Rwanda withdraws from African Court Declaration

The African Court of Human and People’s Rights has lost the extra jurisdiction to hear cases involving Rwanda after the government withdrew from the declaration that allows individuals or groups of individuals to file cases.

The decision to withdraw from the declaration was reached after a Genocide convict and fugitive secured a right to be heard under the guise of defending human rights of Rwandan citizens.

Sources close to the court , who preferred anonymity, told Saturday Times that the Genocide convict and fugitive in question is Stanley Safari.

In 2009, Safari, a former senator, was found guilty of multiple counts of Genocide-related charges by a Gacaca court in Huye and sentenced to life in prison.

He took flight a few days before his sentence was read, and an Interpol red notice was issued to facilitate his arrest.

Witnesses against Safari

According to several witnesses, including former militia who took part in killings during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Safari was involved in operations which exterminated 60 Tutsi at the National University of Rwanda, 600 Tutsi at Gateme in Tumba Sector, and other massacres at Rango in the then Butare town (now Huye district).

Shortly after he fled, Human Rights organisation Amnesty Internationl, turned down his application for protection on the basis that his claims are baseless.

A notification sent to the Court, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that in 2013, when Rwanda signed the declaration from which it has withdrawn, “it never envisaged that such a person (Genocide convict/fugitive) would ever seek or be granted a platform” based on the protocol.

Johnston Busingye, the minister for Justice, told Saturday Times that the court was informed of the gravity of crimes committed by Safari.

“Safari is known in Gikondo suburb of Kigali as a ruthless operator during the Genocide. He was convicted for Genocide. He was one of the master minds in Gikondo. We sent the judgment and informed the Court last year that we would take serious exception if Safari was allowed a platform in the African court because with Genocide Rwanda would not compromise,” he said.

The Minister added: “Our reason is that after a genocide fugitive successfully took advantage of the Declaration and gained direct access to the Court and claimed to be a protector of Rwandans ‘ rights under the African Charter, we decided to have the Declaration reviewed so that it reflects the actual intentions of its makers.”

“The Republic of Rwanda, in exercise of its sovereign prerogative, withdraws its declaration it made on the 22nd day of January 2013, accepting the jurisdiction of the African Court of Human and People’s Rights to receive cases under Article 5 (3) of the protocol and shall make it a fresh after comprehensive review,” concludes the notification sent to the court last month.

Rwanda is one of only seven countries that had signed up to the declaration which is a unilateral prerogative provided in the Protocol that is in the country’s power to sign up to.

Minister Busingye further emphasised that the ordinary jurisdiction of the Court is to resolve human rights disputes between a country and another which continues to exist and Rwanda fully subscribe to.

"The special optional and unilateral jurisdiction we gave the Court in the 2013 Declaration is to resolve human rights disputes between individuals, groups Vs the State.

This is the power we withdrew for review because we realised it was beginning to be abused by, of all people, genocide convicts and fugitives," Busingye said.

He added: "On genocide convicts and fugitives, we do not compromise. We expect that the Court cannot compromise its integrity by offering them a platform which they will use to launder themselves."