Rwandan Journalist Released, Persists with Complaint to African Human Rights Commission

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Posted on: 
28 Jun 2013

Rwandan journalist, Saidati Mukakibibi, served three years in Kigali's notorious 1930 prison for a newspaper article she wrote. She is represented before the African Commission by a legal team led by MLDI's Nani Jansen and John Jones QC.

Rwandan journalist Saidati Mukakibibi was this week released from prison, having served a three year sentence for undermining national security through an article she published in the biweekly newspaperUmurabyo.

Ms Mukakibibi was convicted together with the Umurabyo editor, Agnes Uwimana-Nkusi, who is serving an additional year for having also “defamed” the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, through another article.

In their articles, Uwimana and Mukakibibi criticised agriculture policy, the gacaca court system through which justice is dispensed for genocidaires, and the handling of corruption among government officials. They had previously been warned by Rwanda’s government-appointed Media Council to “tone down” their criticism. Following their insistence on an editorial line that was independent of the government they were arrested and charged.

The Umurabyo newspaper in which the articles were published had a circulation of about 200 copies every other week.

The two had initially been convicted to seventeen and seven years in prison, including on additional charges of genocide denial and divisionism. On appeal to the Supreme Court argued by MLDI’s Nani Jansen and John Jones QC from Doughty Street Chambers, the genocide denial and divisionism charges were quashed and the pair’s sentences reduced.

Ms Uwimana and Ms Mukakibibi have lodged an appeal to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights claiming that their right to freedom of expression has been violated. Although a judgment on this is not expected before Ms Uwimana’s release, they would like to keep this appeal pending as a matter of principle as well as to set a precedent for future, similar cases.

MLDI is assisting several other Rwandan journalists who have been charged with promoting “genocide ideology” and related charges.