silence criticism of the government. The definition of “genocide ideology” is very broad and imprecise, leaving the law open to abuse. People such as Ingabire who have spoken out about crimes committed by the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) against Hutu civilians since 1994 have been particularly vulnerable to accusations of “genocide ideology.” Ingabire challenged the constitutionality of the accusation of genocide ideology but on October 18, the Supreme Court ruled that her challenge was unfounded.

Initial reports indicate that in its judgment on October 30, the High Court did not convict Ingabire for genocide ideology but for genocide denial under a 2003 law.

“The Rwandan government has a legitimate responsibility to prevent the kind of hate speech and incitement to ethnic violence that led to the genocide in 1994,” Bekele said. “However, the responsibility to prevent violence should not be used as an excuse for stifling criticism or prohibiting discussion of certain events − nor should it be invoked as a pretext for delaying democratic reforms.”
In 2010, the Rwandan government embarked on a revision of the genocide ideology law. An amended version was approved by the Council of Ministers on June 27 and is currently before Parliament.

Human Rights Watch urged the government to ensure that the revised version of the “genocide ideology” law guards against abusive prosecutions and the criminalization of speech that lacks the intent and effect of provoking violence.

Preventing Political Pluralism
Freedom of expression and association are severely restricted in Rwanda. Two years after presidential elections in which Kagame was re-elected with more than 93 percent of the vote, Rwanda effectively still has no functioning opposition parties. The RPF dominates the political scene and faces no meaningful challenge from other parties represented in parliament.

The FDU-Inkingi has not been able to register as a political party, despite several attempts before the 2010 elections. It has been further weakened since Ingabire’s arrest and, like other opposition parties, is now barely able to function in Rwanda.

Several other members of the FDU-Inkingi have been threatened, arrested, and detained, and some prosecuted. In September, eight members of the FDU-Inkingi were arrested in Kibuye, in western Rwanda, and accused of  holding illegal meetings. They were charged with inciting insurrection or trouble among the population. They remain in preventive detention. On September 8, Sylvain Sibomana, secretary general of the FDU-Inkingi, and Martin Ntavuka, FDU-Inkingi representative for Kigali, were detained overnight by the police near Gitarama, after making critical comments about government policies during an informal conversation on a bus. The police reproached them for being too critical of government policies and claimed their party was holding illegal meetings. They were released the following day without charge. In April 2011 two FDU-Inkingi members, Anastase Hagabimana and Norbert Manirafasha, were arrested in connection with a draft statement by their party criticizing an increase in the cost of living in Rwanda. Manirafasha spent two weeks in prison and Hagabimana four months.

Other opposition parties have had similar treatment. Bernard Ntaganda, founding president of the PS-Imberakuri party, is in prison for expressing his views and criticizing the government. He was arrested on June 24, 2010, just weeks before the presidential elections, and charged with endangering national security, “divisionism,” and attempting to organize demonstrations without authorization. On February 11, 2011, he was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison – a sentence confirmed by the Supreme Court on April 27, 2012.

Two other PS-Imberakuri members, Sylver Mwizerwa and Donatien Mukeshimana, were sentenced in August 2010 to three years and two years respectively for “rebellion” and destruction of property, allegedly for breaking into the PS-Imberakuri office after the landlord had reclaimed it. Mukeshimana was released in August after serving his sentence; Mwizerwa remains in prison.

Other members of the party have been repeatedly harassed, threatened, and intimidated, and questioned repeatedly by the police in connection with their political activities. On September 5, Alexis Bakunzibake, vice-president of the PS-Imberakuri, was abducted by armed men in Kigali, blindfolded and detained overnight in a location he could not identify. His abductors questioned him about the PS-Imberakuri’s activities, its membership and funding, and its alleged links with other opposition groups. They tried to persuade him to abandon his party activities, then covered his eyes again, drove him to an undisclosed location, and dumped him across the border in Uganda.

A third opposition party, the Democratic Green Party of Rwanda, has been severely affected by themurder of its vice president in July 2010 and the subsequent decision by its president, Frank Habineza, to flee the country. Like the FDU-Inkingi, the Democratic Green Party has been unable to register in Rwanda, due to a succession of administrative and other obstacles by local and national authorities. In September, Habineza returned to Rwanda to try to register the party once again with a view to participating in the 2013 parliamentary elections.

Targeting Journalists
Journalists and other critics have also been prosecuted in connection with the expression of critical views. In August, Stanley Gatera, editor of the newspaper Umusingi, was arrested in connection with an opinion article published in his newspaper about marital stability and the alleged problems posed − in the author’s view − by the supposed allure of Tutsi women. He was charged with discrimination and sectarianism and tried in October. He remains in prison awaiting the court’s judgment.

In April, Epaphrodite Habarugira, a radio announcer at Radio Huguka, was arrested and charged with “genocide ideology” after apparently making a mistake when reading a news broadcast and accidentally mixing up terms when referring to survivors of the genocide. He spent three months in prison before being acquitted and released in July. The state prosecutor has appealed his acquittal.

Agnès Uwimana and Saidati Mukakibibi, of the newspaper Umurabyo, are both in prison after being sentenced in February 2011 to 17 and 7 years respectively in connection with articles viewed as critical of the government and Kagame. On appeal, the Supreme Court on April 5 reduced their sentences to four and three years respectively. It upheld charges of endangering national security against both women, and a charge of defamation against Uwimana, the newspaper’s editor. It dropped charges of minimization of the 1994 genocide and divisionism against Uwimana.

Human Rights Watch

Rwanda jails opposition leader for ‘denying genocide’

30 Oct

By Edwin Musoni and Stephanie Aglietti (AFP)

File picture shows Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire being led to the Rwandan High Court in 2011 (AFP/File, Steve Terrill)

KIGALI — Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was jailed for eight years Tuesday after a court found her guilty of terror charges and denying the country’s genocide, but her lawyer immediately said she would appeal.

“She has been sentenced to eight years for all the crimes that she was found guilty of,” judge Alice Rulisa told the court, adding however that she was innocent of another charge of “calling for another genocide.”

Rulisa said the leader was found guilty of the “crime of conspiracy in harming authorities through terrorism and war” as well as denial of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

The genocide denial charges against Ingabire were triggered by remarks she made in January 2010 at the memorial to the estimated 800,000 people, the majority of them Tutsis, who were killed in the slaughter.

Ingabire, herself a Hutu and the leader of the Unified Democratic Forces (FDU), a political grouping that has not been allowed to register as a party, said it was time Hutu war victims were also commemorated.

She refused to attend the hearing on Tuesday, and chose to remain in jail where she has been held since October 2010.

Her British lawyer Iain Edwards said they would appeal the conviction, which he called a “disappointment.”

“We thought she would be acquitted of all charges, but we will appeal, first to the Supreme Court and then, if that fails, we will go to the African Court on Human and People’s Rights,” he said, referring to a court based in the Tanzanian city of Arusha.

The FDU condemned the conviction, claiming the court “process was marred by intimidation, interferences and unfairness.”

Ingabire returned to the country from exile in The Netherlands in January 2010, and shortly after called for the trial of those responsible for the deaths of Hutus in the genocide.

During the trial, prosecutors showed what they said was evidence of Ingabire’s “terrorist” activities, including proof of financial transfers to the FDLR, a Hutu rebel movement based in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ingabire, who denied all the charges, was accused of “giving financial support to a terrorist group, planning to cause state insecurity and divisionism.”

Four other co-accused, who admitted to being FDLR members and said they received money from Ingabire to set up an army to attack Rwanda were also convicted, receiving sentences of between two and four years.

Ingabire’s FDU have accused Kigali of fabricating evidence against its leader to prevent her from participating in the political life of the small central African country.

She boycotted her trial mid-way through proceedings after the court cut short a witness who accused the Rwandan authorities of rigging evidence against her.

The witness, a former FDLR spokesman, said Rwandan intelligence services had offered money to rebels to make false claims over Ingabire’s ties with the group.

AFP

Verdict again postponed in Rwandan genocide denial case

19 Oct

Rwandan opposition members are anxiously awaiting the outcome of the trial of Victoire Ingabire.

In early 2010, Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire returned to her home country after spending 16 years in exile in the Netherlands. She wanted to run in the presidential election as the candidate for the United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi). But the government of President Paul Kagame refused to allow her party, and two other leading opposition parties, to participate in the election.

A few months after her arrival in Rwanda, Ingabire was arrested. Paul Kagame was re-elected president with 93 percent of the votes cast.

The sentencing of Victoire Ingabire has already been postponed twice

Kagame regards Ingabire as a danger to national unity, mainly because of controversial statements she made referring to the 1994 genocide. Since her arrest in 2010, she has been in prison several times. The verdict against her was due to be announced on October 19, 2012, after several postponements. A new date has been set for October 30, 2012. The former deputy leader of FDU-Inkingi, Eugene Ndahhyo, expects a guilty verdict. “We’re dealing with the repressive machinery of the ruling party, the FPR, which rules with terror,” he said. “They chase members of the opposition out of the country and the government has huge financial resources to sabotage the opposition.” As a result, many members of the opposition live in exile.

Ndahhyo is one of them. From his base in France, he told DW, “We are in touch with party members who live in Rwanda, but everything is done in secret as we don’t want to endanger them,” he said. Opposition members living in Rwanda risk being “arrested, intimidated or killed and live in great fear.”

Difficult past

The Rwandan government fights everything it regards as a danger to the country’s stability. That is, above all, because of the country’s painful past. The 1994 genocide perpetrated by members of the Hutu majority cost an estimated one million lives. Most of the victims belonged to the minority Tutsi. The killing only came to an end after 100 days, following the intervention of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, led by Paul Kagame. Six years later Kagame was elected president. He has ruled since then with an iron fist.

Victoire Ingabire is seen as a threat to national stability because she called for Hutu war victims also to be commemorated and for a legal process to be instigated that would examine their fate.

The charges against her are based on this so-called genocide denial.

She is also accused of providing financial support for the Hutu rebel group “Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda”, endangering national security and inciting opposition to the state. State prosecutors have called for a life sentence.

Political opposition ‘not possible’

Ingabire is not the only member of the opposition in prison. Deo Mushayidi is also behind bars. He founded an opposition party “People’s Defense Pact” in Belgium. In 2010 he was arrested while travelling to Burundi and taken directly to Rwanda. He was accused of planning a coup, disseminating hate propaganda and using forged documents. He received a life sentence.

Bernard Ntaganda was sentenced to four years for endangering national peace, promoting ethnic divisionism and attempting to organize a demonstration that had not been approved by the government. Like Victoire Ingabire, he had also wanted to run against Paul Kagame in the 2010 elections.

Gerd Hankel from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research has been monitoring Rwanda, and President Kagame’s treatment of the opposition, for some time. He says the government ignores basic rights such as the freedom of opinion and freedom of assembly. He also expects a harsh verdict for Victoire Ingabire. “The draconian prison sentences that are handed down generally are proof that political opposition which deserves the name is not possible in Rwanda,” Hankel told DW.

Deutsche Welle

 

Rwanda opposition leader loses genocide law challenge

18 Oct

18.10.2012

Victoire Ingabire has been in custody for two years accused of bankrolling terrorism (AFP, Steve Terrill)

KIGALI — Rwanda’s Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a suit filed by a leading opposition figure challenging one of the laws being used to prosecute her for allegedly denying the 1994 genocide.

Victoire Ingabire, who has been in custody for two years accused of bankrolling terrorism as well as denying the genocide, filed a suit in March contesting the legality of Rwanda’s genocide ideology laws.

“The court finds no contradiction between the genocide ideology law and the constitution. It is true the constitution grants freedom of expression and speech but the genocide ideology law puts limitations to avoid violations of the freedoms,” the nine-man panel of judges said in its ruling.

The genocide denial charges against Ingabire were triggered by remarks in January 2010 at the memorial to the estimated 800,000 people, the majority of them Tutsis, who were killed in the slaughter.

Ingabire, herself a Hutu, said it was time Hutu war victims were also commemorated.

Ingabire appeared in a courtroom packed with supporters from her Unified Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi) party.

“I do not agree with the decision of the Court,” Ingabire told journalists as she left the courtroom under close guard.

In September, eight members of the FDU-Inkingi were arrested in western Rwanda for allegedly holding an illegal meeting during which they criticised some government programmes.

“We have written to the UK High Commission expressing our concerns,” FDU-Inkingi secretary general Sylvain Sibomana told AFP, adding that donor countries should advise Kigali to “open up and improve on democracy”.

“Any person who criticises the government is jailed,” Sibomana said, citing the cases of three other opposition figures facing similar charges.

Ingabire, an outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame, has been in custody since October 2010, and has boycotted proceedings of her trial in the High Court since April after the tribunal cut short a witness who accused the authorities of rigging evidence against her.

The High Court is expected to pronounce its verdict on Friday.

In April, prosecutors asked the court to sentence Ingabire to life in prison.

The prosecution claims to have evidence of Ingabire’s “terrorist” activities, including proof of cash transfers to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda, a Hutu rebel movement based in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, the FDU-Inkingi accuses Rwandan authorities of fabricating evidence against its leader, with the sole aim of preventing her from participating in the political affairs of the small central African country.

AFP

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