Nyanza high court to rule on competence to try Nsabimana

Nsabimana and his lawyer Moïse Nkundabarashi during a past court hearing. File

The High Court Chamber for International Crimes in Nyanza District is expected to decide today on whether terror suspect Callixte Nsabimana will be tried in a civilian or military court.

Nsabimana is a former spokesperson of FLN, an anti-Rwanda terror group operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is blamed for terror attacks on Rwandan territory in which people lost lives, especially in areas around Nyungwe National Park.

The substantive hearing the case was earlier set to start on December 24 last year but it was postponed to January 17, 2020 (today) following a request by the prosecution to be given time to compare Nsabimana’s file with files of a group of dissidents who deserted the army and joined the FLN.

Appearing before the Nyanza-based court on Christmas Eve, prosecutors said they had received notice from their counterparts from military prosecution alluding to similarities between the suspects in court-martial and Nzabimana.

If it is found that the two cases are similar, Nsabimana will be committed to the court-martial.

Speaking during the hearing at the time, prosecutor Bonaventure Ruberwa said that the case in the military court involves a one Private Dieudonné Muhire and a group of FLN militiamen who are being tried in the military court.

According to Ruberwa, Muhire and his co-accused deserted Rwanda Defence Force and went to join the FLN, and based on investigations, these also played part in 2018 attacks that FLN carried out on Rwandan soil.

Nsabimana is also pinned on the same 2018 attacks in which during which people were killed, property burnt and people’s harvest looted.

“The military prosecution wrote to us and we, therefore, request for an adjournment of at least two weeks so that we can sit down with them (military prosecution) and compare the two cases,” he said.

“After looking at the files, we shall determine the competence of the court that is handling the case, because, if Muhire’s case and that of Nsabimana are related, it would not be good to prosecute them from courts of different nature,” he said.

Addressing the three-person bench, Nsabimana himself also denied knowledge of Muhire.

“I don’t know this name (Muhire) among the group of soldiers I was working with. Except if I know him by another name,” he said.

However, Ruberwa said that Nsabimana could not possibly know the names of all the militiamen he worked with and insisted there should be some time given to him to sit down with military prosecutors to chart a way forward.

After a brief discussion by the panel of judges, the presiding judge declared that they had decided to give the prosecution time to look and compare the two cases and ruled that the case will resume on January 17.

Nsabimana is facing a number charges including; formation of an illegal militia group; taking part in terrorist activities; conspiring and sensitizing people towards joining terrorism; killing; kidnapping; denying and undermining the genocide against the Tutsi, among others.

Nsabimana had, during the pre-trial hearing, pleaded guilty to all the 16 charges he faces.

hkuteesa@newtimesrwanda.com

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