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Rwanda: High Court to Rule on Ex-Pres. Conviction

Rwanda: High Court to Rule on Ex-President’s Conviction

Supreme Court Must Demonstrate Judicial Independence and Rigor

The Rwandan Supreme Court must set a new standard for judicial independence and competence when on Tuesday it is expected to rule on an appeal by a convicted former president and seven others, Human Rights Watch said today in a briefing paper.

The briefing paper summarizes the case that resulted in the 2004 convictions of Pasteur Bizimungu, who served as president from 1994 to 2000, and seven others for forming a criminal association.

“Given the egregious errors by the trial court that convicted these eight people, the Supreme Court must return a decision that shows judicial rigor and independence,” said Alison Des Forges, senior Africa advisor at Human Rights Watch.

Evidence presented by the prosecution during the trial was weak and contradictory. On several occasions, the court refused the accused the right to call witnesses in their defense or to examine witnesses fully. Two prosecution witnesses complained of police abuse during interrogation, raising the possibility that at least some of the evidence was produced under duress.

“This is the first major decision handed down by the Supreme Court since the judicial reforms were completed in 2004,” said Des Forges. “The court should use this opportunity to set a new precedent for the rule of law in Rwanda.”

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