IMPRISONMENT OF VICTOIRE INGABIRE VIOLATES RWANDA'S OWN CONSTITUTION

Rwanda's imprisoned opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire
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[Global: Africa]  The hearings of the trial against Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza before the Supreme Court resumed on July 22, 2013 with responses of Mrs. Ingabire’s defense counsel comprising lawyers Iain Edwards and Gatera Gashabana. Ian Edwards told the court that his client is prosecuted in violation of Article 19 of the International Convention on Human Rights as well as Article 33 of the Rwandan Constitution relating to freedom of expression.  The defense counsel argued that the fact that Mrs. Ingabire condemned the genocide against the Tutsi and also condemned war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by some elements from RPF-Inkotanyi, targeting the Hutu, as well as pointing out that families of the victims of those crimes deserve the right to commemorate and mourn their loved ones, cannot be construed to be a minimization of the genocide as alleged by the prosecution.

According to the prosecution, the fact that Mrs. Victoire Ingabire made such comments at the memorial site for the genocide against the Tutsi and finger pointed some RPF elements indicates that she meant double genocide.

The defense lawyers explained to the court how when the High Court was running out of legal arguments to convict their client on the crime of minimization of genocide, the judges resorted to the use of Yves Ternon’s article which was posted on Wikipedia without explaining how this author was expert in legal matters.The defense lawyers had also pointed out the ambiguity of the law punishing genocide ideology and the minimization of genocide.

Meanwhile, the prosecution had argued that the law was clear and that the reason why the defense lawyers couldn’t understand it was due to their limited knowledge of Kinyarwanda language. Such an ambiguity had prompted Mrs. Victoire Ingabire to bring the case before the Supreme Court which had dismissed it.

However, the Ministry of Justice had itself acknowledged that the law was ambiguous and non-compliant with the international standards and had submitted a draft of revision to parliament. It is therefore astonishing that this same law which the Ministry acknowledged was ambiguous and not meeting international standards is currently being used to convict many innocent people.

Mrs. Victoire Ingabire asked the court to increase the frequency of hearings so that the trial can end in July before the beginning of the judiciary summer recess in August. The judges seemed to approve the request and promised Mrs. Ingabire that they would make sure that at least all of the hearings are completed by the end of this month.  

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