International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Victoire Ingabire boycotts Rwanda terror trial

Here is a specific case that represents what we have been discussing in class recently in regards to the current state of affairs in Rwanda. As we discussed, after the genocide in Rwanda, ethnic identities became taboo and strict laws were put into place to regulate any actions or speech that promote ethnic hatred or genocide ideology. While good intentioned, these laws have been misused for political purposes. The Rwandan government has used these laws to quell dissent towards the current regime by limiting free speech and political opposition.

Victoire Ingabire is a leader of the opposition party to the current president. She was arrested two years ago and was barred from standing in elections. She is currently being accused of propagating ethnic hatred and “genocide revisionism”. She claims that these charges are politically motivated and has now boycotted her trial. The boycott came after a rebel colonel was interrupted while accusing the Rwandan intelligence services of offering money to rebels to make false claims against Ingabire.
It is unclear how this boycott will affect the trial or how it may affect the discourse of the limitation of free speech in Rwanda. This is the first I’ve heard of civil disobedience in regards to these post-genocide laws.

I think that Ingabire is completely justified in walking out of the court proceedings, but it it unclear what the ramifications will be. Do you think this could be a spark that ignites a movement against the unjust application of these laws? What needs to be done to shift away from the broad application of vague legislation with good intentions? What are your thoughts?


2 responses to “Victoire Ingabire boycotts Rwanda terror trial

  1. Alana Tiemessen April 18, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Currently the “genocide ideology” law is under judicial review, precisely because it is too vague, being abused, and has been the target of significant criticism from the international human rights community.

    I can’t speak to the validity of the claims that Ingabire has ties to rebels groups, but certainly she should have the right to speak on behalf of victims that have been marginalized by the current the government. And she is unlikely to get a fair trial in this repressed political environment.

  2. dksekurski April 20, 2012 at 12:44 am

    Although the Rwandan court is being given this opportunity to address the vagueness and unconstitutionality of the country’s laws governing genocide ideology, the chance that they will actually act on it does not look promising. They have suspended debate on the ideology laws and instead continued the proceedings against Ingabire on the charges of her connections with rebel groups.

    Human rights groups are already unsatisfied with the promises that the Rwandan government has made to evaluate the ideology laws and make the necessary changes and clarifications, and really I think the government is enjoying its overstep of power too much to change it on their own. That leaves the Supreme Court, which is questionable like Professor Tiemessen stated in saying that Ingabire is unlikely to get a fair trial in Rwanda and their lack of action on debating the laws so far. The Rwandan government will also use the “genocide-card” against international pressure to act, pointing out that the international community stood by while the genocide happened and Rwandans were the ones that ended it on their own and therefore we have no right to meddle in their business.

    The only way I see this case making any progress on the ideology laws any time soon would be for the courts to accept that the laws are unconstitutional and institute the necessary changes to keep them effective in preventing future conflicts but also make them fair.

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