Rwanda: The postponement of the verdict in the trial of Victoire Ingabire amounts to a diversionary tactic

We learned without a big surprise that the Rwandan judicial authorities have decided not to announce the long-awaited verdict in the trial of FDU-Inkingi’s Chair, Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, and her four co-defendants.

This maneuver which aims to maintain an innocent person in prison is unacceptable. Indeed, Ms. Victoire Ingabire has just spent three years and two weeks in the Kigali maximum security prison solely because she dared to demand the opening of political space until now padlocked by the RPF regime which does not allow any political party that is not beholden to the RPF to operate freely. Only organizations that have pledged allegiance to the RPF can aspire to the status of political party in Rwanda; all others are either prohibited or persecuted or subjected to internal divisions orchestrated by the regime.

Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza returned from an over 16-year exile in the Netherlands to register her political party, FDU- Inkingi, in Rwanda and participate in the presidential election of August 2010. Upon her arrival she was treated as an “enemy” of the country; she was persecuted by both authorities and the media close to the regime, before security services, the police and the courts got involved to fabricate trumped-up charges against her, which, as the trial has revealed, turned out to be politically motivated.

At the end of the trial before the High Court of Kigali, in which the rights of the accused and her defense counsel were violated in broad daylight, Ms. Victoire Ingabire was sentenced to eight years in prison, the sentence against which she appealed to the Supreme Court. The prosecution also appealed that court’s decision along with the other one relating to the four co-accused of Victoire Ingabire.

The Supreme Court told Ms. Ingabire’s lawyers that should the verdict have to be postponed for one reason or another, all of the parties would be notified at least one week before the scheduled date for the verdict. We now note that the postponement of this verdict comes just three days before the previously announced date.

FDU-Inkingi condemns this procrastination of the verdict by the Rwandan regime and deplores the court’s contempt against the imprisoned person and her defense counsel that has to pull together before it can attend the verdict.

FDU-Inkingi notes with regret that the Rwandan regime is trying to buy time when all the people and non-governmental organizations that followed the trial closely attest that the charges preferred against Ms. Ingabire are unfounded. Most of the prosecution’s witnesses have recanted or retracted. In a normal judicial system, such a fact would have led to the dismissal of all the charges and to the immediate release of the accused.

FDU-Inkingi is dismayed by reports that the co-accused of Ms. Ingabire may have been released on the sly before knowing the verdict on the main accused, against whom these co-defendants have testified before retracting for most of them.

It is time to render justice to the FDU-Inkingi’s Chair. It is in the Rwandan regime’s interest to release an innocent person and accept the opening of political space, the only way conducive to sustainable development and progress much needed for our people.

FDU- Inkingi demands the immediate release of its Chair, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, its Secretary General, Sylvain Sibomana, all of its other members, as well as all political opponents who are languishing in prison without having committed any crime.

Done in Paris, on October 29, 2013

Dr. Emmanuel Mwiseneza
Commissioner in Charge of Information and Communication