The Commonwealth has no legal authority to pursue hundreds of genocide suspects hiding within its member states but there is an instrument that will enable Rwanda to negotiate with each member on measures of apprehending these suspects.
According to the Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, Rwanda should take full advantage of the Harare Agreement on Mutual Assistance in Criminal and Legal matters to negotiate the arrest and extradition of genocide suspects with countries that belong to the Commonwealth.
Kamalesh, who concluded his two-day visit in the country on Friday, said that he is not fully aware of the number of genocide suspects seeking refuge in the member states but added that it is entirely up to Rwanda to take the issue with other countries on a bilateral basis.
“It is entirely up to the government of Rwanda to make its own decision, whether they wish to do it bilaterally or in any other way,”
“But there is an instrument that is available in the Commonwealth, the Harare Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance. If the Government of Rwanda is interested in seeing what possibilities are offered by this pact, they can study it and see the options available,” Kamalesh told the press shortly before departure.
On her part, Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that Rwanda will not hesitate to take any available options to ensure that all those responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi are brought to justice.
“There is no question that by belonging to the Commonwealth, Rwanda has a much better chance of receiving judicial cooperation from members of the Commonwealth.”
“The Government of Rwanda intends to take full advantage of the Harare Agreement which in my understanding will allow us to communicate with a large group of countries at the same time,” Mushikiwabo who doubles as the Government Spokesperson said..
In an interview with The New Times, Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama who also held separate talks with the Commonwealth official, said Rwanda will assess the agreement to ascertain its applicability on the issue of genocide suspects.
“There is a general law in place that does not require countries to have bilateral relations. We will assess it to see whether it can give us the basis to pursue these people wherever they are.”
“It is general in nature and we therefore need to study the specifics, once that is done, then we can see its applicability in this regard,” Karugarama said.
He said that his discussions with Kamalesh also touched on that contentious issue of countries refusing to extradite or arrest genocide suspects roaming freely in some of the Commonwealth member states.
The Harare Agreement states that upon request, a country may provide for legal apprehension of wanted person responsible for crimes in another country or even attach their properties.
Britain, Canada, Mozambique and Zambia are some of the Commonwealth member states believed to be harbouring big numbers of genocide suspects.