Following the opening of the trial of former Rwandan presidential hopeful Diane Rwigara, who has been charged, alongside her mother and four other defendants, with “inciting insurrection” among other counts, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, Great Lakes and the Horn, Joan Nyanyuki, said:
“The Rwandan judiciary must ensure that this trial does not become just another means to persecute government critics, and Diane Rwigara and her co-accused must be guaranteed a fair and impartial trial.
“All of the accused must be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a fair trial, and the prosecution has the burden to prove the commission of any crime beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Given the number of flawed prosecutions in Rwanda in the past, ensuring a trial that meets rigorous international standards must be a priority for the judicial authorities. They must demonstrate that this trial is not being used to punish individuals for political dissent. Criticizing the government is not a crime.”
Diane Rwigara, and her mother Adeline Rwigara, as well as four others who are living abroad, are facing charges of “inciting insurrection or trouble among the population”.
The charges were brought against Diane Rwigara on 23 September 2017 and were based on public comments she made that were critical of the Rwandan state, including at a press conference to launch a new activist group, the People Salvation Movement, on 14 July 2017.
Diane Rwigara was also charged with “forging or alteration of documents” and “use of counterfeited documents”, while her mother, Adeline, faces an additional charge of “discrimination and sectarian practices.”
Diane Rwigara had earlier been barred from contesting the August 2017 presidential election by the country’s electoral authority, National Electoral Commission (NEC).
In the months before declaring her candidacy, Diane Rwigara had been outspoken about issues such as poverty, injustice, insecurity and the lack of freedom of expression.
Just days after she announced her candidacy, nude photos said to be of her were leaked and circulated on social media, in what many considered a smear campaign to tarnish her image. Diane Rwigara said that the pictures were photo-shopped.