Trial of Rashid Hakuzimana: A Test of Speech and Memory in Rwanda

In Nyanza, Rwanda, on February 8, 2024, the High Court’s chamber continued the trial of Rashid Hakuzimana, accused of four charges including denial and minimization of the genocide. The prosecution presented evidence, including videos that they claim show Hakuzimana denying the genocide. Specifically, Hakuzimana is accused of stating that two genocides occurred in Rwanda, a statement the prosecution argues constitutes genocide denial.

Rashid Hakuzimana, who has been detained since 2021, denies the charges against him, positioning himself as a political activist denied the right to free speech. During the presentation of the videos, Hakuzimana interrupted, claiming the court was biased and requested dismissal, highlighting a perceived suppression of his speech rights. The judge informed him he could leave if he wished, but the prosecution would continue outlining the charges.

The prosecution’s case against Hakuzimana includes his discussions on various YouTube platforms, including his own, where he suggested that the commemoration of the genocide should be altered or abolished to also include the remembrance of Hutus who died. Another video showed Hakuzimana criticizing the government for allegedly creating a village exclusively for Tutsi genocide survivors, which he argues is a significant mistake. These statements are viewed by the prosecution as acts of genocide minimization.

Additionally, Hakuzimana faces charges of inciting division and spreading rumors through YouTube. He maintains his innocence on all counts, arguing that those he is accused of offending should have had the opportunity to respond on his YouTube channel or through regulatory bodies.

The trial is set to continue on March 14, 2024.