Genocide convict Dr Leon Mugesera has petitioned the Supreme Court seeking to have one Justice on the bench trying him, to be removed from his appeals trial.
The latest petition was made known in court on Monday as the court opened proceedings for continuation of Dr Mugesera’s appeal against a life sentence for genocide. The session on Monday was immediately halted.
The issue that caused the latest twist in Mugesera’s appeals case can simply be described as dramatic. On October 21, last year, Dr Mugesera appeared at the Court of Appeal in Kigali for start of his appeal.
However, before the session could start, Mugesera put his hand up and raised two ground; wanted to know names of all Justices on the bench, and be allowed to follow proceedings while seated as he said he was sick.
The bench allowed him to sit. The presiding Justice asked Dr Mugesera and his lawyer Jean Felix Rudakemwa to move forward to table of the Justices to be told the names. After all the bench members were done, Mugesera shouted in full court that bench member Kaliwabo Charles be removed.
“Kaliwabo Charles should recuse himself from the bench because he convicted me influenced by the hate he has for me,” said Mugesera.
In the following minutes, there was back-and-forth exchanges between the bench, Dr Mugesera and his lawyer. The presiding Justice was attempting to downplay Mugesera’s concerns, which was rejected outrightly.
The appeals session was adjourned. On December 16, session reopened. The appeals panel ruled that Dr Mugesera’s concerns over one member of the bench were unfounded. But then the session was again adjourned to restarted March 2, 2020.
When it reopened, Dr Mugesera informed the appeals bench that he had filed new application in Supreme Court against their decision to keep a Justice he did not want.
Legally, it is the right of person in dock to refuse a judge, and in rare cases is the suspect forced to stay in the proceedings. Again, the appeals court session was adjourned as they await the Supreme Court ruling.
The 65 year-old Dr Leon Mugesera, a linguist, was deported from Canada in 2013 after his long fight against deportation had gone up to the Supreme Court. In Rwanda, he would be sentenced to life by High Court International Crimes Division for genocide.
Mugesera’s speech in November 1992, two years before the genocide against the Tutsi, according to prosecution, helped give ideological foundation for the mass killing of Tutsis. In one instance, he coined the word ‘cockroaches’ to refer to Tutsis, which was used from then onwards.
Dr Mugesera’s court sessions are full of drama, which provokes anger among judges and prosecutors. He enjoys the games, as he expects them to make decisions that could be challenged on legal technicalities.