Rwanda Information Portal

Witness: Inmates in Rwandan jails told to accuse others of genocide

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Jurors in the trial of a Kansas man accused of participating in the 1994 Rwandan genocide got a glimpse Tuesday of inhumane prison conditions in that African country as defense attorneys sought to bolster their argument that prisoners were coerced into confessing and accusing others of atrocities to gain their own freedom.

A federal jury must decide whether Lazare Kobagaya, 84, lied to U.S. immigration authorities in a case prosecutors have said is the first in this country requiring proof of genocide. The government is seeking to revoke Kobagaya’s U.S. citizenship for allegedly lying to immigration authorities about his involvement in the genocide.

Prosecutors have portrayed Kobagaya as an influential leader who ordered killings and arsons in a region known as Nyakizu Commune, where the village of Birambo was located. Kobagaya, now living in Topeka, was charged two years ago with unlawfully obtaining U.S. citizenship in 2006 and with fraud and misuse of an alien registration card.

Key to prosecutors’ case is the testimony of self-confessed Rwandan killers who have fingered Kobagaya, a Hutu born in Burundi. In a move meant to raise doubts about the credibility of such witnesses, defense attorneys brought in a former prisoner who said he falsely accused others to survive in prison and win his release.

Although Felicien Hakizimana never accused Kobagaya of any wrongdoing, his testimony allowed the defense to present evidence of harsh prison conditions.

Hakizimana said Rwandan prisons were so crowded that inmates did not have space to sit down. He told of daily beatings to force prisoners to confess to genocide and showed jurors a scar on his leg he claimed was made during one such beating. He also described torture sessions that left prisoners unconscious. Food was scarce and medical care was nonexistent, he said.

He said those prisoners who confessed to participating in the genocide were put in better cells, given jobs and allowed family visits. Also, he said, inmates had to confess to genocide to earn their release.

Hakizimana, a former Nyakizu resident who knew the Kobagaya family, told jurors that after his confession, he was given a position as vice president of a kind of community court within the prison walls. Hakizimana said an organization of Tutsi survivors would come to the prison and hand him and others lists of people — usually those who were wealthy — whom they wanted accused.

“They made it clear after we confessed to what we said, that we would have to accuse a person outside,” Hakizimana said through an interpreter.

Defense attorneys also used Hakizimana to demonstrate that as a Burundi refugee, Kobagaya could not have held a leadership position in his village.

“He didn’t have any position because as a refugee he was not allowed to be a leader in the country,” Hakizimana testified.

Hakizimana also said an attack at Mount Nyakizu, where thousands of Tutsis had sought refuge, was led by young men and soldiers and that he did not see Kobagaya among them.

Under cross examination, Hakizimana acknowledged looting at least three Tutsi homes, stealing crops and cows and joining night patrols seeking to rout out Tutsis during the genocide. Hakizimana at the time of the genocide was a student on vacation at the family home in Nyakizu.

Hakizimana, who now lives in Zambia, also acknowledged that he fled Rwanda before his own trial on genocide charges.

Earlier in the day, a professor who has studied the 1994 genocide, testified that the two ethnic groups involved suffered almost equal numbers of deaths.

Loyola professor Brian Endless told jurors that almost as many Hutus were killed as Tutsis. He said about 200,000 Hutus participated in the genocide, while more than 1 million refugees fled Rwanda in July 1994.

[Greenwich Time]

May 21, 2011   1 Comment

Growing frustration as FDU-Inkingi members are not allowed to visit jailed opposition leader Victoire Ingabire

by Boniface Twagirimana


It has been 9 weeks without allowing prison visits for political prisoner Victoire Ingabire, Chair of FDU-INKINGI, incarcerated in Kigali maximum prison since 14 October 2011. Today, the jailers informed that they already have their own 3 visitors, outsiders of the political party. 16 visiting members left without seeing their leader.

On 16 May 2011, the trial of Madame Victoire Ingabire was postponed to 20 June 2011 due to Prosecution contradictions and inconsistencies. Her lawyers have written to the High Court addressing crucial issues and lack of fairness.

“The case of Victoire Ingabire is an exceptional case which must be prepared thoroughly and properly. It has attracted much media attention, both in Rwanda and abroad. The defence requires adequate time and facilities to prepare for what is likely to be a lengthy and complicated trial”, said the defense counsel.

As for the surveillance of defense conferences by intelligence officers, the High Court was informed as well.

“The defence has complained about this unacceptable monitoring, which we feel amounts to actual interference, on numerous occasions to Mr Kamugisha, the Director of Kigali Central Prison, in person. In spite of assurances that this interference would cease, the monitoring continues. The defence has gone so far as to raise the issue with Martin Ngoga, General Prosecutor, in person, and Mary Gahonzire, High Commissioner for Prisons, both in person and in writing… Again, assurances have been given that the practice would stop. Nevertheless, the interference persists. The defence has cause to wonder whether any of these persons have any real authority over those carrying out this monitoring and feel that this is a matter of grave concern”.

“It is the defence position that the continuous monitoring and surveillance of conferences with our client amounts to unlawful interference in our client’s right to a fair trial”.

The prosecution introduced new co-defendants, pleading guilty, in the Courtroom. The defense counsel has never received any information about those “terrorist” guilty pleaders turned key witnesses.

This is nothing else than  a judicial circus. Any meaningful chance of fairness has been ruined.

Boniface Twagirimana
Interim Vice-President

May 21, 2011   2 Comments