PETITION FOR THE RELEASE OF FRANCOIS XAVIER BYUMA
Francois Xavier Byuma (“Byuma”) was convicted on serious but trumped up charges in June 2007 by a
The Judge (named Sudi Imanzi) had just been arrested (for a few days) 2 weeks earlier on the strength of a rape allegation against him. This allegation by a schoolgirl had been (as is the practice locally) first investigated by a human rights group: here, Turenge Abana of which Byuma (a well known defender of human rights) is President. Turenge Abana handed the rape file to the police.
The Gacaca judge had a clear conflict of interest, yet (immediately upon his release on bail by the police on rape charges) arranged for the Genocide charges to be first brought, and then himself, all too hastily presided over the court trying Byuma despite objections based on Rwandan and international fair trial norms.
The motive for the charges laid by Judge Imanzi’s
Only 10 days were allowed between the first charge against Byuma and his trial. This was quite inadequate for Byuma to prepare his defence, from custody. Three additional charges unrelated to the first, were laid at the start of the trial, giving him no time to prepare for them.
Byuma was denied access to legal representation and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The trial was self evidently unfair because the conviction defied the strong evidence of Byuma's innocence; there was also a lack of credible evidence of guilt. The conviction (by Imanzi and his fellow, unqualified judges) ran against the weight of the evidence generally and in particular evidence:-
○ given by at least 6 independent witnesses that Francois Xavier Byuma was innocent and
○ that the chief prosecution witness had previously identified another person as the perpetrator of the crime;
○ given for the prosecution was contradictory, both between witnesses and by witnesses in their own evidence.
The presiding Judge Imanzi monopolised the court, intimidated witnesses, constantly interrupted witnesses and prevented them from completing their evidence and prevented Byuma from calling some of the witnesses he wished to call. "The judge failed to accord Byuma the right to defend himself fully." (Human Rights Watch)
Appeal and “revision” hearings have not addressed the issues of unfairness, but have merely increased greatly the number of contradictions in their evidence by prosecution witnesses.
The fact that the Gacaca Executive Authority has clung desperately to this conviction, despite the blindingly obvious and grave doubts about his conviction suggests to the ordinary mind something more sinister even than judicial corruption, is what is now behind his continued detention. He is a human rights defender in a country whose government does not tolerate such independent activity.
Accordingly we consider the conviction totally unsafe and unreservedly call on the Government of
Amnesty UK Thetford Group
Front Line Defenders
Human Righs Watch (unnumbered para 13 on this page)
Byuma's Facebook page
New York Times background article