On 19th May 2016, Miss Caroline Buisman, a Dutch lawyer who was on a trip to assist Rwanda’s political prisoner Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza in a trial before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Arusha, Tanzania, was ordered to leave Rwanda without meeting with to her client.
Miss Caroline Buisman, the new lawyer for Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, arrived in Kigali, Rwanda on 14th May 2016 to discuss matter relating the appeal to the African Court on Human and People’s rights. She obtained a visa following numerous obstructions by the Rwandan government which did everything it could to prevent her from meeting with her client before the court hearing which was scheduled for 4th March 2016. On Monday, 16th May 2016, Miss Caroline Buisman went to the Kigali Bar Association for routine administrative formalities before meeting her client. On Wednesday, 18th May 2016, Miss Caroline Buisman, together with the lead defense counsel Mr. Gatera Gashabana, tried in vain to meet with Mrs Victoire Ingabire. The prison authorities gave an excuse of a very busy schedule to refuse them access to their client. When Ms Caroline Buisman, insisted to meet her client, prison authorities advised her to request assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an approach that is very strange because foreign affairs have nothing to do with the justice system.
Even though Ms Caroline Buisman was aware of the deception, Miss Caroline Buisman nevertheless seized the Foreign Affairs Ministry via her country’s Embassy in Kigali. Despite this fact, the Rwandan authorities ordered the immigration services to convene Miss Caroline Buisman.
Following a nearly 4-hour questioning session punctuated with intimidation, the immigration authorities served Ms Caroline Buisman an order to immediately leave the territory adding that failing to do so would expose her to very serious consequences. The incident calls to mind the sad experience of the American lawyer Peter Erlinder, the first lawyer for Mrs. Victoire Ingabire, who was arrested and detained in Rwanda and then released three weeks later due to pressure from the US authorities and was expelled from Rwanda. The expulsion of lawyer Caroline Buisman is another clear demonstration of the obstruction to a fair trial for Mrs. Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza.
Desperate to mitigate external condemnation of the embarrassing incident, and short of evidence to accuse the lawyer of genocide denial like in the case of Peter Erlinder, the regime is using the excuse of an alleged “irregularity” in her visa to expel her. Yet she had no problem in entering and staying in the country until she insisted on meeting her client.
The expulsion of Miss Caroline Buisman, one month before the court hearing of the appeal case lodged by Ms. Victoire Ingabire and the RPF regime before the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights based in Arusha, Tanzania is a new slap in the face of those few people who still give some credit to the Rwandan judicial system and are keen to honor extradition requests from the RPF regime. This is the case of the Netherlands and Canada. The political party FDU-Inkingi is shocked by the double standards applied by democratic countries that claim to be tireless advocates for fundamental human rights in the world.
The RPF regime has always claimed that it had overwhelming evidence against Mrs. Ingabire. Now that the regime is facing an independent tribunal, it is trying to avoid having the evidence put to test by withdrawing from the trial and preventing the defense council from doing its job properly.
The political party FDU-Inkingi calls upon the conscience of all donors of the RPF regime, including the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom, to realize that the RPF regime’s judicial system is bankrupt. Any taxpayer’s money that is spent on attempts to cover up the truth would be better in the search for a political compromise aimed at bringing the RPF regime to release all political prisoners, open up the political space and restore a climate of trust with neighbouring countries. This move would not only benefit all donors who would not want to invest on quicksand but also the people of Rwanda who are tired of 22 years of a repressive and bellicose regime. Ignoring such evidence is tantamount to complicity in the repression and belligerent behaviour of the RPF regime.
Done in London, UK, on 25th May 2016.
Commissioner for External Relations and Spokesperson