June 18, 2014
Today, Agnes Uwimana-Nkusi, editor of Umurabyo, an independent Kinyarwanda-language newspaper in Rwanda was released after serving four years in prison for “undermining national security” and “defamation” of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
On July 10, 2010, Ms. Uwimana was arrested by government authorities following publication of articles in Umurabyo that were critical of the Rwandan government and specifically President Kagame. Authorities charged the editor with endangering national security, genocide denial, divisionism, and defamation of the President. Ms. Uwimana had faced similar charges in 2007 and was sentenced to one year in prison after she published an anonymous letter criticizing the government.
On February 4, 2011, the High Court sentenced Ms. Uwimana to 17 years in prison. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Rwanda reduced the 17-year sentence to four years in prison and overturned the conviction for genocide denial and divisionism.
In the same trial, a journalist working with Ms. Uwimana, Saidati Mukakibibi, was also convicted and served three years in prison (reduced from seven years) for undermining national security. Ms. Mukabibi was released on June 25, 2013.
Along with attorneys from the law firm Hogan Lovells US LLP, Freedom Now represented Ms. Uwimana in a case before the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a body of the United Nations that found the detention of both women to be in violation of international law.
“We welcome Ms. Uwimana’s release and hope that she will not face further persecution because of her work in journalism,” said Maran Turner, executive director of Freedom Now. “Freedom Now and other organizations have condemned a growing trend in Rwanda of repression against journalists and government critics, especially through the use of questionable criminal charges. Freedom of the press is one of the most important protections in international law and supremely critical for a democratic society. By imprisoning these journalists and others, the Rwandan government demonstrates its disregard for international human rights standards and dissenting voices.”