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Rwanda Questioned over Withdrawal from African Court, AfCHPR President Judge

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) has expressed concern over Rwanda’s decision to withdraw from a declaration that allows individuals or groups to file cases at the court.

The decision to withdraw from the declaration was reached after a genocide convict and fugitive secured the right to be heard under the guise of defending human rights of Rwandan citizens.

Speaking to The press recently, AfCHPR President Judge Augustino Ramadhani said the court was concerned by the Rwandan government’s move and was mulling on delivering a position.

He said the court was determined to issue its position during the upcoming ruling of Ingabire Victorie Umuhoza versus the republic of Rwanda which is due to be delivered on March 18, this year.

Last week, representatives from the Rwandan government failed to show up during the hearing of the case at the AfCHPR, with the applicant fielding two advocates for the hearing.

“Based on what happened last week, we have already deliberated on the issue where we have drafted the first and second reading and we will definitely issue our position during the ruling next week,” revealed Justice Ramadhani.

A source close to the Arusha-based court refuted some media claims that claimed Rwanda had pulled out of the AfCHPR on the grounds that the country has its own competent courts to try all local cases involving human rights violations.

Rwanda had only withdrawn from article 34(6) on the ratification of the AfCHPR, said the source.

The treaty reads: “At the time of the ratification of this protocol or any time thereafter, the state shall make a declaration accepting the competence of the court to receive cases under article 5 (3) of this protocol. The court shall not receive any petition under article 5 (3) involving a state party which has not made such a declaration.”

According to the source, the court will continue hearing and deliberating on cases from Rwandese individuals filed at the court, but will not all receive any fresh applications from the country.

Ingabire, 47, who heads the unregistered political party FDU Inkingi, had dragged the government of Rwanda to the African Court, accusing it of violating her rights and freedoms provided under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

She also hoped that the court will force the Rwandan government to release her on parole as well as incur the cost of reparations.

She is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence handed to her by the Supreme Court of Rwanda in 2013, which found her guilty of inciting revolt, forming armed groups to destabilize the country and denying the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

In her application to the Arusha court, Ingabire requested the annulment of court decisions taken since her arrest in 2010 until the pronouncement of the last judgment in the Supreme Court that gave her a 15-year jail term.

A section of media recently quoted the head of legal services at the Ministry of Justice in Rwanda as saying that the country no longer saw the need to be part of the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, arguing that the courts in Rwanda had built capacity over the years and have the competence and efficiency to handle all local cases.

Previously, the Kigali government dismissed Ingabire’s plea to the Arusha court, saying that it did not violate any of her rights and that she did not exhaust local remedies before approaching the AfCHPR.

By Robert Muriisa via Guardian.

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