Part 2 Trial Victoire Ingabire

Part 1 trial Ingabire

Wednesday, 18 april, 2012

Lawyer Iain Edwards: 'Trial Ingabire will end in 2 weeks'

Last Monday opposition leader Victoire Ingabire announced in court that she would no longer attend her own trial. Because of the treatment of her witnesses she has lost all faith in what can be called a fair trial. I asked her English lawyer, Iain Edwards what he thought of the trial, the judges and the prosecution.

At this stage he can only talk about the position of Ingabire, but he admits he’s very disappointed about the trial.  “From the beginning we were hoping for some kind of fair trial. But it didn’t take long before we realized that a fair trial never would take place.”

Also his working conditions were not easy. His email was hacked, his telephone tapped.  Edwards: “One afternoon I got back in my hotel room and found my hard disc was disconnected from my computer and then connected again.”  Edwards knows everything he did was watched by the regime but finds it impossible to prove anything.

According to Edwards Ingabire found it impossible to keep faith in her own trial. “She realized things would not change, whatever happened and no matter what evidence we produced. From the beginning the judges were very hostile towards her and her defence team.” For Ingabire the point of no return came with the hearing of her witnesses. Last week Michel Habimana could not give his full statement because the judges would not allow it. After he returned to his cell (he has a life sentence) he found his things searched and his notes in the possession of prosecution. He was questioned for hours. It became clear other witnesses were too afraid to give testimony or were harassed and threatened.

According to Edwards Ingabire was not expecting much of the trial, so there was no surprise at how things were going. But things were far worse as she expected them to be. 

Independent observers acknowledge the different treatment by the judges of Ingabire and her defence team, compared to the treatment of prosecution and the co-accused. The judges were hostile from the start. Witnesses for prosecution could give their statement without any testing of the judges. They would not cross-examine them. They would not ask questions. They were not challenged. The judges would not try to find out the quality of the statements.

And that, according to Edwards, is the duty of judges.

With Ingabire it was the opposite. The judges would jump on every word she said and she would be cross-examined for hours.

There is another example, which shows the failing of the judges, where they even ignored Rwandan law: Some co-accused were held incommunicado at military detention after they were arrested in Burundi. It was only through questions of ingabires defence team that facts emerged of that secret detention. Because of these questions it became clear they were visited by the intelligence service and that they were questioned. There were notes taken from these questionings. These notes were in the possession of prosecution, but never reached the defence team. On the contrary, prosecution denied that the co-accused were held incommunicado.

When all this became clear during the trial, the judges never reacted. They never woke up. They allowed the co-accused to tell whatever they liked. That is against Rwandan law.

Edwards: “When people say this is a fair trial, they have every right to say so. But what the world is waiting for is the assessment of the observer teams. When the trial is over, they will publish their findings.”

Those reports can be very important for Rwanda that desperately tries to prove they can organize fair trials. So Rwandans living abroad and accused of genocide can be extradited. Edwards: “I don’t have any problems with that. If people have committed serious crimes they must stand trial. But it must be a fair trial.”

Edwards expects Ingabire will be given a new lawyer to represent her, to show the world they follow the rules of a fair trial. But that lawyer will have no access to her file; will not be informed by Ingabire about the ins and outs of her trial. The only material that lawyer will see will be that of prosecution. It will be a harmless lawyer in the eyes of the Rwandan regime, who will do nothing but give the trial a semblance of respectability.

Edwards: “Now that any potential witnesses for the defence are limited, we don’t expect the judges will call other witnesses. I think the trial will be over in a few weeks.”

He’s sombre about the outcome: “We have always tried to be realistic. We have nothing that indicates the judges might give her another sentence prosecution asked for. So she will probably get a lifetime sentence. What I really hope for is that they let her go so she can join her family in the Netherlands. But I don’t think that’s a realistic hope.”

Monday april 16 2012, 16.00 uur

A few minutes ago the husband of oppositionleader Victoire Ingabire informed me that she will from now on refuse to attend her own trial. She dismissed her Rwandan and English lawyer.  

She comes to this remarkable step because she no longer believes in a fair trial. Her confidence in transparency and fairness of her own trial amounted until this far to a minimum, but since last week, that confidence is completely gone. 

“I have decided to stop defending myself in this case. I cannot go on with this case anymore, my confidence in the judiciary has waned.”

Her witnesses are put under highly pressure to withdraw their testimony. They have difficulties in talking to her lawyers and herself. In short, they find it very difficult to prepare properly for this trial.

Last week a witness (homer FDLR officer Habimana) told the court he was put under pressure as early as 2009 to give a false statement to prohibit Ingabire to take part on the elections in 2010. Habimana was arrested at the same time as crown witness for the prosecution Vital Uwumuremyi. He was in several prisons with Uwumuremyi and they shared a cell for months. 

Ingabire hopes to reach the international community by refusing to take part in a mock trial. 

Friday march 30 2012

Source: RNW, Clive Muhenga, Kigali

It was a trial within a trial last Tuesday at the Supreme Court of
Rwanda, as Victoire Ingabire and her lawyers challenged the
constitutionality of the genocide ideology laws. Ingabire, the
president of the opposition party Unified Democratic Forces (UDF), has
been charged with complicity to terrorism and ideology of genocide.

“This law violates the freedom of expression enshrined in our
constitution. It is so vague that people voicing their opinions on the
genocide, or any related questions, hardly know where to draw the
line,” says Gatera Gashabana, one of Ingabire’s lawyers.
According to Gashabana, the genocide ideology laws are there to
silence “researchers, politicians and journalists”. He also thinks
that the text can be a source of confusion for the judge. “It could
lead to an arbitrary enforcement of the law, as those in charge of
reprimanding the behaviour in question often fall prey to subjective
interpretations of the law”.

Controversial statement
In January 2010, Victoire Ingabire, who had just returned to Rwanda
after 16 years of exile in the Netherlands, declared that true
national reconciliation would not be achieved as long as the country
continued to honour only the memories of Tutsis killed during the
genocide. According to her, the Hutus massacred by soldiers of the
current ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), should also
be remembered.

The statement was made at the memorial of Tutsi genocide victims in
Gisozi, Kigali in front of national and international press, and
represented Ingabire’s first act of opposition against President Paul
Kagame’s regime. 
Ingabire was placed under 'city' arrest and interrogated on numerous
occasions by police. It put an end to her ambition to run against Paul
Kagame in the August 2010 presidential elections. In October she was

In the trial, which began in September 2011, the court found her
statements in Gisozi to be in clear violation of the genocide ideology
laws of July 2008.

Controversial law
Ingabire’s lawyer, Gatera Gashabana, has also denounced the
“disproportionate penalty with regards to the norms and practices of
international law.” The UDF leader is facing between 10 to 25 years of
jail for the genocide ideology charges alone.
Human rights organisations have also criticised the law. In a press
release from 2010 entitled “Vague laws used to criminalise criticism
of government in Rwanda,” Amnesty International denounced the
ambiguous law that had “Rwandan populations living in fear of being
punished for saying the wrong thing.”

The human rights organisation also claimed that a number of Rwandan
judges had also pointed out that the text was vague and abstract.

Announced revision
The Rwandan government has consistently denied using the genocide
ideology laws to suppress any opposition to the regime. President Paul
Kagame has often declared that no one was in a position to teach
Rwandans anything about human rights. Although the Justice Minister,
Tharcisse Karugarama, had announced plans to revise the controversial
law in 2010, the text is still yet to be debated in Parliament.

On 13 April, the Supreme Court is expected to deliver its verdict on
Victoire Ingabire’s request for the revision of the law. Meanwhile,
the opposition leader will continue to face the genocide ideology

charges when her trial resumes before the High Court on Monday.Monday, march 12

RWANDA - Trial Ingabire resumes today

Today opposition leader Victoire Ingabire reappears in court. Last week she made her first moves. She subpoenaed the Rwandan minister of Defense and the minister of Foreign Affairs. She wants them to confirm under oath the criminal activities of military and civil intelligence operations targeting nationals abroad. Ingabire can ask for their testimony because a witness, interviewed in the Netherlands, confirmed that her husband narrowly escaped a hit squad in South Africa, after he said ‘no’ to a spy-job. The statement of this witness belonged to the material sent by the Dutch government. 

Opposition leader Ingabire says that if the prosecution finds the testimony credible, the government needs to clarify its role in a string of assassinations and attempts, for example on former friend of the president, Kayumba Nyamwasa. He was twice attacked in South Africa.

In Rwanda young children can be guilty of having a genocide ideology Ingabire also sent a petition last week to the Supreme Court, asking to nullify law 18/2008 because it’s not in accordance with the constitution. This law relates to the punishment of people having a genocide ideology. The law is seen by many law specialists and human rights organizations as ‘impossibly vague, broad and abstract.’ This law is often used to arrest and to silence those who criticize the Rwandan government. It’s also a law the Rwandan government promised to revise in 2010, because of international pressure. But so until now nothing has changed. The Dutch ministers of Foreign Affairs, of Justice and of Development, including ambassador Makken in Kigali, refer often to this law if they say Rwanda is mending its ways.  

The article 2 defines the genocide ideology as follows: "an aggregate of thoughts characterized by conduct, speeches, documents and other acts aiming at exterminating or inciting others to exterminate people basing on ethnic group, origin, nationality, region, colour, physical appearance, sex, language, religion or political opinion, committed in normal periods or during war".

Article 4 is about sentencing the crime of genocide ideology: “Any person convicted of the crime of genocide ideology as mentioned in Articles 2 and 3 of this Law shall be sentenced to an imprisonment of ten (10) years to twenty five (25) years and a fine ... In case of recidivism, the penalty provided for in the preceding paragraph shall be doubled".

Chilling is the article about children guilty of genocide ideology: "In case a child under twelve years (12) of age is found guilty of a crime of genocide ideology, he or she shall be taken to a rehabilitation centre ...In case a child who is found guilty of the crime of genocide ideology is between twelve (12) and eighteen (18) years, he or she shall be sentenced to a half of the penalty referred to in Article 4 of this Law."

How in the name of god, can you say that a child under 12 is guilty of genocide ideology?

According to Ingabire this law goes against the constitution, which states that everybody has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Monday 13 february

Today the trial of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire reopend. But it was a short reopening, within an hour the judges decided to adjourn until march 12th. It was Ingabire who asked for more time: her lawyers only received the translated file with 600 pages on february 10, which gave them not enough time to prepare themselves. These documents were sent from Holland to Rwanda in November 2011 and needed translation into English. According to Ingabire the translation was done very poorly. She asked for more time to get a better translation. 

She wanted an adjournment as well because in the Netherlands her Dutch lawyer is investigating the statement of a Rwandan witness. There's much doubt about the creditability of this witness, while this statement can play an important role for the prosecution.

Wednesday januari 24, 2012

Last saturday party members and supporters of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire demonstrated in front of the Dutch parliament in The Hague. They asked the Dutch people not to go along with the policy of the Dutch government considering Rwanda. The Dutch government pays every year millions of euro's for the development of the Rwandees judicial system. 

It's that same judicial system which is used by the Rwandese government to arrest and put into jail those who criticize the regime, using dubious laws to accuse people of genocide ideology, divisionism or ties with the Hutu-rebels of the FDLR. 

its that same judicial system that arrested Victoire Ingabire and put her into jail. She's there since october 2010, living under not the best circumstances to say the least. Her trial started in august 2011, it's uncertain when it will end as her trial is postponed again. Now because prosecution needs more time for the translation of the more then 600 documents, sent to rwanda by the Dutch government in November. That's another way in which the Dutch are helping Rwanda: by sending documents and doing house searches in Holland.

President Paul Kagame is clear in how he sees Victoire Ingabire. On several occasions he said publicly that 'that woman' belongs in jail. The last time was during an interview with CNN, december 12th, 2011. 'That woman deserves only prison'. 

Also clear are the problems prosecution is dealing with concerning the evidence. From the start prosecution declared there was more then enough to send her to jail. But again and again, prosecution seized every opportunity to get more evidence, and again and again prosecution tried to rely the trial. It's also clear, evidence is manipulated. It's also clear the lawyers of Ingabire miss some of the documents belonging to her file. Then there are the four co-accused. It's clear prosecution has put them under a lot of pressure. And it's also clear prosecution sees them more like witnesses, not like co-accused. It's also clear the judges handling this trial are biassed.

Nevertheless, the Dutch government persists in her view of a fair trial for Ingabire and refuses to acknowledge her as a political prisoner.

That's why FDU-Inkingi askes in a petition to the Dutch government that they should declare the trial of Ingabire has lost all credibility. The Dutch government should also ask for immediate release of all political prisoners, not only the release of Ingabire, but also for example the release of Deogratias Mushayidi, Theoneste Niytegaka, Charles Ntakiutinka and Bernard Ntaganda. Also all support to Rwanda must be frozen.

While demonstrating, the Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte passed by coincidentally. De demonstrators seized the occasion and offered him the petition. He took it, all smiles. Let's see if he does anything with it.