Ingabire trial: Rwanda prosecution fails ‘evidence test’
By Didas Gasana and Ann Garrison
Dutch Gov’t instructs embassy to monitor her trial as state security operatives hatch plans to buy witnesses
When the Director of Public Prosecution ordered the re-arrest of the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, he told both local and international media that the prosecution is in possession of new and strong incriminating evidence linking her to forming and funding a terrorist outfit, the Coalition of Democratic Forces. Prosecution convinced Gasabo Intermediate Court that the opposition icon should be provisionally detained because of the serious nature of charges and impeccable evidence against her. The court ordered her detention for 30 days, threw her in Kigali Maximum Prison (1930) as prosecution compiled the final dossier, promising to produce her in courts of law, soonest.
But that has not been the case. Instead, incompatible scenarios have emerged.
With the expiry of Ingabire’s 30 days provisional detention earlier this week, prosecution produced her before Gasabo Intermediate Court, praying for the extension of her provisional detention for another 30 days.
And, on November 26, 2010, Gasabo court judge extended her provisional detention for another 30 days in respect to the Prosecutor’s request.
Prosecution requested for extension of provisional detention seeking extra time for certification of e-mail correspondences Ingabire allegedly had with the FDLR and further communication with some European governments, particularly the Dutch government, on matters relating to Ingabire’s terrorist activities.
But this contradicts Martin Ngoga’s statement after Ingabire’s arrest, when he said the prosecution has strong evidence to incriminate her.
This begs the question: If the prosecution is still hunting for evidence in European nations, where is the incriminating evidence Ngoga said he has?
After the judge ruled that Ingabire’s provisional detention be extended, the handcuffed opposition firebrand courageously comforted her supporters saying: “do not despair, all earthly things must wear to an end”, before returning to her new home 1930, for another 30 days.
Her lawyers told The Newsline on phone from the Rwandan capital Kigali that they are appealing the decision in the High Court this week.
Judicial independence questioned
Meanwhile, Ingabire’s party, the United Democratic Forces, in a statement sent to The Newsline, question the impartiality of the Rwandan judicial system, insisting the outcome of Ingabire’s trial is a foregone conclusion.
“The independence of justice in Rwanda is a crucial question. Most of the judges are members of the ruling party and execute orders from the regime,” reads part of the statement. The opposition party Secretary General takes a swipe at President Kagame’s remarks in an interview with The Ugandan Daily Monitor, May 25, 2010, in which the President said Ingabire will certainly be where she belongs, to conclude that Ingabire is in prison on Kagame’s orders. “Which judge can contradict the President and where is he going to get asylum or life insurance from,” the Secretary General asks.
He cites the suspension of military court judges Brigadier General Steven Kalyango and and Lt. Colonel Marc Sebagani for clearing the detained Colonel Deogene Mudenge of all charges, as proof of persecution of independent judges. “This is a bad precedent. No judge in Rwanda now can set free a person without seeking consent of the powers that be,” he charged.
Behind the scenes schemes
The opposition camp alleges members of the UDF Inkingi who were arrested in Gisenyi and Ruhengeri are being offered guilty plea deals by the prosecution in exchange of false accusations of waging war and, fake testimonies against Ingabire Victoire for terrorist acts, illegal detention and smuggling of firearms.
And sources within Rwanda’s Directorate of Military Intelligence told this paper on condition of anonymity that Rwanda’s intelligence is on manhunt for FDLR fighters in DRC to pin Ingabire on charges of collaborating with them, in exchange of hefty sums of money. “Some are already here and are undergoing intense training and rehearsals in case they meet strict cross-examination by the defense lawyers,” said the confidential source, who declined to be named for security reasons.
This is not the first time such schemes emerge. Prior to her first arrest, The Newsline’s sister newspaper Umuseso reported a highly clandestine plot by Rwanda’s secret security services to offer hefty sums of money in exchange of false testimonies against Ingabire.
Rwandan exiles and supporters have demonstrated in Brussels, the Hague and London since her arrest, and the new Dutch Parliament, now led by a party best translated into English as Liberal Conservative, seems to be moving towards a vote to sustain a 2008 decision to cut economic aid to Kagame’s regime because of its human rights abuses in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
H. Vincent Harris, a Dutch news media consultant and writer who explores the impact of migrants on democratic development, particularly in relation to the Great Lakes region, says that Ingabire has growing support in The Netherlands.
“Her husband and children are here, and she was a working, law abiding, respectable, taxpaying resident for 16 years before her return to Rwanda to try to contest the presidential election against Kagame. Church people who have influence with the Dutch Parliament have collected over 1,000 signatures and lobbied the Dutch Parliament to do whatever it can to ensure her safety and human rights.
“Parliament has already instructed its embassy staff to attend Ingabire’s trial to bear witness, even though they don’t think there’s any chance it will be fair,” Harris is quoted saying.
Harris also says that the Dutch Parliament is likely in December to reconfirm its 2008 decision to cut off economic aid to Rwanda because of its concern about Rwanda’s human rights record. In 2008, he says, they were concerned with reports of Rwanda’s human rights abuses in D.R. Congo, particularly those of CNDP (National Congress for the Defense of the People) militia leader Laurent Nkunda, who was finally arrested and imprisoned in January 2009, although, in a highly disturbing development, his CNDP militia was then integrated into the Congolese Army.
“The new Dutch Parliament is particularly concerned about the ‘U.N Mapping Report’ released on October 1,” Harris added.
The “Mapping Report” documents the Rwandan government’s war crimes, crimes against humanity and massacres of Hutu civilians carried out by Rwandan forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1993 and 2003, that an international court would be expected to prosecute as genocide crimes.
Harris says that if, as expected, the Dutch Parliament sustains its freeze on budget support to Kagame’s regime and makes a strong statement as to why they are doing so, it could put to task other European nations and the US that continue to prop Rwanda financially, diplomatically and militarily.