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Cablegate: President of Human Rights Group Convicted By

VZCZCXYZ0003
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHLGB #0530 1550821
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 040821Z JUN 07
FM AMEMBASSY KIGALI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4252
INFO RUEHJB/AMEMBASSY BUJUMBURA 0073
RUEHDR/AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM 0882
RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1615
RUEHKI/AMEMBASSY KINSHASA 0222
RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 0884
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0243

UNCLAS KIGALI 000530

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM RW
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS GROUP CONVICTED BY
GENOCIDE COURT

1. (SBU) Summary. Francois Byuma, a local human rights
activist, received a nineteen year sentence from a Kigali
gacaca court on May 27 for his participation in attacks on a
Tutsi citizen during the 1994 genocide. Byuma, head of the
human rights organization Turengere Abana (Protect Our
Children), claimed bias on the part of the gacaca court,
given Turengere Abana's investigation of a sex-with-minor
charge against the president of the court. While the facts
are in dispute, this incident illustrates both the tremendous
moral dilemma many hutus faced during the genocide, and the
potential for abuse when they are judged by gacaca courts.
In this particular case, the gacaca trial court appears to
have acted improperly, and the case is under appeal. End
summary.

2. (SBU) On May 31, polchief spoke with Francine Rutazana,
Executive Secretary of LDGL. She and the heads of several
other local human rights organizations have taken up the case
of Byuma, arguing on due process grounds that the case should
have been reassigned to another gacaca court, given the court
president's implication in the sex-with-minor investigation
by the accused's organization. Comments by Rutazana
indicated morally ambiguous behavior by Byuma in 1994 and the
court president in the recent past.

3. (SBU) Regarding the events of 1994, she said, Byuma
concedes that he was present at road barriers erected in his
neighborhood during the genocide, and that he participated,
although tangentially and by order of local authorities, in
efforts to locate tutsis for slaughter. He contests charges
that he participated in the beating of a cornered tutsi, or
had any intention generally to harm his tutsi neighbors.
There has been no evidence, she said, of Byuma's direct
involvement in any deaths or injuries. (Note: among other
genocide charges, the court convicted Byuma for injuring
others with the intention of causing death. He received the
maximum sentence).

4. (SBU) As to the gacaca president, she said, he had
engaged in consensual sex with an underage girl (age 17), an
offense under Rwandan law. Byuma's organization had been
investigating at the request of the girl's family. Rutazana
and other human rights activists were concerned, she said,
that the court president was using his position of authority
in the local community to evade a morals charge. She noted
that the gacaca court case was now under appeal, and she
hoped that the gacaca appellate level court would void the
judgment and assign the case to another trial level gacaca
court. The court president could hardly be considered an
impartial gacaca judge, she said, under these circumstances.
She and other human rights activists, she noted, would
continue to appeal to the GOR and the gacaca service to
correct this "miscarriage of justice." She then added: "This
is not the only case we have found where gacaca court
officials abuse their positions."

5. (SBU) Comment. In a regular court of law, a judge would
recuse himself if a defendant made a reasonable showing of
bias or conflict of interest. Gacaca courts have less due
process protections -- although judges can be removed for
acts "incompatible" with the gacaca justice system, these are
neighborhood courts run by non-judges and non-lawyers. The
majority of cases appear to be handled properly, but abuses
do occur, on either side of the ethnic divide -- some courts
are accused of being too harsh in their judgments, and some
too lenient. Whatever the truth of Byuma's behavior in 1994,
this court president should not have heard this case. On the
other hand, Byumba finds himself in the uncomfortable
position of a present day human rights campaigner who, at the
very least, did not act with perfect moral integrity during
the genocide. Were his actions sufficiently reprehensible to
require nineteen years in jail? Not every hutu who appeared
at roadblocks or walked in patrols (often at the command of
local authorities), actually helped to murder his or her
neighbors. This is the GOR's continuing dilemma: how to
conduct justice on a mass scale, addressing the horrific
abuses of the genocide, while employing a less-than-perfect
system of village adjudication. End comment.
ARIETTI

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