The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) has ruled that Dr Leon Mugesera has been jailed under inhumane and cruel conditions as he serves life sentence for genocide.
The latest ruling by the Arusha, Tanzania-based court, which is not the first on Rwanda, is unlikely to be implemented in Rwanda. Government has previously publicly dismissed the court, or just ignored it.
On September 25, the Court of Appeal in Rwanda, confirmed Mugesera’s life sentence for genocide. The case stems from his November 1992 speech which helped lay the ideological ground for the mass massacre of Tutsis in 1994.
However, despite being in court for more than 20 years, there has yet to be a definitive verdict as the linguistics academic has used all legal loopholes available to undermine the cases against him.
As the legal maneuvers continued in Rwanda, Dr Mugesera’s family based in Canada and their Canadian lawyers, petitioned the African court for a determination on his jail conditions. In the same petition, they also asked for several things be done including that Rwanda be ordered to immediately release Mugesera.
In a ruling on Friday, the court agreed with the Mugesera team, affirming that the government of Rwanda was keeping him in “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment”.
It ruled that Rwanda compensates Mugesera and his family with Rwf 25m (over $25,000).
However, the continental court refused to make any determination on Mugesera’s quest for the judges to order for his release and dismissal of his life sentence. The court said Mugesera’s petition was on the conditions of his detention.
The court also declined to order that Rwanda and Canada begin formal negotiations to have Mugesera transferred back to Canada to serve his sentence from there.
In another positive aspect for Mugesera, the African court also ruled that an independent medical specialist be allowed to visit Mugesera and conduct extensive tests to determine how he should be treated in jail.
At one point during his trial in the Rwandan courts, Mugesera complained that he was not getting the kind of bread he preferred.
“Everything else is fine here,” said Mugesera, adding, “except that the prison is not availing me with ‘Pain de Ble entier’ bread which is bought from La Galette bakery and Simba supermarket.”
Rwanda didn’t file any defense with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR).