Rwandan Court Rejects Bernard Ntaganda’s Request for Clearance of Criminal Record

On May 14, 2024, the Rwandan High Court dismissed the case filed by politician Bernard Ntaganda, who sought to have his criminal record expunged to qualify for the upcoming presidential election.

The judge ruled that Ntaganda did not meet the legal requirements for such a request. Both Ntaganda and Bonaventure Ruberwa, representing the prosecution, were absent when the decision was announced.

Ntaganda’s petition aimed to allow him to contest in the presidential elections scheduled for later this year. Presiding Judge Jean Pierre Habarurema reviewed the case history, reminding that Ntaganda was convicted in 2010 for crimes including endangering state security, inciting division, and organizing illegal demonstrations. He was sentenced to four years in prison, a sentence upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012.

The prosecution argued that Ntaganda had not complied with legal obligations since his release in 2014. They cited his continued political activities as the leader of the PS Imberakuri party, despite the party being officially led by Deputy Christine Mukabunani. Ntaganda contended that his role as party president was unrelated to the legal title of President-Founder of PS Imberakuri.

Additionally, the prosecution highlighted that Ntaganda failed to pay a fine imposed upon him, which expired in 2020. They argued he must wait ten more years before requesting record clearance. Ntaganda countered that he had paid the fine and related court costs in 2024, asserting he fulfilled the legal criteria for his request.

The High Court carefully analyzed arguments from both sides, concluding that Ntaganda did not pay the fine within the two-year period mandated by law, thus invalidating his petition for record expungement.

In an interview with Voice of America, Ntaganda insisted that such rulings would not deter him from his political ambitions. He joins DALFA-Umulinzi party leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who recently had a similar petition rejected by Rwandan courts and has since appealed to the East African Court of Justice.

Ntaganda also mentioned the possibility of seeking justice through the East African Court of Justice.

This case highlights ongoing political tensions in Rwanda and the challenges faced by opposition figures in navigating the legal system.