Journalist held after criticizing traditional court judges

New York, September 15, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the arrest of Jean Léonard Rugambage, a reporter for the twice-monthly newspaper Umuco who accused judges of a traditional court in Rwanda of corruption.
Rugambage has been held without charge since his arrest on September 7 in the central town of Gitarama. He has been given no reason for his arrest but local journalists believe it is linked to an article he wrote in September, which accused judges at a “gacaca” court in the Gitarama region of using the traditional justice system for personal gain and the settling of scores.

“It is outrageous that a journalist should be thrown into jail for investigating the behavior of public officials and held without due process,” said Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Gacaca courts have been adapted from a form of Rwandan traditional justice to try tens of thousands of genocide suspects who have been languishing in overcrowded jails since 1994. The system was set up several years ago, but trials only got under way this year.

Umuco, which is based in the capital Kigali and publishes mainly in the Rwandan language Kinyarwanda, has become increasingly critical of the government. In August, its editor Bonaventure Bizumuremyi was twice held for police questioning following an article in Umuco on police corruption, and a piece that called for the release of detained opposition leader and former president Pasteur Bizimungu. Umuco has been publishing for about a year.