July 30, 2020

Appeals Court Refuses to Convict Local Officials Seen in Viral Video Severely Battering Woman

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Nyirangaruye Clarisse sits helpless amidst a gang of men who were battering her. She has since developed mental issues

A woman whose traumatic beating by group of local officials and security personnel in northern Rwanda which caused national outrage, will have to wait much longer for justice.

In May, a video surfaced on social media showing gang of local officials wielding sticks trampling on a young woman Nyirangaruye Clarisse. The viral video also showed the men beating up other people.

It emerged the officials had found the woman and others not wearing masks yet the country was trying to control spread of the COVID-19 virus. The same day of the incident, all the officials were arrested in reaction to social media outrage, including: Sebashotsi Gasasira Jean Paul, the now sacked executive secretary of Cyuve sector, who led the goons.

Within days, Government prosecutors filed various charges against them in the Primary Court including misuse of power and battery causing serious bodily harm. The men were each sentenced to 15 years plus Rwf 5m fine for each of those involved.

However, the convicts filed appeal to a higher court, arguing on legal technicalities.

In a ruling this Thursday, the Intermediate Court of Musanze district, which is an appeals level, issued a verdict that came as a shock to everyone in the courtroom and the prosecutors.

The court agreed with the convicted men that they didn’t go out that day with deliberate plan to target the affected woman and other people. Instead, that they were at work implementing central government COVID-19 regulations.

However, argued the men as concurred by the appellate court, the group of people at the location became rowdy – even attempting to fight with officials.

The court also said that the lower court issued a wrong conviction against the suspects, as the charges attract between three and five year jail sentences, with a much less monetary fine.

As a consequence, said the Intermediate Court, the lower court’s verdict cannot be upheld. In its final ruling, the appeals court said the case will have to be taken back to the lower court for retrial.

In other words, the Intermediate Court was telling the prosecutors that they asked for excessive sentences which were not in the law, and that the lower court also wrongly adopted the prosecution plea.

Meanwhile, following the beatings, the young woman Clarisse was hospitalised with bruises and later developed mental breakdown. Clarisse attempted to commit suicide as she couldn’t stand the humiliation she experienced, according to her family. She is still on treatment.

In subsequent interviews, she usually breaks down into tears as she narrates the incident. There have also been allegations that the senior official among the convicts was using a network of people to torment Clarisse and ber family. This has also contributed to her fear.

As the situation stands now, Clarisse will continue living through her pain as those who caused it remain free.

The beating of residents by local officials has become a regular occurrence in all regions of the country. Barely a month goes by without reports of such incidents happening.

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