Thursday, March 8, 2012

How Are Lazare Kobagaya And Yvonne Basebya Cases Related?

Both the acquittal of Lazare Kobagaya in may and the recent ICTR ruling to delay the transfer of Uwinkindi to Rwanda "until a suitable monitoring mechanism is established to oversee his trial" should make clear that it's at this stage premature to claim, as Wolfgang Thome did two weeks ago, that:
"Rwanda has restored an independent judiciary"
What implications does the outcome of the Lazare Kobagaya case have for ICTR transfers to Rwanda and other rulings? What implications does it have for Rwanda genocide related trials in the Netherlands and elsewhere? What lessons can prosecutors and politicians from the countries and institutions involved, Rwanda included, learn from the Lazare Kobagaya case? Are Yvonne Basebya, read RNW report on the last developments in this case, and Beatrice Munyenyezi part of a propaganda campaign by the current regime in Kigali in which Lazare Kobagaya played a central role?

Brainstorming on these questions I wrote my blogpost in Dutch: Hester van Bruggen Framing Yvonne Basebya, translated below:

The Lazare Kobagaya case has taught us how easily the current regime in Kigali was able to instrumentalize US prosecutors to advance their own cause. False witnesses and propaganda were employed to frame Lazare Kobagaya as a bloodthirsty extremist hutu (used in PR effort during Paul Kagame's visit to US ahead of 2010 Presidential elections). Under the motto: "If we throw enough mud, some of it will stick". And that tactic worked pretty good. Both prosecutors and  the State Department's War Crimes Chieff Stephen Rapp loved playing their part in this comedy. To the jury of American citizens this was a bridge too far, thank God!

The question in the Yvonne Basebya case is offcourse wether Dutch officers of justice will learn anything from the mistakes made by US Justice and State Department in the Lazare Kobagaya Case. Signs are, on the contrary, pointing in the opposite direction. In the interest of the much priased development model "Rwanda" and to not hurt the "Beijing consensus" our Dutch Ambassador Frans Makken made sure Paul Kagame's "election victory" still had some radiance. 
The Netherlands claims that Rwanda's justice system is a success. En therefore the Dutch representative at the European Court said in october 2010:
" Rwanda has over the years made substantial and fundamental progress in furthering the rule of law"
Yvonne Basebya's defense declared march 9 2011 in court that it is convinced that the Dutch prosecutors in this case are attempting to get Yvonne Basebya behind bars "at all cost" and are conducting themselves in a way that is contrary to Law and spirit of our Dutch criminal justice system.

In the interview of january 2012 Prosecutor Hester van Bruggen praises the Rwandan government for it's good cooperation and emphasizes the importance of local research in Rwanda to asess the credibility of her witnesses. Undoubtedly two central elements of her strategy to win the case. She states for example in that interview:
"It would be very usefull if judges would take a look for themselves. That holds true for us at least just as much. Take Rwanda: You got to have stood on those hills to decide what you can see from hill A on hill B. It helps in assessing the credibility of the declarations of the witnesses. And it explains in large part the joy Van Bruggen finds in her work. The more obstacles, the more challenging the task."
A remarkable statement considering the fact that she and her colleagues have resisted to even a small budget for research by the defense of Yvonne Basebya (as her lawyer Victor Koppe indicated on the pro-forma court hearing march 9th 2011). Kurt Kerns has had to do research in several African countries in order to eventually get his client Lazare Kobagay fully acquitted. It therefore is astonishing how Hester van Bruggen, here in this interview, deploys local research to increase the credibility of her own judgment capabilities while at the same time sabotaging or blocking research by the other party.

From the way Hester van Bruggen talks about Rwanda, in the interview, it doesn't appear that she has learned from the Lazare Kobagaya case. Shortly after Kobagaya was acquitted Ann Garrison, journalist from San Francisco, asked Kurt kerns, one of the lawyers in the case: "what do you think the international implications of this case are?". To which he answered:
"Well, I think maybe before you spend a couple of million dollars trying to prosecute someone, you really need to do a factual investigation. If the allegations are coming out of a country that has so many lies being perpetrated out of it, like Rwanda, you really need to do an independent investigation to see if you're really getting a true and accurate investigation or if you're really just getting a politically motivated accusation. So often now, at least right now in Rwanda, so many of the accusations coming out of that country are sadly, politically based."
Ignoring this specific Rwandan context, which we know all to well from the Lazare Kobagaya case equals squandering taxpayers money and framing Yvonne Basebya.

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