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Take Action for Rwandan Opposition Politician Victoire IngabireSusan Thomson Special to Salem-News.com
Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza – Chair of Opposition Party FDU-Inkingi
(WASHINGTON D.C.) - Earlier this week, the Rwandan High Court ruled that it had full jurisdiction in the case of opposition leader, Victoire Ingabire. This went unremarked by the international and domestic media, save a few reports from actors sympathetic to the obvious involvement of senior Rwandan government officials in Ingabire’s trial. Indeed, almost all of the reporting on Ingabire’s case is coming from officials of her FDU-Inkingi party.
Ingabire, of the United Democratic Front, is on trial in Kigali for fomenting insecurity, denying the 1994 genocide and promoting ethnic divisionism. Rwandan security forces detained her in January 2010, in advance of the August 2010 Presidential elections in which the incumbent, Paul Kagame, was re-elected with 93% of the popular vote. Ingabire’s detention meant that her UDF did not stand in the August elections. She will spend 30 years in prison if found guilty.
The purpose of this post is to ask you to take action, namely write to Paul Kagame, to request a fair trial. We need to bring more attention to the flawed nature of this case to the international community, and writing letters of protest to Kagame with a copy to your local politician is a good place to start. I prepared sample text for you to cut-and-paste below.
The Prosecution claim to have evidence of Ingabire’s ‘terrorist’ activities with Hutu rebel groups based in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. Ingabire’s defence team, a Brit and a Rwandan, had been unable to assess the veracity and validity of the prosecution’s claims because the 2500-page indictment was issued in Kinyarwanda. This was contrary to the defendant’s right to an interpreter, which was required for defense lawyer Iain Edwards to do his job. The indictment was finally translated, but only a few weeks before her trial began in September 2011, leaving her defense team little time to prepare its counter-arguments.
At the same time, it appears that the rule of law, and the right to presumption of innocence are under threat, with senior members of the Rwandan government, including President Paul Kagame, Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Muskikwabo, and Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga, publically proclaiming victory in the case before the defense had even mounted its argument in court.
Ingabire faces charges of being linked to rebel activity in eastern Congo and that she has uttered hate speech and denies the genocide. Ingabire has called for government recognition that ethnic Hutu are also survivors of the genocide. Since the 2008 Constitutional revision, it has become illegal to refer to the genocide as anything other than the genocide of Tutsi.
Amnesty International and other international human rights organizations have advocated for the Rwandan government to allow for greater freedom of expression. Opposition politicians, like Ingabire, journalists and human rights advocates cannot criticize the policies or activities of the government without fear of swift and severe repercussion. The case of Victoire Ingabire is emblematic of broader trends of repression and oppression in Rwanda, as noted in Amnesty International’s on-going “Allow Criticism to be Voiced” campaign.
His Excellency President Paul Kagame
I am writing to express my concern for judicial irregularities and lack of respect for the rights of Mrs. Victoire Ingabire of the United Democratic Front. The indictment against Mrs. Ingabire is vague and sweeping. Her legal team has been unable to adequately prepare its defense arguments. In addition, Mr. President, members of your government have publicly spoken out about Mrs. Ingabire’s guilt, which is direct government interference in the judicial process. Such actions raise serious questions about the independence of the Rwandan judiciary, and the ability of Mrs. Ingabire to receive a fair trial that respects her human rights.
I urge you to allow Mrs. Ingabire a fair trial, which means letting her defense team to work unencumbered without fear of government interference in the proceedings.
Thank you, Source: rwandainfo_Eng
Submitted by: Jennifer Fierberg, MSW
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