By Jean Gatera
The Prosecutor General of Rwanda Aimable Havugiyaremye has this morning in a press briefing announced that Prosecution will formally seek to merge the case of Paul Rusesabagina, leader of the MRCD-FLN, and 16 others of his subordinates in the FLN. This group is the armed wing of MRCD, the group founded by Rusesabagina with the express purpose to wage violent conflict against the democratically elected government of Rwanda.
The cases to be merged include those of Félicien Nsanzubukire (also known as Fred Irakiza), Anastase Munyaneza, and two former FLN spokespersons: Callixte Nsabimana and Herman Nsengimana, all already in custody.
Four days ago the High Court Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes based in Nyanza had merged the Nsabimana and Nsengimana cases as both presented similarities. The Prosecutor General explained that there are 19 individuals in the 16 cases to be merged with Rusesabagina’s. “This is a common practice, known as the principle of connectivity of offenses, which is provided for in our laws,” said Havugiyaremye.
In his pre-trial hearing, Rusesabagina acknowledged his role in creating the FLN as a military wing of the MRCD platform. He expressed remorse for the crimes committed by the militia but opted to not enter a plea. In rejecting his appeal to an earlier ruling that remanded him for 30 days as he waits for his sustentative trial, the Nyarugenge Intermediate Court Judge said: “Both parties agree on the fact that FLN killed people and that is not for debate. What is left is determining the extent of Rusesabagina’s complicity or lack thereof or any other parties involved and that is for the substantive phase of the trial.”
The MRCD-FLN carried out attacks on civilians in southern Rwanda twice June 2018. In both instances, they injured, abducted and killed innocent civilians and destroyed property. Top FLN officials (Rusesabagina, Nsabimana and others) repeatedly claimed responsibility for the attacks in southwestern Rwanda on the MRCD-FLN YouTube channel, UBUMWE.
It was only after his arrest in court that Rusesabagina claimed his role was only “diplomatic” and that he “condemned the attacks.” But widely shared videos have him calling for support for FLN. Callixte Nsabimana, former FLN spokesperson and MRCD second vice President, already entered a guilty plea and is already on record implicating Rusesabagina as his superior in the Terrorist group.
The other FLN spokesperson, Herman Nsengimana, used to circulate videos while clad in military fatigue armed with a machine gun in his call for terrorist attacks.
“When a group of defendants is charged with the same crimes in the same place at the same time, it is in the interest of justice for court to consider the cases together,” the Prosecutor General said.
The submission to have all 19 cases of suspected FLN terrorists will be subject to approval by the High Court Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes. If approved, experts expect the merged case to yield details on the inner workings and command structure of FLN. Jean-Chrétien Ndagijimana, the son of the late FLN commander Laurent Ndagijimana, also known as Wilson Irategeka, is amongst those who would have a joint trial.
Prosecution said that a full list of FLN fighters that will see their cases merged would be made available to the press.