Kigali, 07 March 2012
Today, the political prisoner Ms. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, imprisoned leader of FDU-INKINGI, has petitioned the Rwandan Supreme Court to challenge the constitutionality of ultra vires aspects of articles 2 to 9 of the LAW N°18/2008 OF 23/07/2008 RELATING TO THE PUNISHMENT OF THE CRIME OF GENOCIDE IDEOLOGY because they are not in accordance with the rules laid down by the current constitution of Rwanda. Article 145 of the Constitution gives to the Supreme Court the judicial review powers and latitude to analyze laws in terms of their constitutionality. If the Court finds the law unconstitutional, it will be nullified.
In another different high court motion, the opposition leader has today subpoenaed the Minister of Defense and the Foreign affairs Minister to appear before the High Court and testify on alleged assassination plans targeting an exiled national inSouth Africa, as revealed in a prosecution testimony filed by the National Public Prosecution Authority in her case.
The LAW N°18/2008 OF 23/07/2008 RELATING TO THE PUNISHMENT OF THE CRIME OF GENOCIDE IDEOLOGY was published in the Official Gazette n°20 of 20 October 2008. This law has been seen as “impossibly vague, broad and abstract” by many legal analysts and international human rights researchers. Human rights organizations and theU.S. government alike have denounced the law for having been used to silence those who oppose the government.
In the case of Ms. Victoire Ingabire many of the acts referred to in the indictment have happened before this law was promulgated. Article 20 of the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda of 4 June 2003 (as amended) provides that no one shall be punished on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a crime under the law in force at the time it was committed.
The article 2 defines the genocide ideology as follows: “an aggregate of thoughts characterized by conduct, speeches, documents and other acts aiming at exterminating or inciting others to exterminate people basing on ethnic group, origin, nationality, region, color, physical appearance, sex, language, religion or political opinion, committed in normal periods or during war”. Article 4 is about sentencing the crime of genocide ideology:”Any person convicted of the crime of genocide ideology as mentioned in Articles 2 and 3 of this Law shall be sentenced to an imprisonment of ten (10) years to twenty five (25) years and a fine … In case of recidivism, the penalty provided for in the preceding paragraph shall be doubled”.
The Rwandan genocide ideology law has been characterized by Amnesty International as “a very broad, imprecise and even confusing array of activities and expression” which includes “terms which are widely open for abusive interpretation such as ‘marginalising,’ ‘laughing,’ ‘mocking,’ ‘boasting,’ and ‘creating confusion aiming at negating the genocide which occurred’ and ‘stirring up ill feelings’ or which very obviously have no place in any law such as ‘propounding wickedness.’“
Articles 2-9 of this law don’t state clearly which legal violation is punishable by which penalties. Imprisonment penalties awarded to individuals, adults and children or penalties to organisations, associations, schools should respect the principle of proportions in the international law. For example article 9 on penalties awarded to children guilty of the crime of genocide ideology reads: “In case a child under twelve years (12) of age is found guilty of a crime of genocide ideology, he or she shall be taken to a rehabilitation centre …In case a child who is found guilty of the crime of genocide ideology is between twelve (12) and eighteen (18) years, he or she shall be sentenced to a half of the penalty referred to in Article 4 of this Law,”
The Rwandan genocide ideology law in in violation with the Rwandan constitution (articles 6, 33, 34, …); Articles 18, 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, …); the International covenant on civil and political rights (article 19) and the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (articles 6, 8, 11) on free communication of ideas, opinions; freedom of speech.
Since 2010, the Rwandan government promised to review the genocide ideology law but instead the law is still used to stifle free speech and freedom of association or to keep opposition leaders behind bars.
The political trial of Ingabire is resuming next week on 12 March 2012. Today, she requested the High Court to subpoena two cabinet ministers (Defence and Foreign Affairs) to confirm under oath the criminal activities of military and civil intelligence operatives targeting nationals abroad. This was prompted by documents filed by the prosecution in which one witness interviewed in the Netherlands confirmed that her husband while in South Africa narrowly escaped hit squads from the government of Rwanda after he declined a spy contract. The very witness is volunteering information on a transfer of a small amount of money allegedly effected on behalf of the defendant to a person based in theDemocratic Republic of the Congoin 2008. If her testimony is deemed credible, the government of Rwanda needs to clarify its role in a string of assassinations and attempts against exiled nationals.
Interim Vice President