The case of Jean Claude I

On December 20th Jean Claude I. knows if he can be extradited to Rwanda. He’s accused of being a leader of an armed militia during the genocide (1994) in Rwanda. He would have hunted down Tutsi’s and he’s supposed to have committed mass murders in Nyanza and Kigali. Jean Claude was 18 years in 1994.

Jean Claude lost his residence permit two years ago. In March this year his appeal was judged unfounded. He was arrested in July; Rwanda asked for his extradition because they see him as an important genocidair. Jean Claude is in provisional detention. If the judge says he can go to Rwanda because he can expect a fair trial, he will appeal.

This trial is important. About 20 other Rwandese are accused of being a genocidair. If Jean Claude can be extradited, they can expect the same fate even though the Netherlands has no extradition treaty with Rwanda.

Prosecution and defence were very outspoken in court. Prosecution said Jean Claude was a liar and critized the arguments of the defence: old news from specialists who were not really specialists. The lawyer of Jean Claude, Michiel Pestman, told prosecution they were biased and having an agenda of their own. Because Holland has invested millions in the Rwandese judicial system, they could not admit the system was not correct. Also, having a lot of similar cases of genocide, which are difficult to prove in court, prosecution is trying to get rid of them through extradition.

Prosecution reacted in a tired way on arguments that should prove a fair trial in Rwanda is not possible. Manipulation of witnesses, false evidence, politicisation of trials? It’s known, checked and proven untrue in lots of court cases, according to prosecution.

They had a difficult moment when defence came with the lying witness in Canada, July 2013. A Canadian judge discovered discrepancies in his testimony. He admitted in having lied. He also admitted having lied in a Dutch court.

Specialist Filip Reyntjens is not a real specialist. He’s biased and not taken very seriously, according to prosecution. His statements as a witness at the Rwanda tribunal in Arusha (ICTR) were ignored or hidden in a footnote. But defence said it was Reyntjens himself who stopped cooperating with the ICTR. Their mandate was not strong enough: only Hutu’s could be prosecuted, no members of the army of president Kagame. Pestman told prosecution they were committing character murder of a scientist.

Prosecution used the trial of opposition leader Victoire Ingabire to show politics doesn’t meddle with trials. There can be held fair trials in Rwanda. Ingabire was found not guilty on the heaviest charges. And the judge even said Ingabire could play a positive role in Rwanda after her imprisonment. Off course not everything is perfect in Rwanda, but there is no such thing as a perfect country.

Defence talked about the hard conclusion of Amnesty International: the trial of Ingabire was not fair. According to postman, Ingabire’s trial was a comedy, which could never be staged in Europe. So why use lower standards for a trial in Rwanda? Pestman also referred to a letter of Iain Edwards, the English lawyer of Ingabire. He said her lawyers were harassed, intimidated and were not always able to hold a cross-examination. Rwanda had given to times over a guarantee Ingabire’s trial would be fair. Obviously Rwanda had not kept her promise.

Pestman asked for a postponement of the provisional detention. With an electronic transmitter around his ankle there should be no risk of an escape. The judge thought otherwise. She was afraid of an escape and found the accusations too heavy for a postponement.


Outside court 

Behind the battle of lawyers lies a world of misery. Jean Claude’s wife (J.) lost everything; husband, income, but most of all: safety. ‘They came to our house very early in the morning to arrest my husband and to search the house. They made a lot of noise. They scared the hell out of my children. They were afraid to go back home afterwards and we stayed for three weeks with my sister. My children are changed. They are withdrawn and silent and are not doing well at school. That worries me a lot.’

J. speaks Dutch very well. She has an internship; she wants to become a nurse. With Jean Claude in prison she to get by with the money she gets for her study, impossible with two children and a baby to be born in February. She’s in dire straits because she also got a claim from the tax service: because her husband is illegal, she has to pay back around 11.000 euro.

The couple met in Kinshasa. Jean Claude was a representative of the Rwandan community and was often at the refugee office. They got married in Kinshasa. J. and her sister moved to Norway in 2002, she was pregnant of her first child. Jean Claude went on invitation to The Netherlands in 2003. J: ‘We went to different countries because that was better considering our different procedures. When my daughter became one year old, I went to Holland as well.’

Jean Claude became a plumber, but could no longer do his work because of a bad back. He wanted to become a security officer, got a certificate, but was never employed. J: ‘I don’t know why. There were some problems, but they never told us which problems.’

In 2012 Jean Claude starts working as a cab driver. J: ‘He needed an affidavit of good conduct and got one. Very strange considering the situation he was in.’

J. doesn’t know what she’ll do when her husband has to go back to Rwanda. ‘He taught me to laugh, to live. When I met him I had no real wish to live. I had seen so much. I became an orphan when I was four.  My sisters and I had to go to an orphanage. We were there when the bombs started falling. We had to flee for the soldiers of the RPF. We saw a lot of dead people. A lot of blood. We started with 800 children, in the end we were with 200. I took care of a four-year-old girl. I carried her on my back, but one day she died. I was very sorry because I was used to her and she had such a beautiful smile. But I couldn’t help her. I was so tired.’

J. compares herself with a caged animal. ‘We have no money; I cannot work, because I have to be home for my children. In February I’ll have a new baby. We cannot go to Rwanda. I’ll die there.’