Thursday, April 19, 2012

New RNW evidence in Ingabire trial incites Dutch MPs

By Saskia Houttuin 
Radio Netherland worldwide
Published on : 19 April 2012 
Radio Netherlands Worldwide possesses documentary evidence about the alleged pressuring of Michel Habimana by the Rwandan prosecutor’s office. The news made its way to Dutch Parliament. During a debate on development aid, two Dutch MPs inquired into this new twist in the Ingabire trial.
As her lone witness, Colonel Habimana would have testified in favour of Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, who has been on trial in Kigali since autumn 2010. Yet Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga firmly denied Habimana’s testimony.
Dutch MPs cast a critical eye

“That a witness would have been manipulated confirms once again that these things happen in Rwanda,” said Dutch MP Joël Voordewind of the ChristianUnion (CU) party. “This leads to the suspicion that we should break our cooperation with this trial.”
Given Ingabire’s Rwandan-Dutch nationality, the Netherlands assisted the Rwandan government multiple times by authorizing search of her home near Rotterdam and dispatching documents for the purpose of her trial in Kigali.
Voordewind advocated the abolition of such requests for assistance. The MP had made this plea earlier, but lacked the necessary majority of parliamentary votes.
Dutch MP Jeroen de Lange also cast a critical eye at the Netherlands’ view on Rwanda’s human rights. TheLabour Party (PvdA) member believes that Dutch ambassador Frans Makken is too closely tied with the Rwandan government. “This does not mean I distrust our ambassador,” said De Lange. “But I think [Makken] should exercise more distance.” Unlike Voordewind, De Lange sees cessation of judicial help as a step too far. “We must keep in mind that Rwanda is a constitution that is still under construction.”
Foreign Affairs keeps close watch

“There are reasons for concern,” said Dutch State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ben Knapen, responding to questions. “Therefore, as always, we continue to keep a close watch on Ingabire’s trial, ever since its start in 2010.”
Not satisfied with Knapen's statement, Voordewind demanded the secretary write a letter to the Rwandan government, citing the issues at hand.
Dutch truth commission? 

De Lange forwarded another proposal. The MP suggested a new task for the Netherlands: overseeing a truth commission to be set up in Africa’s Great Lakes region. “It’s a role that fits in perfectly with the Dutch policy and ability,” said De Lange. “Whereas countries like France and England already have an ‘estranged’ relationship with some of the region’s population, the Netherlands is relatively neutral.”
Knapen responded positively, calling the plan “stimulating” and “interesting for The Hague [as seat of the Dutch government].”
Back in Kigali, Ingabire is boycotting all further hearings of her trial. Defence lawyer Iain Edwards told RNW that Ingabire’s decision not to appear in court does not increase her chance of being acquitted.

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