Wednesday, April 18, 2012

RWANDA: INGABIRE WITHDRAWS FROM THE KANGAROO TRIAL

By Boniface Twagirimana
Interim Vice President

Kigali, 16 April  2012

Ms. Victoire Ingabire in Court
Following continuing intimidation of defense witnesses, the opposition leader Madame Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, FDU – Inkingi Chair,  told today the High Court that she has irrevocably  lost trust in this show trial and that subsequently she will boycott all  the next hearings. She instructed her defense counsel to abide by her decision and stay away from this unfortunate circus.  The prosecutors told the court that the alleged intimidation  of defense witnesses is not enough reason to withdraw, and that she should be produced in court even if she persists to boycott.  Referring to the jurisprudence and rules of procedure on decisions rendered in the case ICTR v. Barayagwiza in Arusha, they suggested that a new counsel be designated for  “in absentia proceedings”. The Court ruling on the issue of the refusal to attend the trial proceedings is due on 18 April 2012.
Before this impasse, the court refused to hear the defense witness  Michel Habimana on allegations of intimidation and ordered him out of the courthouse. The defense lawyer, Batonnier Gatera Gashabana, insisted that the  intimidation and threats will scare away all their witnesses should the High Court slams the principle  to resort to the law for remedy.
Madame Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza explained that this situation has reached a non-return point and that a fair trial was not possible anymore in those conditions. “I am accused of terrible crimes, my  witnesses are intimidated and the court does not care”. She exposed the flaws since the inception of this masquerade, before she  announced that she was withdrawing with immediate effect:
  • Obvious interferences in this trial by President Paul Kagame, Cabinet Ministers and other governmental officials trying to keep a hold upon and circumvent the outcome of the proceedings;
  • Intimidation, harassment of defense witnesses;
  • “On April 8, 2011 I was taken to a closed door secret meeting in the office of the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga who told me that I was arrested because I have caused a political stand-off with the government alleging that we are promoting a new Hutu rule because I and my party are accusing RPF of crimes against the Hutu populations. Further to those private discussions on May 13, 2011 I sent a 9-page letter to the Prosecutor General explaining my position on these crucial problems and the way I think the country should be governed in a way that assures everybody. I wrote that whatever may happen, this struggle will no be forgotten in the revolution aimed at changing the country’s governance that was launched in 2010. Shall I die or live, be detained or freed, what we have achieved will never go back. This movement is even stronger than myself. I advised him to free all political prisoners, to open up the political space and to start a dialogue between the regime and its opposition. He told me that they expected apologies in exchange of a governmental pardon unto alleged offenses in the indictment …”, she said.
  • During this trial, for many times my lawyers have been deprived of the right to cross-examine the prosecutor’s witnesses and even the right to speak;
  • The principle of non-retroactivity of criminal law and the lack of jurisdiction to try some charges have been violated by this court. The High Court refuses to exclude materials  predating the publications of the Law N° 45/2008 of 9 September 2008 on Counter Terrorism; Law N° 47/2001 of 18 December 2001 on Prevention, Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Discrimination and Sectarianism; and the Law N° 18/2008 of 23 July 2008 on genocide ideology. There are numerous such documents in the Prosecutor’s dossier which cannot amount to evidence of criminal liability under Rwandan laws. The High Court went beyond its territorial jurisdiction on some charges and ordered the accused to defend herself  on them.
  • The court has been siding too closely with the prosecution instead of considering the truth. This has rendered impossible all chances for any meaningful fairness. The abuse of process has prevailed since the beginning of this process causing massive unfairness and frustration.
“This is a a political show trial, the field is not leveled, my rights are constantly violated. I humbly inform this honorable court that I withdraw from this flawed process”, said Madame Victoire Ingabire.

Defense Barrister Iain Edwards who was not in court said on phone “it was time to quit this foolishness and travesty of justice. According to the Rwandan law, we (the defense) automatically withdraw from the High Court process but will continue to defend her Supreme Court petition on constitutional review of contentious genocide laws”.
The High court will issue its decision on the continuity and the rules of in absentia procedure on 18 April 2012, 11:00.

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