By Erasme Rugemintwaza
The Special Chamber of the International Crimes and Terrorism sentenced, this 30th September, 2021, Idamange Iryamugwiza Yvonne to 15 years in prison and a fine of two million Rwandan Francs.
Idamange Iryamugwiza Yvonne, a 42-years-old mother, has been widely known since the beginning of February 2021 for her critical comments on the YouTube channel, criticizing the Kigali regime. She has always said that it was because of the very manifest injustice in Rwanda that she decided at her own risk to speak in public. She is accused of six counts of accusations, whose main ones are incitement to violence or riots in public, to cause disturbances to public order. And despite her status of genocide survivor, like Karasira Uzaramba Aimable, three months after her arrest, Idamange Iryamugwiza has been accused of denying or defaming the Genocide against the Tutsis.
Note that during her arrest, the Rwandan police had indicated that Idamange had also injured an officer with a bottle and that her videos mixed politics, madness and criminal comments. But Lewis Mudge of Human Rights Watch had assured that “This trial seems intended to intimidate anyone considering expressing critical or controversial views”.
It is in the hall of the Palace of Court, located in Nyanza in south of Rwanda, that the three judges of the trial panel –which panel, Idamange had refused in June 2021- read the verdict in public. Neither Idamange, nor her lawyers, nor the prosecution were present in the hall, which was highly crisscrossed by the security forces.
In fact Idamange faces six counts of accusations of which 5 get from her shows on YouTube. These charges include (1) inciting insurrection or public uprising, (2) denigrating genocide commemoration artefacts, (3) publication of rumours, (4) assault and causing bodily harm, (5) obstructing the work of law enforcement organs and finally (6) issuing a bouncing cheque in 2018.
Ms. Idamange has not been acquitted for any of the six charges brought against her and it is the competition of all these offenses that she receives 15 years against 30 required by the prosecution. As most of the charges against her are based on the shows on the YouTube channel bearing her name “Idamange”, Idamange has never refused either the authenticity or to be the author of these shows which she always considered to be its inalienable right of expression recognized by the Constitution of Rwanda.
But the Court has always shown to Idamange that her comments on YouTube are false defamations without a known source, and can cause disturbances to public order. Idamange was also found guilty of issuing a bouncing cheque in 2018, an offense that normally expires after 3 years.
Since June 2021, Idamange had resolved to no longer appear in court, which he accused of partiality; also the tribunal wanted the case to be handled behind closed doors, but Idamange and her lawyers did not understand, especially since she is being prosecuted for her shows that circulate in public on YouTube. But the prosecution alleged that trail in public could give Idamange the opportunity, this time official, to continue her propaganda to incite the people to revolt against the power and public authority, and she could continue to deny the Genocide. This could disturb the peace of Rwandans.
Me Felician Gashema, one of Idamange’s lawyers (the other one is Me Bikotwa Bruce), said that it is after receiving the copy of the judgement of Tribunal that they will whether make an appeal or not according to the will of Idamange.
Let us point out that a brief outline notices a persistent fact in these trials in which defendants claim to be “political” victims. All the defendants resolve, halfway, and abandon themselves to a fatally fateful decision to no longer appear in their trials, for almost the same reason: the partiality of the courts. A justice cut to measure, which is no longer rendered on behalf of the people.