Defamation against Head of State should be a civil not a criminal matter- Kagame

On 26 April 2019 at 09:30

President Paul Kagame has revealed that he doesn’t consent with the decision of the Supreme Court on criminalizing the defamation against the Head of State saying it should be a civil matter, a statement released by the office of the presidency has revealed.

“The president of the Republic respects the independence of the judiciary and the recent Supreme Court decision to decriminalize the offenses related to the humiliation of public officials,” reads part of the statement.

“The president, however, takes issue with the decision to retain as criminal offenses, insults or defamation against the Head of State, who is also a public official. His position has always been that this should be a civil, not a criminal matter. The president trusts that there will be further debate on this important matter,” adds the statement.

The Supreme Court recently expunged some articles and paragraphs of the penal code following the petition of Kigali based lawyer Richard Mugisha but retained penalties granted in the article concerning defamation against the head of state.

The lawyer petitioned on the revision of article 236 stipulating the sentence between five to seven years and a fine between Rwf 5 to 7 million for the defamation against the head of state is not constitutional.

The president of the Supreme Court, Prof Sam Rugege explained that the article concerns special duties of the Head of State of protecting the sovereignty of the country where insulting and defamation against him would destabilize a lot of things because of his responsibilities to the country.

The court retained the article ruling that there is a difference between the defamation against the head of state and others because they can file a court case for compensation which cannot be possible for the president due to his heavy duties.