Lawyers want RNC suspects tried by civilian court

A team of lawyers representing suspected RNC operatives take their seats in court. (Emmanuel Kwizera)

The defence team in the case involving 25 suspects linked to a terror outfit with military bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo is pushing for the group’s trial to be held in a civilian court, citing the lack of jurisdiction by the Military Tribunal.

Led by Maj (rtd) Habib Mudhatiru’s lawyer, Paula Umulisa, the lawyers questioned why the suspects, who are considered to be civilians, were being arraigned before a court whose role is to try military cases.

“Mudhatiru is retired. He is no longer a military man. His co-accused lawyers also told me that their clients are civilians. I would like to request the President of the court to ask Prosecution what civilians are doing in a military court,” she stated. 

Prosecution told the court that there is a case involving a one Private Dieudonné Muhire and four other serving soldiers which is linked to Maj (Rtd) Mudhatiru.

“Considering that the case is already ongoing in the military court, it means that 25 are also connected to the file as the co-accused,” they explained. 

Lawyers argue that if the files have not been linked in the process, then the Military Tribunal has no jurisdiction to try the 25 who are all not members of the military. 

Judges asked Prosecution how the two cases will be connected when the case of the five soldiers has already advanced to the high court.

The hearing was adjourned to 2 pm to allow judges time to review the case of Private Muhire Dieudonne and co accused and establish if there is a link with the 25 accused.

The suspects are majority Rwandan but they include foreign nationals—Ugandans, Burundians and one Malawian.

The combatants are part of ‘P5’ an outfit created out of a merger of different anti-Rwanda negative forces that include RNC and FDLR among others.

During the initial hearing the military prosecution said that all the suspects were facilitated mainly by Uganda and Burundi to join the ‘P5’ outfit whose activities are detailed in a report by the UN Group of Experts published in December last year.

Led by South Africa-based fugitive, Kayumba Nyamwasa, RNC is a terrorist organisation blamed for a spate of grenade attacks in Rwanda between 2010 and 2014 that killed at least 17 people and injured over 400 others.

Kayumba is a fugitive from the Rwandan justice, having been tried in absentia, convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison.

 

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