Global Campaign for Rwandans' Human Rights condemns today's High Court verdict against Victoire Ingabire, leader of opposition party. Our research indicate that the charges for which she was sentenced are fundamentally politically motivated.
The verdict gives her eight years of jail for treason and denying genocide. Since her arrest on 14th October 2010, her trial has demonstrated a lack of respect for basic judicial procedures and international judicial principles.
Prior to her arrest, there were already signs of government attempt to influence the judiciary. This occurred when government officials including president Paul Kagame, ministers of interior, foreign affairs and local government made public statements attesting of Ingabire's culpability.
This has clearly undermined the judiciary's independence and probably impacted negatively on the direction of the trial process and verdict. Therefore, Ingabire trial was conducted in an atmosphere which could not guarantee a free and fair judgement.
While acknowledging the importance for the Rwandan government to pay special attention in monitoring hate speeches that might fuel genocidal related crimes, reference to genocide should not be used to prohibit freedom of expression about the country's recent past and ways required to ensure that justice could be done and reconciliation achieved.
The scale of irregularities and ignorance of due process identified during Ingabire's trial demonstrated the Rwandan judiciary strong willingness to work hand in hand with the executive in silencing political critics of the regime by using existing tailored laws and its reluctance to deliver fair justice.
Global Campaign for Rwandans Human Rights urges the Rwandan government to:
- Immediately release Victoire Ingabire and other political prisoners including Bernard Ntaganda and Deo Mushayidi who were also imprisoned as a result of various politically motivated charges;
- Immediately release all imprisoned journalists whose trials seriously undermined principles of freedom of the media;
- Amend and clarify the "genocide ideology" law in order to prevent its use in silencing opponents and any views critical to the regime;
- Allow the existence of a judiciary whose officials, defense lawyers and witnesses are totally exempt of any interference from the government;
- Remember that the tragedy that Rwanda has experienced in its recent history was mainly caused by lack of freedom, respect of human rights or equal opportunities; taking away people's rights has a high potential of taking back Rwanda into that dark period. Lack of those fundamental freedoms also prevents Rwanda from achieving its comprehensive development;
- Open up political space, so that Rwandans can embrace fully democracy that will ensure people's rights to participate freely in order to create a fulfilled and harmonious society.
For Headquarter (UK)
Rene C Mugenzi
For Rwanda research team