By The Rwandan Lawyer
The examination of the case of IDAMANGE YVONNE was fixed on Tuesday before the chamber judging international and cross-boundary crimes and the court decided to judge the concerned in camera in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and the law relating to criminal procedure as well as the law relating to civil‚ commercial‚ labor and administrative procedure according to which trials are in principle public but the judge may decide conducting them in camera when are threatened public order or morals. The accused IDAMANGE YVONNE contested and requests the open court. The court after deliberation rejected his objection and confirmed the in-camera proceeding; decision against which she reacted by requiring the disqualification of the panel and warning that she is no longer expecting justice from such a court if her demand is not favorably addressed. What are reasons leading the court to subject the trial of this lady on session in camera? What are the interests of IDAMANGE Yvonne to prefer the open court for audiences for her case? The present article tackles an analysis on this sui generis case.
Idamange Iryamugwiza Yvonne is charged with six counts including denigrating genocide commemoration artefacts, inciting an uprising among the public, publication of rumors, intentional assault and battery, blocking the enforcement of government orders, and issuing a bounced cheque. During the latest hearing, the prosecution had requested the court to remand the suspect on the basis that she is a flight risk and might as well continue to commit the alleged crimes using her YouTube channel once given bail or/and destroy evidence. However, the accused pleaded not guilty of alleged crimes and applied for bail, saying that she wants to go and take care of her four children and does not intend to destroy evidence. Announcing the verdict, the presiding judge said that Iryamugwiza will be provisionally detained on grounds of the seriousness of crimes she is alleged committed.
The judge also explained that the videos that Iryamugwiza published, which she admitted to being hers, contain information that stands as proof that she might have committed the charges she faces.
Meanwhile, the court among others ruled that Iryamugwiza’s allegations of illegal arrest and searching by authorities were unfounded.
After the ruling, the suspect who attended virtually and was accompanied by one of her two lawyers said that she appeals against the court’s decision. The date for the appeal hearing has not yet been announced.
Iryamugwiza was arrested on February 15 after appearing on her YouTube channel a number of times to allegedly incite public disorder among other accusations.
According to prosecution, through her YouTube channel, the accused published a litany of malicious rumors, including one announcing the death of the Head of State, and called on Rwandans countrywide to rise up and rebel against the government.
2. Open court versus trial in camera
2.1. In camera proceeding
In-camera proceeding is used in sensitive cases essentially to protect the privacy of the parties. Simply put, ‘in-camera’ proceeding is a proceeding carried out in private, in the absence of the public and the press. Essentially the proceedings are conducted through video conferencing to safeguard the privacy and protection of the accused. The public and the media are excluded from such proceedings for the purposes of sensitivity.
2.2. Factors to choose such a mechanism
In-camera proceeding is an exception to the rule of an open court. An open court or open justice is when a case is heard in the presence of the people and the press, who would report the cases to the public. The usual course of a proceeding is an open court. In-camera proceedings are done rarely, in exceptional cases when the court deems fit.
Entire cases may be heard in-camera when, for example, matters of national security are involved. In-camera review by a judge may be used during otherwise open trials—for example, to protect trade secrets or where one party asserts privilege (such as attorney–client privileged communications). This lets the judge review documents in private to determine if revelation of documents in open court will be allowed.
In most of courts, in-camera review describes a process or procedure where a judge privately looks at confidential, sensitive, or private information to determine what, if any, information may be used by a party or made public. An in camera review may be at someone’s request (such as counsel in the case), or by order of the court.
An example of “in-camera review” by the court: a defendant prosecuted for the alleged murder of a high school student asserts his was an act of self-defense, a last resort after the deceased physically assaulted the defendant. Witnesses tell investigators and lawyers that the victim “was always getting into fights in school” and frequently had to visit the principal’s office. The defendant seeks to obtain the deceased’s high school files to see if there is anything proving the deceased fighting at school. A party for the deceased’s family might argue against disclosure on the basis that school records which are presumably private should not be provided to the defendant. While a judge might acknowledge the general presumption, the court might permit the defendant limited use at trial of any school records that may establish the deceased’s physically aggressive tendencies.
In this example, before allowing disclosure of files to the defendant, or for revelation of the records to the jury, the judge performs an in-camera inspection on the deceased’s high school records to determine what records, if any, would be released to the defendant. The judge may disallow use of some or all of the records that are reviewed, limit use or purpose of the records, and may order a party to take all steps necessary to keep private and confidential the information released.
The casefile of Idamange Iryamugwiza Yvonne raised curiosity of more than one so that it deserves a specific analysis even if it is still pending.
3.1. A case already ruled
The case of Idamange Yvonne as well as that of Karasira Aimable are seemingly prosecuted in the same framework of a genocide survivors who dare disapprove the governance of the RPF as their liberators from the genocide which was perpetrated against them. Their fate will not defer from that was decided by Rwandan criminal courts against Deo Mushaidi who was unfortunate to unwillingly be repatriated in Rwanda. Fighting this vision imposed by the masters of the country and mediatize a new hostile position which present authorities of Kigali as criminals who committed war crimes; who are marketing genocide to get legitimacy before the international community and financial donors ; who really are plundering the national treasury, did nothing for genocide survivors in terms of economic rehabilitation and employment as the majority are jobless as well as other disfavored social groups is considered as an unforgivable crime.
3.2. The fear of the regime
Indeed, if Hutu living inside Rwanda have resigned and accept to suffer from poverty; discrimination in all advantages constitutionally recognized to citizens, the RPF regime was still lying to Tutsi genocide survivors by granting to them so insignificant positions which do not handle the hardships they daily encounter. With time, they found out the real face of this regime whereby nepotism, corruption, fierce and savage capitalism and other indictors of a bad governance which does take into account the interests of its citizens and were courageous to unveil it to the public. The process was launched by Kizito Mihigo and he paid by his life; Rwigara family underwent prison and destruction of their property estimated in billion and are still threatened. The RPF regime fears that timid revolution may with time grow up and mobilize all Tutsi unduly suffering because of its malicious policies and beat it without mercy. The provisional solution deemed against them is therefore to imprison or kill opinion leaders who fearlessly strive to afford the master of the regime to kill in the bud the laudable initiative. A public hearing is therefore dangerous because Idamange will be able to reiterate what she had already said on her blog and the population followed her en masse and with thirst.
Games are already played to mean that the outcome of those formal proceedings is already known; in other words‚ she already convicted. As Rusesabagina reacted when all his objections were rejected by the court, Idamange Yvonne seems following his footsteps because such sensitive cases are politicized and courts lose automatically their theoretical independence compelled to espouse the argumentations and decisions dictated by other invisible authorities but who really are ruling the country and penalties which are pronounced do not astonish none. Wait and see.