Jean Baptiste Mugimba: not much hope after 4-day trial

On Friday July 11, the court in The Hague will give its advice to the Dutch minister of Justice: can Jean Baptiste Mugima be extradited or not to Rwanda? Rwanda accuses him of genocide, the planning of genocide and murder. Last week there was a four-day lasting trial.

Most of the signs are on red for Mugimba. He needs a miracle for a court advice NOT to extradite him. In the previous case of Jean Claude Iyamuremye, the court the same court said Rwandans accused of genocide, can expect a fair trial, a good prison and a human treatment in Rwanda. If he’s guilty or not, is up to the special court in Rwanda.

Everybody happy except Mugimba

Everybody will be happy with that advice, except off course Mugimba and his family. Rwanda is happy because with this extradition they have an extra instrument to get other critics of the regime extradited or evicted. If the Dutch start extraditing, other countries will follow. The advice of this court and the decision of the minister of Justice, will reach far beyond our border.  

The Netherlands will be happy because a trial in Rwanda is far cheaper and less time consuming than a trial in the Netherlands. Plus The Netherlands can show (again) it’s very willing to cooperate with Rwanda. And off course, these trials in Rwanda will show all the Dutch aid to the judicial system of Rwanda since 1994 is very fruitful. It’s remarkable the Dutch prosecutors during the trial said they didn’t want to make things too costly for Rwanda. It seemed they found economizing a coming trial more important than the consequences for Mugimba and others. Guaranteed monitoring of trial and prisoners? Absolutely not necessary according to prosecution. The guaranteed right to a foreign lawyer? Have you gone mad? Way to expensive for poor Rwanda. If its op to the Dutch prosecutors they send Mugima back to Rwanda without batting an eyelid and without loosing one minute of sleep.

Innocence without doubt

Mugimba had to prove his innocence without any doubt. Together with his lawyers, his son and reports of a local lawyer in Kigali he did a good job considering the fact it's twenty years later and the court doesn't know much about Rwanda's culture. He could prove he was not in Kigali as of April 8, 1994; he could prove others killed the people he was accused of killing, he could prove a meeting in which the genocide was said to be planned, never took place. But is it enough to convince the court because there must be no doubt left. If the judges find there are doubts, they will give a positive advice. Then it’s for the court In Rwanda to find out if he’s guilty or not.

It’s bitter thing the prosecution can accuse whatever she likes, without having to prove anything. That’s for the court in Rwanda. De Dutch prosecutors only have to make the accusations more or less plausible and that it’s about crimes who are also punishable in the Netherlands. The prosecution copies information from Rwanda, does some additional research on the Internet, looks up some other cases and asks the embassy for an individual report about the person concerned during the genocide.

Positive reports embezzled in embassy

It’s bitter for Mugimba that positive reports on him were hidden in a desk in the Dutch embassy in Kigali during the ‘reign’ of former ambassador Frans Makken. It’s really unbelievable that the few witnesses appearing in the individual report of the embassy, are only known by the local lawyer who did the research. Nobody else knows them. Nobody else speaks to them. The local lawyer does not tape his conversations, does not take photo’s, and doesn’t make a copy of their ID. So nobody can check their background, nobody else will check their story. They appear in the personal report from the embassy as anonymous witnesses. These anonymous and unchecked witnesses can break a man.

Those four days of the trial I saw a biased prosecution. Nothing defense said could change their mind. If it's the same for the judges I don’t know. Those were the same judges who said Jean Claude Iyamuremye can be extradited, so it would be miraculous if they make another decision in the case of Mugimba.

Prison life

Mugimba’s life in Rwanda will be at risk. He’ll probably start his prison life in the international wing in Nyanza prison or Central Prison 1930 in Kigali. These wings are –compared to normal prison life in Rwanda –a hotel. But it’s a question how long Mugimba can profit from his hotel life. What will happen to him when international attention is faded? What will happen when the United Nations decides not to pay anymore for these international wings?

If Mugimba has to stay in a normal prison, he will have 2 square meters to call his own (if he’s lucky), live in a dark cell together with forty other prisoners and he has to share a shower with a hundred others. If he has no family to feed him, he will half starve.

Fair Trial?

The Dutch court says Mugimba will have a fair trial in Rwanda. But can you have a fair trial in a dictatorship? Can you really have a fair trial if you have no tradition of independent judges, prosecutors and lawyers?

A dangerous signal I think is the fact that lawyers defending people sent to Rwanda by the criminal court in Arusha, have to send their invoices to the ministry of Justice. The ministry starts haggling because they find the invoices to high. They even visit the prisoner, asking if they don’t want another lawyer. Is an independent defense possible if the other party pays your bills?

To be continued