July 18, 2019

Questionable SMS Data Presented In Court Against Members Of Armed Groups In DR Congo

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The suspects appearing at a previous session

The terrorism case in which 10 suspects are accused of being members of Rwandan armed groups in DR Congo reopened Thursday at the High Court Chamber of International Crimes based in Nyanza district, southern province.

The suspects, arrested seperately back in 2017, are alleged to have been mobilising others to join “P5”, a group which the UN has confirmed is operating in South Kivu, eastern Congo.

Prosecution brands the suspects, including a woman of being members of PS Imberakuri party splinter faction and FDU Inkingi political groups – both operating from Rwanda. The latter is unregistered and led by Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza, who was pardoned by President Paul Kagame late last year.

In continuing submissions, defense attorney Gatera Gashabana said today the 1,000 pages of SMS and WhatsApp messages which prosecution got from the phones of suspects, were obtained illegally.

Nobody has right to access private communications except when in possession of a court order – which investigators who collected this phone data did not have, according to Gashabana.

Amid tight security in and outside the Chamber, Gashabana also questioned the documents which prosecution has presented as supposed “confessions” of the suspects.

He said his clients were terribly tortured into giving and signing the testimonies. “They were given two options; sign the confession or die,” said Gashabana.

Ingabire Victoire was also in court, which she has been doing since her own clemency.

The suspects are supposed to be 11, but one of them Boniface Twagirimana, who was the vice president of Ingabire’s FDU Inkingi group, has been missing since October last year.

FDU Inkingi has been accusing government security agencies of kidnapping him, which the authorities have ignored to respond to.

Responding to prosecution’s stance to brand the 10 suspects as members of PS Imberakuri faction and FDU Inkingi, the defense said today that these groups are not officially registered ‘so legally they do not exist’.

The suspects are accused of various serious cases including terrorism and belonging to a criminal enterprise “p5”. The UN Group of experts on DR Congo reports say this group is led by ex-chief of Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, exiled in SOuth Africa.

Defense attorney Gashabana dismissed the appellation of P5 as a terrorist and criminal group, arguing sarcastically that P5 puts fighting genocide at the forefront.

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