The Supreme Court has termed the comments by Amnesty International on the ongoing trial of Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza as “tendentious and prejudicial” to the independent judge adjudicating the appeal case. The highest judicial organ in the country was reacting to a statement released yesterday by the UK-based rights watchdog, which was disseminated as the appeal case of Ingabire went underway.
Ingabire’s appeal is being heard by a three-person Supreme Court bench after both she and prosecution appealed, for different reasons, against her eight-year sentence by the High Court in October last year.
“For the sake of its credibility, Amnesty International should wait for the matter to be examined by the judges of appeal, instead of giving him injunction to reverse the judgment rendered by the High Court, before even the start of proceedings,” reads part of a statement signed by Charles Kaliwabo, the spokesperson for the judiciary.
The statement from Amnesty International calls upon the Supreme Court to “rectify a number of problems which occurred in the trial (on first instance).”
“Amnesty International observed most of the trial from September 2011 to April 2012 and recorded numerous instances where Ingabire was treated unfairly,” reads the statement.
Ingabire, 44, was convicted of two counts of Genocide denial and conspiracy and planning to cause state insecurity, which earned her the eight-year sentence.
The High Court acquitted her of four other charges that included genocide ideology, promoting ethnic divisionism and supporting armed groups.
“In its will to defend international standards for a fair trial, Amnesty International has, itself, violated one of the most fundamental ones, namely, “to avoid any comment likely to influence the decision of the judge,” the statement from the Judiciary said.
Ingabire, who heads an un-registered political entity calling itself United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), was arrested in 2010, after she was linked to some elements outside the country with the intention of launching subversive attacks on the Rwandan territory.
This allegation was corroborated by her co-accused – four former militia officers with links to the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group operating in the DRC with its rank and file mainly composed of people responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The quartet, who had entered guilty pleas, were sentenced to varying sentences ranging from three years and half and two years and seven months.
The prosecution was not happy with both the acquittal of Ingabire on the four charges and the mitigating elements presented by the judge in reducing her sentence.
Meanwhile, prosecution was also equally ‘disappointed’ by the statement from Amnesty International yesterday.
According to the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, “Amnesty International preaches independence of judicial process and in the same breath goes ahead and write their own judgments in cases that are before the courts.”
Ngoga accused the watchdog of behaving as if they were a superior court.
“What they are doing and what they have done in this case is a direct affront to the independence of Rwanda’s judiciary and an attempt to cause disrepute to the case.”
Ingabire returned to Rwanda in January 2010 after a 16-year self-imposed exile in The Netherlands, with an ambition to stand during presidential elections in August that year.
Part of her charges were drawn from her speech at Gisozi Genocide Memorial, which included insinuation that there had been double genocide in Rwanda – a narrative seen as trivialising the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Subsequent accounts from her co-accused pinned her for coordinating with them, at times sending them money to organise subversive activities aimed at destabilizing Rwanda.