Rwanda: Critics of the government are denied the right to appear in court.

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Mr. Sylvain Sibomana, Interim Secretary General of FDU-Inkingi and Mr. Dominic Shyirambere were battered by the Police before being dumped in prison for the simple reason that they had gone to attend the hearing in the appeal case of Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza at the Supreme Court.

On the 10th of April 2013, a judge of the High Court of Gasabo ordered, at the request of the public prosecution, the extension of the provisional detention of 30 days and their transfer to Kimironko prison. The reasons given for the extension of their detention was to contain their “attempts to incite an uprising of the population against the government”. This has become a very serious crime against anyone who does not want to toe the official political line of RPF.

The Rwandan Constitution gives right to every citizen to appeal against the extension of the provisional detention. Sylvain and Dominique appealed against the extension as soon as the decision of the judge was made. The High Court has remained silent as if it was waiting for the legal 30 days to expire so that the appeal case becomes outdated.

In the meantime, Sylvain Sibomana was summoned to appear at the High Court of Karongi on the 2nd of April 2013, in relation to another court case in which 7 co-defendants are accused of having met Sylvain Sibomana on the 15th of September 2012. One can hardly understand how the court could summon someone to take part in a court case in which he has never been questioned by the Criminal Investigation Department or by the Public Prosecution. Sylvain Sibomana was never allowed by the Kimironko prison authorities to respond to the summons to appear in the court case of Karongi.

Substantives hearings were to start at the beginning of March 2013 in the case against the 7 co-defendants i.e. Mutuyimana Anselme, Uwiringiyimana Venuste, Ufitamahoro Norbert, Twizeyimana Valens, Nahimana Marcel, Byukusenge Emmanuel and Gasengayire Leonille, in which they are accused of having met the Secretary General of FDU-Inkingi. The Public Prosecution had considered the meeting to be a subversive activity. They have been behind bars for the last 9 months.

When hearing started the Counsel for the accused, Bimenyimana Emmanuel pointed out that the said court did not have the legal competence to try them on the charges they are alleged to have committed. The counsel pointed out that they had to be tried by a lower court. After consideration of the counsel argument, the judge decided that only Mutuyimana Anselme would appear before that High court, because he was co-author in the crime, while the rest would be tried by a lower court.

Despite the decision of the court , the 6 accused (Uwiringiyimana Venuste, Ufitamahoro Norbert, Twizeyimana Valens, Nahimana Marcel, Byukusenge Emmanuel and Gasengayire Leonille), are held illegally because the Prosecution has not referred them to a lower court or provisionally released them. They have appealed against this illegal detention without success.

On the 24th of April 2013, the defence counsel wrote to the President of the High Court of Karongi to denounce the illegality of the detention. However the court registrar refused to accept the letter, under the pretext that the counsel had not attached a copy of the judgement. When the counsel asked the High Court of Karongi to give him a copy of the judgement, the relevant court authority refused to give him the copy on the pretext that the judgement had not yet been proofread and signed by the judges.

This ping pong game demonstrates bad faith on the part of the Prosecution in complicity with the judges to keep the accused in jail and thus deny them their right to equitable justice.

FDU-Inkingi calls for the end of this illegal detention of the 6 accused. It is beyond understanding that a government would keep a stony silence to calls to end the plight of people held illegally in its jail.

FDU-Inkingi denounces once again, the lack of independence of the judiciary that has been unable to give equal rights to the defence and the prosecution. This has been demonstrated particularly in cases involving members of the opposition. The latter are treated as pariah without rights. This shows again that the Rwandan justice system still has a long way to go.

FDU Inkingi

Boniface Twagirimana

Interim Vice-President

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