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Court convicts Kenyan, Burundian for trafficking Burundian women after contentions over witnesses

The High Court Chamber for International Crimes convicted two men, Kenyan and Burundian, for trafficking 11 Burundian women in a case of sharp contentions over the victims’ witnesses which the defendants dismissed as unsubstantial.

“The court finds acts of human trafficking in the manner of the women coming to the border to meet Githaiga and Djuma who also took care of them, luring them into lying to security organs that they were travelling on their own” the court ruled new year’s eve 2020.

Kenyan businessman Stephine Ngiria Githaiga and Burundian carpenter Idi Djuma were handed six years in prison and fines of Rwf10 million (over $10,000) each, from ten-year imprisonment and the same fines which they had been handed in 2017.

Ruling on the appeal case, the international crimes court said that the reason they were handed a lesser sentence was that the crime had not inflicted harm on the victims.

“The victims were recovered at the border before any harm and returned to their families which is the reason for the pacification of the punishment” the court added.

The defendants’ lawyers told Kigali Law Tidings they had not yet established from their clients whether they would appeal the six-year imprisonment which will end in 2023.

Hearing in substance

During the hearings, the prosecution relied on the testimonies of the victims who said that they were passing through Rwanda to Uganda, Kenya and into the Middle East for domestic jobs.

The prosecution submitted that the victims left Burundi to meet “a big man wearing a red hat at the Rwanda-Burundi border” who bought them refreshments and food on arrival at the border.

“Githaiga incurred costs for showers for the women to have baths and change clothes, bought edibles and even paid Rwf100 for public toilet for one of the women. We wonder how Githaiga would be such generous to strangers who did not speak his language” the prosecution said.

The defendants dismissed prosecution about the women meeting “a big man with a red hat” arguing that prosecutors had no evidence of whether it was Githaiga wearing a red hat.

“Prosecution never provided evidence for the testimony. For example, there is no evidence that Githaiga wore a red hat or evidence for crime in buying food for the women” Lawer Musore Gakunzi submitted.

Lawyer Gakunzi also appealed to the court to disregard the testimony, contesting that he had evidence regarding the way the women had processed their travel documents and that Githaiga was not involved at all.

“All the women agree that they knew their destination and some of them had been to Saudi Arabia before. None of them mentions Githaiga in the process pursuing their travel documents” Lawyer Gakunzi argued.

He added that the prosecution did not prove that the alleged phone number of the “big man at the border” that the women were calling was for Githaiga who was arrested.

A migration officer witnessed that the “women did not know where they were going” which defence refuted that the migration officer did not submit to the court the forms filled by the women at the border showing travel reason and destination”

The prosecution submitted similar case examples of human trafficking in which the accused were convicted of the crime in cases involving taking women to Kenya and Malawi.

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