Dutch Minister Knapen talks to Rwandan opposition
Dutch Development Cooperation Minister Ben Knapen met with party members of detained opposition leader Victoire Ingabire in Rwanda on Wednesday. He says the Netherlands is to continue its cooperation with Rwanda on justice matters and will go ahead with plans to sign an extradition treaty.
by Koert Lindijer
“I spoke to President Kagame, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama and three of Ingabire’s party members about her detention,” Mr Knapen told Radio Netherlands Worldwide. “The opposition confirmed that she is being treated well. She is receiving food from outside the prison and has eminent lawyers at her disposal. I have insisted that she be given a fair trial. This trial is a sort of litmus test as to whether the courts in Rwanda operate independently.”
Victoire Ingabire lived for 16 years in the Netherlands, though she does not have Dutch citizenship. She was arrested last year in Rwanda on charges of collaborating with terrorist organisations. Dutch detectives carried out a search of her husband’s home in the Netherlands in December, at the request of the Rwandan police. “I have not made any criticism of the handling of her case up to now,” said Mr Knapen. “Her guilt or innocence must be determined by a Rwandan judge.”
Mr Knapen expressed doubts about the sentencing of two Rwandan journalists to 7 and 17 years in jail last week. “We do have our concerns about the independence of courts,” he said. His concerns are apparently shared by the Rwandan justice minister, who told Mr Knapen he disagreed with the verdict in the journalists’ trial.
However, the concerns are not serious enough to end the preparation of a Dutch-Rwandan extradition treaty. “Nothing has happened in recent times for us to reconsider this intention,” said Mr Knapen. “The realisation of the treaty is making good progress.” Dozens of suspects wanted for trial in Rwanda on charges relating to the 1994 genocide are living in the Netherlands, according to both the Dutch and Rwandan justice ministries.