As Rwandans continue to commemorate, for the 24th time, the Genocide against the Tutsi, one of the most outstanding problems is the continued roaming of those who masterminded the Genocide; most have been fully integrated in their host countries.
Some of the key challenges that have been put forward by Rwandan officials is the lack of political will by countries that host these individuals; 900 of them have indictments already issued. In an exclusive interview with The New Times’ Felly Kimenyi, Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye said that technical matters like extradition treaty should not stand in the way of dispensing justice.
Do you think there should be a sense of urgency to bring to book these people owing to the fact that with 24 years past, age is catching up with many and therefore may never account to what they did?
Yes, definitely. Although the crimes don’t age, people age and die. Dying without facing justice is impunity in a way. In another way however, there will always be a judgement and conviction against them in the court of public opinion.
They will die as genocide fugitives who died in hiding rather than face justice. That is how they will be remembered even after they are dead. That will be their legacy. That said, our resolve to have them tried gets stronger and wider each day.
The main challenge that impeded the extradition of some of the fugitives arrested on foreign soil has been said to be lack of extradition treaty with many countries. Do you agree with this, if no why?
Extradition treaties are international law instruments that enable countries to legally exchange criminal suspects so they can stand trial. In this sense, extradition treaties would be useful technically, in the process of returning genocide suspect to stand trial here.
But I don’t think our low level of returning genocide fugitives has been impeded by this technical aspect. Where there is will, there is a way. The evidence is clear.
The Countries where genocide fugitives were returned from are USA, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, Germany, and Uganda. All of these countries don’t have an extradition treaty with Rwanda. Political will is the main challenge, lack of extradition treaties and domestic law generally are a small issue.
If there is political will, fugitives are retuned. Host countries are even requested to prosecute the fugitives where they are. This doesn’t require any treaty, it’s about political will.
How many countries have we so far secured extradition treaties with? Can we know them if possible?
Sure. Most of these are African countries.
In 2017, we signed with 3 countries: Malawi, Ethiopia and Zambia
Uganda (2005); Kenya signed in 2009, and with Congo Brazza in 2013.
We have extradition treaty within the framework of CEPGL (DRC, Burundi) signed in 1975
Extradition treaty between Rwanda and Tanzania of 1963 but needs amendment because it does not include international crimes.
What other political challenges do you think have stood in the way of seeing justice done through bringing to book these masterminds?
Genocide ideology, coalescing of genocide deniers, weak domestic systems (mostly foreign ones). But we will overcome them. They cannot prevail no matter their effort.
Senate recommendations for increase in resources to the Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit, is it justified? If yes how does government intend to go about it?
Yes we should have a strong tracking Unit to ensure the maximum quality and quantity of fugitives tracking, and because it links us with the International community.
But GFTU alone cannot achieve much. It has to depend on other capabilities elsewhere which we need to build as well.
What message for this 24th Genocide commemoration?
It is 24 years after the worst genocide of our time. Countries hosting genocide fugitives need to ensure a speedy return or prosecution of these people.
The “hosting” is rapidly becoming overt facilitation and support to genocide suspects to evade of justice. As we have said before about one such country we don’t want these countries to be on the wrong side of history.