Rwanda: Victoire Ingabire was sentenced on the ground of new charges based on documents found on Wikipedia – Defense counsel Barrister, Iain Edwards tells the Supreme Court
The Defence Counsel of political prisoner Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, Mr Iain Edwards has told the Supreme Court that her client was sentenced on the ground of new charges based on documents found on Wikipedia and on personal thoughts expressed by Yves Ternon on the history of Rwanda and not at all based on Rwandan or international jurisprudence.
When the Defence Counsel Iain Edwards took the floor to give reasons for his appeal to the Supreme Court, he regretted how her client, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza had been sentenced by the High Court on the basis of new charges which were not brought before it during the trial while it had cleared her of the 6 charges submitted to it by the Prosecution. The two new charges include negationism/revisionism and high treason.
The defence counsel pointed out that the accusations are not based on legal documents but rather on information picked from Wikipedia without any reference to their author or place of publication. The High Court had also based its sentence on the publications of an individual, Yves Ternon, instead of using laws and regulations applicable in Rwanda and at international level. He regretted that the High court did not have the courtesy to invite the accused to say something about those publications.
The Defence counsel also pointed out that the High Court had supported its verdict using extracts from the political programme of a Party and on a speech made by Mrs Victoire Ingabire at the Genocide Memorial of Gisozi.
With regard to the political programme of FDU INKINGI, the High Court had heavily relied on the use of the word “Rwandan genocide”. In this respect the defence counsel pointed out that the document was written in 2006 and at the time the Rwandan constitution had not yet been reviewed to use specifically the term “Tutsi genocide”. The Defence Counsel Mr Iain therefore pointed out that his client could not be sentenced for not using a term which was did not exist in law at the time of writing.
With regard to the charge of negationisme/revisionism, Mr Iain asked the Supreme Court to take into consideration its own decisions in the case n°0031/11/S/CS relating to journalists Sayidadi Mukakibibi and Uwimana Agnès Nkusi. In its verdict, the Supreme Court cleared the journalists of the charge of negationism/revisionism basing itself on article 4 due to the vagueness of the definition. Besides, the Supreme Court had pointed out that the Public Prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt the intention of the accused to commit a crime. Counsel Iain highlighted the fact that his client was victim of the use of the same law and therefore deserved justice like in the case of the two journalists.
Commenting on the vagueness of the law the Counsel Iain stated that the law seriously contravened international conventions that Rwanda is party to particularly the international conventions on civil and political rights, specifically the freedom of expression and of thought, which the Rwandan government signed on the 16/07/1997.
The conclusions of MR Iain followed those made by his co-counsel Gatera Gashabana who had also highlighted the irregularities that had marred the legal process during the trial before the High Court. The irregularities included the violation of international conventions on fair trial to which Rwanda is party, including the right of defence as stipulated in article 119 of the code of criminal procedure as well as lack of tangible evidence to prove personal responsibility in the charges brought against Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. .
Mr Gatera told the Supreme Court that he was surprised that the co-accused of Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza would be acquitted of crimes for which they had pleaded guilty and asked pardon. This decision implied that their guilty plea had not been accepted. On the contrary and to his great surprise the High Court was ready and quick to generously accept statements made by the co-accused against his client in order to condemn her.
The defence continues its submission today 24th April 2013 by looking at the video of the speech made by Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza at Gisozi to demonstrate how the speech was manipulated by the Prosecution in order to incriminate her.