Arusha, 24 August 2007 (FH) - The American human rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), criticized the judgment of a Rwandan semi-traditional gacaca court which confirmed last Saturday the 19 year prison sentence of a Rwandan human rights activist, François Xavier Byuma, convicted of genocide, in an official statement received Friday at the Hirondelle agency. 

1 min 25Approximate reading time

This ruling did not rectify "the errors committed by the lower court which violated Rwandan law and the standards relating to fair trials", declared HRW in this official statement. "At the time of the procedure carried out by the lower court, the president of the gacaca court, Sudi Imanzi, who had had a conflict with Byuma, did not recuse himself when he had been requested to do so", HRW recalls.
Byuma, who runs an organization for the defense of the rights of children called Turner Baan (Let us protect the children), had in the past investigated allegations according to which Imams had raped a girl. Imams had been arrested and questioned for a short period but was never charged for rape.

At the time of the appeal trial, "Yuma was authorized to explain that some of the witnesses for the defense which he wished to call had not been heard by the lower court", writes the organization in this official statement published in New York. It moreover made the point that the court had not considered contradictions between the evidence presented. After having heard these arguments, the Court of Appeal nevertheless decided to confirm the verdict of guilty returned by the lower court ", continues the text.
"The Court of Appeal did not specify the reasons of its decision and it did not offer any explanation clarifying the way in which it had reconciled the requirement of impartiality with the fact that a judge of the lower court had, in the past, had a conflict with Yuma", adds HRW.
Inspired by traditional Rwandan village assemblies where "wise men" settled disagreements sitting on the grass (gacaca, in the Rwandan language), gacacas are charged with trying the majority of the persons allegedly involved in the 1994 genocide which resulted, according to Kigali, in nearly a million deaths, primarily among Tutsis.

© Hirondelle News Agency