Judgment of the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights of 24 November 2017 in the case of Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza v. Republic of Rwanda (case no. 003/2014).
The applicant was assisted in preparing a complaint to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (Banjul, Gambia).
Subsequently, the African Commission on Rights and Peoples 'Rights referred the applicant's complaint to the African Court of Human and Peoples' Rights (Arusha, Tanzania). The complaint was then communicated to Rwanda.
The case successfully addressed a criminal conviction complaint for alleged denial of the Rwandan genocide.
The case addresses issues of criminal conviction for alleged denial of the Rwandan genocide.
THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
The complainant, a leader of an opposition political party in Rwanda, returned to the country in 2010 after spending almost 17 years abroad. She was arrested shortly thereafter and, in October 2012, was convicted of terrorist crimes and genocide denial. Her complaint to the Supreme Court was inconclusive. In her application to the African Court of Human and Peoples 'Rights (hereinafter referred to as the African Court), the applicant referred to various violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (hereinafter referred to as the Charter).
QUESTIONS OF LAW
Article 9 of the Charter (freedom of expression). The right to freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights protected by international human rights law. However, it is not absolute and may be subject to restrictions under certain circumstances. It was not disputed that the applicant's conviction and punishment amounted to a restriction of her freedom of expression. The question was whether the restriction was prescribed by law, whether it served a legitimate aim and whether it was necessary and proportionate in the circumstances of the case.
The African Court noted that some of the provisions of the relevant legislation were broad and general and could be subject to varying interpretations. However, taking into account the nature of the crimes, which were difficult to define precisely, and the margin of appreciation enjoyed by the respondent State in defining and prohibiting criminal acts in their legislation, he concluded that the contested laws provided individuals with adequate warning, allowing them to foresee and adapt their behavior in relation to the established norms. The crimes for which the applicant was convicted were of a grave nature and potentially grave consequences for national security, and as such the restriction served the legitimate aim of protecting national security and public order. The restrictions imposed on the exercise of freedom of expression must be strictly necessary in a democratic society and proportionate to the legitimate aims pursued. Certain forms of expression, such as political speech, in particular when directed against the respondent State and public officials, or used by persons with special status such as public figures, deserve a greater degree of tolerance than others.
Rwanda has experienced the most brutal genocide in recent human history, which is recognized by the international community. Consequently, it is justified that the authorities of the respondent State take all measures to promote social cohesion and consent of the people and to prevent the commission of similar acts in the future. The state is obliged to ensure compliance with the law in this regard.
Although it was perfectly legitimate for the state to introduce laws on minimization, propaganda or denial of genocide, these laws should not be applied at the expense of the rights and freedoms of individuals in a way that does not take into account international human rights standards. It is important that restrictions on the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens are conditioned by the specific context of each case and the nature of the actions that are considered to have caused such restrictions.
The applicant's statements, which were said to have been made on different occasions, fell into two groups: remarks made about the genocide and directed against the respondent Government.
For example: "We honor at this memorial to Tutsi victims of genocide, there are also Hutus who were victims of crimes against humanity and war crimes, which are not remembered or honored here."
As in any genocide survivor country, the issue was highly sensitive and opinions or comments on the genocide could not be treated in the same way as opinions expressed on other topics. Statements that denied or minimized the scope or impact of genocide, or explicitly insinuated it, do not fall within the scope of the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and should be prohibited by law. As regards the allegation that the applicant's remarks propagated the theory of “double genocide”, nothing in her remarks indicated that she was disseminating this opinion. It is clear that the applicant recognized genocide against the Tutsis and did not claim that the genocide was carried out against the Hutu. The domestic verdict acknowledged that her statements did not refer to genocide against the Hutu, but referred to the context in which they were made. In this regard, the context of the statements made may have given a different meaning to the ordinary content they conveyed. However, the applicant's statements were unambiguously clear, and in such circumstances, the imposition of serious restrictions such as criminal penalties only on the basis of context could create an atmosphere in which citizens could not freely exercise their right to freedom of expression.
The National Commission against Genocide, which intervened as an amicus curiae, argued that the "double genocide" theory was the applicant's way of denying the 1994 genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda, and that the double genocide theory was intended to transform the 1994 genocide against Tutsis. years in the inter-ethnic massacre for the rehabilitation of the perpetrators, their accomplices and supporters.
The second group of statements made by the applicant contained serious criticism against the Government of the respondent State and public officials. While some of her remarks might appear offensive, they were of the kind that is permissible in a democratic society and therefore must be tolerated, especially if it comes from a public figure such as the applicant. There is no evidence that her statements have caused strife, public outrage or any other threat to state security or public order.
The case violated the requirements of the Charter.
The African Court also found that the requirements of Article 7 of the Charter (right to a fair trial) were not violated in the case.
Compensation. The issue is not ready for consideration.