Saturday, April 21, 2012

Rwanda: Victoire Ingabire accuses the executive of meddling into her trial


Declaration of Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza
before the High Court of Kigali.

[As delivered in the courtroom].

Kigali, April 16, 2012.

During this period of more than six months since the beginning of this trial, I noticed several irregularities that I tolerated, but today, I’ve lost confidence in this justice system for two main reasons:

The first reason is that this justice system has resorted to intimidations against the informant witness called in by the defense counsel. He was interrogated, his prison cell was searched, and I think that there is a big problem here, because should the prosecution had grievances against the informant witness, they should have raised them in advance to the Court. However, given the fact that such an incident took place when the informant witness had just provided information to the court and was scheduled to return to the court the next day, that’s why I thought that it was intimidation. And I wondered how someone else would dare to testify after such abuses against the only defense witness who dared to come forward. Why do I say that? I must remind the prosecutor Bonaventure Ruberwa of a conversation I had with him in his office before I was arrested. The prosecution had sought witnesses against me among the prisoners from the prison of Gisenyi. The prisoners said that they had been contacted to testify against me on allegations that I had tried to recruit them saying that I came back to Rwanda so that I can set them free. At that very moment, I told the prosecutor that I was aware of such a scenario and asked him to stop it.

In October 2010, when I was arrested, following the airing of accusations that I was in collaboration with a former FDLR soldier with the ultimate goal to destabilize the country, some people had also provided me with other information, saying that they knew Vital Uwumuremyi (the prosecution’s key witness in this trial). They even gave the names of his contacts within the Rwandan secret services. However, in order not to jeopardize their safety, these people have now retracted saying that they couldn’t testify about anything. The fact of alleging that they had some information and subsequently saying that they couldn’t testify about anything, I took it as a ridiculous exaggeration. However, after noticing how the defense witness was treated, the doubt was lifted on these people who refused to testify for fear of their safety. In fact, I was convinced that they were right. Before that, I thought they were coward people, but after such intimidations I wondered how people who are not in prison should feel when after testifying they find their home turned upside down. I am convinced that these people were right when they refused to testify in my trial because they saw how this witness was treated.

Such fears for intimidations have led us to my second reason: The crimes of which I am accused are very serious; these are the crimes that include the crime of inciting genocide, the crime of threatening to overthrow the government by means terrorism and war. If defense witnesses are intimidated while officials accuse me of such serious crimes, which judge in Rwanda would dare to hand over a judgment that goes against the charges brought against me by the regime? Will such a verdict be accepted by that same regime? Especially because such judges are also subjected to similar intimidations as the ones that are being exerted against the defense witnesses.

Why do I say all this? I say this because since the beginning of this trial, the President of the Republic and the Minister of Justice continuously accused me through the media and public speeches by sidelining too closely with the prosecution even though I had confidence in this justice system. Because in the court, I had hoped that the executive would let the judiciary do its job independently. But as they continued to make accusations against me throughout the media, inside the country and abroad, I wondered which judge, in Rwanda, would dare to make a decision that goes against the charges preferred against me by these officials. I think these two reasons are strong enough to destroy any hope of getting fair justice in this trial.

Honorable the judges, on April 8, 2011, the Prosecutor General ordered the management of the Kigali maximum security prison to take me to his office. I went there. We held a meeting that lasted for two hours. During such an interview, he told me that, according to their analysis, they concluded that I had a plan of installing a Hutu regime, of which the Tutsi were afraid, and which was unacceptable. He added that should I had not been put in prison I would have encouraged the people to resort to civil disobedience. I told him that they were wrong about my intentions. I wrote a report of such an interview and sent it to him. I can give you a copy of such a report (the report was handed over to the presiding judge).

It is a report that I sent to the Prosecutor General after our closed-door meeting, which lasted for two hours, on April 8, 2011. I was specifically told that the reason for which I was incarcerated is because I allegedly intended to establish a Hutu regime. Because they felt that I would incite the population to rise against the government (Interruption). This report includes statements of the Prosecutor General, the reasons for my imprisonment and my response to such allegations. This is why I am handing it over to the court. You will find that the report is stamped “confidential”, because at that time, I did not want this document to be disclosed to the public, but I ask the Vice-President of FDU-Inkingi, Boniface Twagirimana, to publish it and let the people know the reasons why I 'm incarcerated.

I would repeat to your Honors that I did not return to my country to alienate anyone from his/her rights; I did not come back to my country to cause trouble; I did not come back to my country with intent to commit terrorism or launch war. We never, in our program, advocated the use of weapons to change the current regime. All these things were not part of our program. I returned to my country because I love it; I intended to work with other follow Rwandans to support development based on democracy. This is the path we have set forth with my party FDU-Inkingi. I know it's a long process that requires courage and selflessness; I ask all the FDU-Inkingi activists to follow this path (interruption).

Honorable the judges, I’ve decided to withdraw from this trial and I ask my lawyers to stop representing me and stay away from this trial because I realized that I will not get justice. From now on, I will boycott all future court hearings. I ask my lawyers to stop all pleadings because I have come to similar conclusions that the regime is afraid that I may incite the people to rise against it and that should I find exculpatory evidence it would be meaningless. Specifically, as long as the regime is not convinced that I, Ingabire, do not intend to incite the people to rise against it, everything I'll do will be useless.

Note:
This document is also available in Kinyarwanda and French.



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