Rwanda: Inside Victoire Ingabire cellLaure Uwase | Category: News
On April 1, 2011, the Netherlands Ambassador in Rwanda, Frans Makken, visited Victoire Ingabire, the chairperson of the Rwandan opposition party, FDU (United Democratic Forces), currently in Kigalicentral prison. Makken was accompanied by a delegation of young people from a Human Rights organization based in Rotterdam.
In a news report on a Dutch TV channel Nieuwsuur about the visit to Ingabire, we see a smiling Victoire Ingabire who seems to have neither lost moral nor combativity. She shows the prison cell in which she is detained: a bed, a TV and the windows painted black because “nobody is allowed to see me and I cannot see anyone.” She said. “So when there is no electricity, I remain in the dark throughout the day,” she added.
On the question of whether she is safe in her cell, she replied that while she is in government hands, they cannot hurt her; otherwise they must bear responsibility.
The Rwandan prosecution accuses her of terrorist activities and is still in search for evidence. Her Dutch lawyer, Jan Hofdijk, said the charges against Ingabire are “inventions” and that the Rwandan justice system “fabricates charges and evidence”. Ingabire herself said that she was amazed at being accused of terrorist activities because none of such things is mentioned in her file.
The Rwandan Prosecutor General told Nieuwsuur reporter that there is evidence against Ingabire but he did not think that the Dutch courts would collaborate with Rwanda. However, a few months ago, a search took place at Victoire Ingabire’s home in the Netherlands. Documents and computers were seized, but no evidence has so far been sent to Rwanda as the Dutch judge has not yet taken a decision on this issue.
“I cannot dare to go to Kigali,” said Ingabire’s lawyer. He said to be declared persona non grata in Rwanda. The fate that has been inflicted on his American counterpart, Peter Erlinder, president of the Association of Defense Counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), speaks volumes about what might happen to him if he dares to go to Kigali. Indeed, Peter Erlinder who went there to participate in the defense of the opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was arrested on May 28, 2010. Imprisoned for three weeks for “genocide denial”, he was released on bail for “medical reasons”. The Rwandan authorities have however indicated that he could be summoned by the court at any time.
“This is a dictatorial regime with strokes of treachery” once again said Ingabire’s lawyer.
On the question of how long Ingabire may remain in prison, her lawyer replied that it depends on the support the West gives Kagame: “If the West finally sees that Kagame is someone who has a place in Den Haag [Editor's note at the International Criminal Court] to answer for the bombings committed in the refugee camps, assassinations of opponents or even women and children.”
“There are reports that have been made public, so what can I say? His place is in Den Haag,” he concluded.
Victoire Ingabire, who after 16 years of exile returned to Rwanda to participate in the presidential elections of August 2010, has already spent 184 days in Kigali central prison waiting for her trial.