TrialWatch monitors the trials of opposition politicians who speak out against the governments in power, and whose platforms are seen as a threat to authoritarian rule.
Paul Rusesabagina, a vocal critic of Rwanda’s ruling party, was convicted of terrorism-related activities for his alleged role in attacks by the National Liberation Front (FLN). Prior to trial, Rwandan President Kagame made statements in public that violated Rusesabagina’s right to be presumed innocent. The most recent of the three TrialWatch reports produced on the trial of Rusesabagina described it as “seriously flawed” and as having “violated international and regional standards for fair trial procedures”. TrialWatch Expert Geoffrey Robertson KC said that the court “accepted and promoted the government’s case … without question or challenge.”
In March 2023, two and a half years after he vanished and reappeared in Rwanda where he was immediately arrested and convicted on terrorism charges, Rusesabagina’s 25-year prison sentence was commuted and he was freed. Our work was widely used as part of the efforts to reach that outcome.
This proceeding smacked of a show trial – the Court fully accepted, and promoted, the government’s case against Paul Rusesabagina, without question or challenge. The verdict of guilty of serious crimes cannot, in consequence, be regarded as beyond reasonable doubt.
Mr. Navalny should not have been prosecuted for his political commentary on those who chose to inject themselves into public debate on a topic of significant interest.
A powerful challenger to President Lukashenko was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Belarusian opposition leader, Viktor Babariko, considered Lukashenko’s main rival, was arrested in 2020 before he even had a chance to run in the elections. A court in Minsk found him guilty of bribery and money laundering while he was head of a major Belarusian bank.
Mr. Babariko was presented to the court in a metal cage, there are indications that members of his defence team were subject to intimidation and harassment, and the team was repeatedly blocked from questioning prosecution witnesses.
When I walked into the courtroom for the first time, somebody stepped up to me and said, "…..we're from Trial Watch." And that was quite uplifting to feel like somebody's in that room representing the outside world, quietly monitoring my trial.