Rwanda Information Portal

Critics of the Rwandan government are denied the right to appear in court

By Boniface Twagirimana, Interim Vice-President

FDU-Inkingi logo

FDU-Inkingi logo

Mr. Sylvain Sibomana, Interim Secretary General of FDU-Inkingi and Mr. Dominic Shyirambere were battered by the Police before being dumped in prison for the simple reason that they had gone to attend the hearing in the appeal case of Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza at the Supreme Court.

On the 10th of April 2013, a judge of the High Court of Gasabo ordered, at the request of the public prosecution, the extension of the provisional detention of 30 days and their transfer to Kimironko prison. The reasons given for the extension of their detention was to contain their “attempts to incite an uprising of the population against the government”. This has become a very serious crime against anyone who does not want to toe the official political line of RPF.
The Rwandan Constitution gives right to every citizen to appeal against the extension of the provisional detention. Sylvain and Dominique appealed against the extension as soon as the decision of the judge was made. The High Court has remained silent as if it was waiting for the legal 30 days to expire so that the appeal case becomes outdated.
In the meantime, Sylvain Sibomana was summoned to appear at the High Court of Karongi on the 2nd of April 2013, in relation to another court case in which 7 co-defendants are accused of having met Sylvain Sibomana on the 15th of September 2012.  One can hardly understand how the court could summon someone to take part in a court case in which he has never been questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department or by the Public Prosecution. Sylvain Sibomana was never allowed by the Kimironko prison authorities to respond to the summons to appear in the court case of Karongi.
Substantives hearings were to start at the beginning of March 2013 in the case against the 7 co-defendants i.e. Mutuyimana Anselme, Uwiringiyimana Venuste, Ufitamahoro Norbert, Twizeyimana Valens, Nahimana Marcel, Byukusenge Emmanuel and Gasengayire Leonille, in which they are accused of having met the Secretary General of FDU-Inkingi. The Public Prosecution had considered the meeting to be a subversive activity. They have been behind bars for the last 9 months.
When hearing started the Counsel for the accused, Bimenyimana Emmanuel pointed out that the said court did not have the legal competence to try them on the charges they are alleged to have committed. The counsel pointed out that they had to be tried by a lower court. After consideration of the counsel argument, the judge decided that only Mutuyimana Anselme would appear before that High court, because he was co-author in the crime, while the rest would be tried by a lower court.
Despite the decision of the court , the  6 accused  (Uwiringiyimana Venuste, Ufitamahoro Norbert, Twizeyimana Valens, Nahimana Marcel, Byukusenge Emmanuel and Gasengayire Leonille), are held illegally because the Prosecution has not referred them to a lower court or provisionally released them. They have appealed against this illegal detention without success.
On the 24th of April 2013, the defence counsel wrote to the President of the High Court of Karongi to denounce the illegality of the detention. However the court registrar refused to accept the letter, under the pretext that the counsel had not attached a copy of the judgement. When the counsel asked the High Court of Karongi to give him a copy of the judgement, the relevant court authority refused to give him the copy on the pretext that the judgement had not yet been proofread and signed by the judges.
This ping pong game demonstrates bad faith on the part of the Prosecution in complicity with the judges to keep the accused in jail and thus deny them their right to equitable justice.
 FDU-Inkingi denounces once again, the lack of independence of the judiciary that has been unable to give equal rights to the defence and the prosecution.  This has been demonstrated particularly in cases involving members of the opposition. The latter are treated as pariah without rights.   This shows again that the Rwandan justice system still has a long way to go.
Source: FDU Inkingi

May 15, 2013   No Comments

Students and Academics of Oxford University campaign for cancellation of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s visit

President Paul Kagame

Unwelcome: President Paul Kagame

Unease has been expressed concerning a scheduled visit of Rwandan president Paul Kagame to the Säid Business School, in light of numerous allegations accusing him of human rights violations.

Mr Kagame is due to arrive in Oxford on Friday 18thMay, when he will deliver a keynote address in the Oxford Africa Business Conference as well as being awarded the inaugural Distinction of Honour for African Growth Award.

The decision to give Mr Kagame this award in light the recent allegations has been questioned by a number of academics and students, who have started a campaign calling for the Säid Business School to cancel their engagement with him.

The Oxford Africa Business Conference is a student led organization and the decision to award Kagame the honour was taken by students of the Business School.

Salvator Cusimano, an M.Sc candidate in Refugee studies and leader of the campaign against Mr Kagame’s visit, commented: “As it stands, the University will appear to condone Mr. Kagame’s actions at a time when even the governments of the United States and the UK – Rwanda’s staunchest allies – have distanced themselves from Mr. Kagame and his government.

“As members of the Oxford community, we have a responsibility to use our influence to reverse the Business School’s serious error of judgment.

“We have a unique opportunity to promote human rights and defend our University’s reputation, and we must act. “

The campaign has sent a letter to the Dean of the Business School, the Vice-Chancellor of the University as well as the head of the African Studies Centre detailing why the visit should be cancelled, and has started an e-petition which has received over 260 signatures in its first 24 hours.

The Säid Business School has commented “We prize open discussion and in line with the University’s Freedom of Speech policy the students have invited President Kagame to speak and there will be the opportunity for those present to challenge him as appropriate.

“We are aware that President Kagame is a controversial figure and his presence here implies no endorsement of his views or actions. We have taken the view that it’s appropriate to ask him to address any issues that are put to him from a platform in Oxford.”

The controversy surrounding Kagame stems from the accusation that he has silenced opposition politicians and journalists support for rebels in DMC including the paramilitary M23 movement, and illegal exploitation of Congolese resources.

Dominic Burridge, a DPhil Candidate from Oriel College, commented: “The proposal from the Säid Business School to give a Distinction of Honor for African Growth Award to Paul Kagame cannot fall under the criticism of endorsing human rights violations per se because it is making an economic assessment only.

“In this way, the decision errs on the side of a greater tragedy. It is a categorical statement that, in Africa, economics should matter more than society and ethics, and that those who have been accused of brutalising regions through natural resource greed should be decorated as economic leaders.”

The conference website has ignored the controversies surrounding Kagame, and instead focused on some of the successes of his presidency, including the reconciliation after the Rwandan genocide and relatively strong growth in GDP.

As a result they have feted that Kagame’s presidency has “set Rwanda on its current course towards reconciliation, nation building and socioeconomic development.”

A letter delivered to the Säid Business School the campaign has argued: “Mr. Kagame’s Rwanda bears several disturbing similarities to Rwanda under the genocidal government.

“Reconciliation appears superficial: despite a law prohibiting speech with ethnic content – known as genocide ideology – the ethnic tensions that fuelled genocide in 1994 seem alive beneath the surface.”

Amongst the supporters of the campaign are a number of academics and students.  One academic said that is “concerning” that the conference organisers  have invited Kagame to the Säid Business School given the ongoing dispute concerning his human rights record in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide.

Mr Kagame took office in 2000, after spending six years as Vice President in the years immediately after the Rwandan genocide, before winning democratic elections for the presidency in 2003 and 2010.

Source: The Oxdford Student Online

May 15, 2013   No Comments

Prosecutors seek Munyenyezi sentencing delay

By Tricia L. Nadolny

Beatrice Munyenyezi (center) speaking to reporters

Beatrice Munyenyezi (center) speaking to reporters

Federal prosecutors have asked to delay Beatrice Munyenyezi’s sentencing because the Boston-based attorneys have been heavily involved in the response to last month’s Boston Marathon bombings. But Munyenyezi’s lawyers say the Manchester woman, convicted in February of lying on immigration forms about her role in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, shouldn’t have to wait.

They believe Munyenyezi has already been incarcerated four times longer than the maximum period allowed under 2003 sentencing guidelines, the ones in place when she is accused of lying about her past in Rwanda.

“We’re very sympathetic to the resources the marathon bombings is taking,” attorney Mark Howard said. “But we have a client’s interests to protect. And I don’t think anyone would want to sit in jail and wait just because the government is busy.”

Munyenyezi was convicted of immigration fraud during a two-week trial in February, a proceeding held only after a first one in her case ended in a mistrial in March 2012. During the second trial, prosecutors called nearly a dozen Rwandan witnesses to the stand, with each connecting Munyenyezi to the violence in some way.

Several placed her at a roadblock outside the hotel owned by her husband’s family where prosecutors say Munyenyezi checked identification cards and separated ethnic Tutsis, who would be killed or raped. Other witnesses described seeing Munyenyezi wear the colorful clothing of the MRND party, which organized the violence. Prosecutors called it evidence that Munyenyezi had lied when she told immigration officials she wasn’t politically affiliated.

The jury convicted Munyenyezi after about four hours of deliberation. The mother of three – who applied in 1995 to come to the United States as a refugee and was naturalized in 2003 – was immediately stripped of her citizenship by Judge Stephen McAuliffe.

Her lawyers say they will appeal the decision. They’ve also filed a motion asking McAuliffe to acquit Munyenyezi, arguing the evidence provided by prosecutors was insufficient and unreliable.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Capin and Aloke Chakravarty haven’t responded to that motion, and they’ve asked a judge for more time to do so. In the same request, they asked to push back the sentencing hearing, scheduled for June 3.

Both men are members of the Antiterrorism and National Security Unit of the Boston U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Since the marathon bombings . . . Chakravarty has spent most of his waking hours stationed at the FBI’s investigative command center, overseeing legal aspects of the response to the bombings,” the prosecutors wrote in their request, filed Friday.

Under current sentencing guidelines, Munyenyezi could be ordered to serve up to 10 years in federal prison, after which she would face extradition. But the prosecutors argue in their motion that the evidence at trial could warrant a “significant upward departure from the applicable guideline sentencing range,” certainly one that would mean her incarceration well past the June sentencing.

The motion does not detail what sentence the prosecutors plan to ask for, and both Capin and Chakravarty declined to comment yesterday.

Defense attorney David Ruoff said he and Howard will likely ask that Munyenyezi, who is incarcerated at the Strafford County jail, be released immediately due to the time she’s already served.

Munyenyezi has been behind bars since her June 2010 arrest, except for the period between her two trials when a judge allowed her to be detained on home confinement. By Ruoff’s count, that totals about 23 months of pretrial confinement credit.

Under 2003 sentencing guidelines, in place when Munyenyezi is accused of lying on immigration forms, the punishment for her crimes ranged from probation to six months of incarceration, Ruoff said.

“We are opposed to (a continuation) because we believe that a proper calculation of the sentencing guidelines would suggest that she has already served four times more in jail than she would be sentenced to under the sentencing guidelines,” Howard said.

The defense attorneys have not filed an objection to the prosecutors request but Howard said they plan to do so soon.

In their motion for acquittal, the defense raises many of the same points they did at trial. Munyenyezi has claimed to be falsely accused, saying the witnesses who testified against her were led to lie either directly by the Rwandan government or indirectly by societal pressures that make Rwandans likely to conform to authority.

The jury rejected that theory.

But Munyenyezi’s lawyers are asking McAuliffe to weigh the possibility himself.

“Such a component is never present in a typical bank-robbery case. If the jury failed to understand the uncontested dynamic at play in current Rwanda, this court is nonetheless free to consider it,” they wrote in the motion.

The lawyers asked the judge to consider the unconventional nature of the trial – in which witnesses flown in from a foreign country spoke, through translators, about events nearly two decades prior – when deciding whether the evidence was believable.

Ruoff acknowledged yesterday that motions for acquittal are mostly, though not always, denied. He said if the request is not granted, he will appeal the case to 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We plan on fighting this until the very end,” he said.

Ruoff also said he’s received dozens of emails from around the world since the jury gave its verdict, most supporting his client. Several, he said, are from employees of governments who refuse to extradite individuals to Rwanda because they don’t believe they would receive fair treatment there.

“It’s very revealing,” Ruoff said. “It helps us have more faith in our theory of defense, which obviously the jury did not accept.”

Source: Concord Monitor

May 15, 2013   No Comments