A group of parliamentarians led by Baroness D’Souza, the former chairperson of British Senate on 4th November 2019 wrote to President Paul Kagame asking him to release detained military officers including Tom Byabagamba and Frank Rusagara.
Col Tom Byabagamba’s and Rtd Brig-Gen Frank Rusagara’s cases are currently at the Court of Appeal challenging March 2016 verdicts by the Military High Court that saw Col. Byabagamba jailed for 21 years and Rusagara for 20 years.
Byabagamba had been convicted of tarnishing the image of the State, public insurrection, illegal possession of firearms, contempt, and concealing evidence in a criminal case, while Rusagara was found guilty of instigating public insurrection and illegal possession of firearms.
The request letter explained that the duo has spent five years in prison yet their health is critical because Byabagamba leans on orthesis following back surgery while Rusagara has prostate complications among other health problems.
Beyond that, the letter reads that Rusagara’s wife died when he was in prison and so children miss parental care and want to live together with the surviving parent.
The letter ends stating that releasing Byabagamba and Rusagara would be proof to the United Kingdom and the entire world that Rwanda commutes sick inmates sentenced for long.
Replying to the letter, Minister Busingye clarified that Tom Byabagamba and Frank Rusagara were convicted on 31st March 2016 of serious crimes under Rwandan law and were sentenced 21 and 20 years of imprisonment respectively.
He explained that Byabagamba and Rusagara cases are being handled by the Court of Appeal following their appeal against the ruling.
Minister Busingye said that opinions should not determine courts’ decisions referring to the response British previously gave to UN Working Group requesting the United Kingdom not to arrest Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks as he got out of Ecuador embassy in London but was immediately detained.
“As a matter of Rwandan law, there are limited circumstances in which the Government can intervene in a criminal case. Unless and until invited to do so in accordance with the relevant laws and procedures, it would be inappropriate for the Executive to comment on any pending case, seek to influence the outcome, or intervene as proposed in your letter. Any such action would constitute improper interference with an independent judicial process,” reads part of the reply letter.
“Rwandan law provides a clear procedure for requesting clemency which Mr. Byabagamba and Rusagara are entitled to pursue, in accordance with relevant law,” adds the letter.
The Court of Appeal is expected to read the ruling on case of Byabagamba and Rusagara on 15th November 2019.