CLOSE

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages

Rwandan acquitted of genocide ideology

Rwandan acquitted of genocide ideology

On 28 May, the Rwandan High Court acquitted radio presenter Epaphrodite Habarugira of charges of “minimising the genocide” and spreading “genocide ideology” and queried why the case was brought at all.

Habarugira, a presenter with Radio Huguka-Muhanga, was arrested in April 2012 after he accidentally mixed up the Kinyarwandan words for ‘victims’ and ‘survivors’ while reading a morning news report about ceremonies marking the 18th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. According to the authorities, this made it sound as though he approved of the genocide.

Prosecutors initially demanded 20 years prison as well as a fine; at trial this was reduced to a demand of six years and a fine. A local court acquitted him of these charges in July 2012, but the prosecution appealed.

Habarugira’s defence lawyer, Jean de Dieu Nduwayo, argued that the statement was just a slip of the tongue and that there was no proof that he had any intention of spreading genocide ideology.

Dismissing the prosecution appeal, the High Court agreed and strongly criticized the actions of the prosecutor, holding that there was no proof whatsoever that Habarugira intended to belittle genocide survivors or promote “genocidal ideology”.

While MLDI welcomes Habarugira’s renewed acquittal we question why the proceedings were brought in the first place, why the prosecutor asked for a disproportionate jail sentence and fine and why the initial acquittal was appealed.

MLDI’s Senior Legal Counsel, Nani Jansen, commented that, “a prosecution under genocide ideology laws should be brought only when there is clear proof that someone intends to promote violence or hatred. Habarugira never intended to do any of this and he has already apologised profusely for his mistake. To be put through a two year trial was in itself an abuse of his rights.”

Over the past few years MLDI has helped in the defence of several Rwandan journalists. While MLDI has won victories in some of these cases, the unduly strict nature of the Rwanda’s media laws means that journalists cannot work freely and several of the journalists concerned have fled the country.

Recent News

Announcement: Media Defence Launches New Visual Identity and Website

Media Legal Defence Initiative is now trading as Media Defence. Along with our new trading name, we also unveil a new logo and website, which will help us reach more journalists in need.   Since our founding in 2008, we have seen the context in which the media operates deteriorate worldwide. With the spread of […]

Read

Landmark Judgment: ECOWAS Court Finds Togo Violated FoE with Internet Shutdown

On June 25th 2020, the ECOWAS Court handed down an important decision for freedom of expression, digital rights, and press freedom, finding that Togo, by shutting down the Internet in 2017, violated the rights of the plaintiffs – seven Togolese NGOs and a journalist. The Court awarded damages to the plaintiffs, and ordered Togo to put […]

Read

Covid-19 Appeal: Help Us Defend Independent Media

The context in which the media operates is forecast to worsen. Insecurity and populism spread, governments copy restrictive and abusive practices from others, and new threats such as online harassment emerge. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this downward spiral. Attacks on press freedom, including the use of emergency regulations to target those who inform […]

Read