The Rwanda government is expected to appear at the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights, despite requesting to withdraw from the court’s special declaration that allows individuals and NGOs to sue governments.
In March, Rwanda put in a request to pull out of the declaration. The move led to the suspension of the hearing of a case involving opposition leader Victoire Ingabire after the government failed to send representatives.
Ms Ingabire, 47, who heads the unregistered political party FDU Inkingi, had taken the government to the Arusha-based court, accusing it of violating her rights and freedoms under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
She wants the court to 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 Rwanda’s Supreme Court in 2013, for inciting revolt, forming armed groups to destabilise the country and denying the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Arusha court has allowed Rwanda’s request, but says the government can only withdraw from the special declaration after 12 months.
The court’s president Augustino Ramadhani also ruled that Rwanda’s withdrawal will not affect pending cases.
“Judges decided that Rwanda’s withdrawal from the declaration cannot affect the case of Ingabire. Rwanda has the right to withdraw, but this has no effect on cases pending with the court,” Robert Eno, registrar at the court, told The EastAfrican.
“This means that apart from Ingabire’s case, all other pending cases where the government of Rwanda is the defendant will continue.”
The trial is expected to resume by October, but Rwandan officials have not indicated if they will send representatives.
Foreign affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo accused the court for giving a platform to genocide convicts, and of being manipulated by Western bodies “to the detriment of real justice.”
“Behind these individuals that are linked to genocide, there are some non-African entities that have been funding some NGOs to look for cases against Rwanda. But more aggravating for Rwanda was that cases linked to genocide were being brought back through the court,” she said on Tuesday.
“For Rwanda, that was no longer going to be acceptable. So we asked the court to give us time to review our declaration to decide whether we can pull out.”
She added that the declaration which Rwanda intends to withdraw from is not a “court process but a political process.”
“We opened ourselves up to possibilities of cases being brought against us as a country by individuals. But we realised that in three years, our goodwill was being abused by individuals whose cases have no merit and have been dismissed.
“We want Pan-African institutions to function properly; we want them to act professionally, and justice on the continent to be advanced. But when it ceases to be justice and becomes abusive with politics, then it kills the nature and purpose of the court,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.
Rwanda has in the past criticised the court for accepting a plea from Stanley Safari, a former politician who fled Rwanda in 2009 after being sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Pending cases that involve the government of Rwanda include that of Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former chief of staff of the Rwandan army — now in exile — who, alongside “others,” took the government to court for allegedly declaring their passports “invalid” without notice.
Rwandan national Laurent Munyandilikirwa has also taken the government to the court for allegedly ousting him illegally from a local human rights body.
Tanzania currently has the largest number of cases at the court, in which over 48 individuals and NGOs have taken their government to court, and Kenya has one case.