Every year, most individuals have wishes that they hope can come to materialise. For parents, the wish is always centred on their children’s health and abundance of opportunities. For the youth, it’s about the hope for a good university, a better job, a house, a life partner and much more.
But for 38-year-old Jeannine Murebwayire, her wish has been a constant one for the last 23 years. Murebwayire, who lost her entire family at the onset of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, says she will only rest when Felicien Kabuga is brought to justice.
Kabuga, who has eluded justice for more than two decades, is accused of funding the importation of truckloads of machetes used during the killings and bankrolling the virulent Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), the propaganda radio that was used to coordinate massacres across the country.
Kabuga, whose whereabouts remain unknown, is one of the so-called ‘Big Fish’ sought by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, which took over from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Kabuga is just one of the many genocidiares that continue to roam the world and, according to prosecution, 673 indictments have been issued through the Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit (GFTU).
According to the Spokesman of the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA), Faustin Nkusi, the list contains indictments and arrest warrants issued in 32 countries.
Some of these have been tried in their respective countries of residence, while others have since been extradited or deported to Rwanda, according to Nkusi.
“Of these, 21 were tried in Belgium, Canada, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and The Netherlands. Over the years, only 17 have been brought back to Rwanda through extraditions, ICTR transfers, and deportations,” he said.
According to him, those brought back came from the US, Canada, Uganda, Norway, Netherlands, Denmark and the ICTR.
However, he points out that no specific figure of Genocide fugitives was in place because cases are handled as they come in day-by-day.
“Whatever the case, the fugitives for which we have not issued indictments are fewer than those we indicted,” said Nkusi.
He said the next step is to go back to Gacaca courts archive and carefully scrutinised so that they sieve all those that were convicted and sentenced in absentia.
“There is quite some work to be done; we are leaving no stone unturned to ensure no Genocide perpetrator remains scot-free, wherever they are,” Nkusi said.
Nkusi also expressed satisfaction with the achievements so far in the decisions taken to extradite Genocide fugitives to face trial in Rwanda.
This, he said, breeds trust in our justice system, saying that it was gaining recognition for its independence and impartiality.
On the other hand, he expressed disappointment over the numbers involved in both tried and extradited cases.
“We have just 38 (21 cases judged outside Rwanda and 17 referred back) out of 673 indictments issued. It is a small number that one cannot be happy about. There is a big task for countries to execute their international obligations,” he said.
“Under international law, states have an obligation to either extradite or prosecute international crimes, including Genocide fugitives, we still look forward to see states living up to this task which seeks to fight the culture of impunity.”
Nkusi said there are many challenges that deter the pursuit of Genocide suspects, among them the fact that most fugitives have changed nationality, making it difficult to waive the new nationality so that extradition is possible.
“Fugitives are like nomads, they move from one place to another and the moment you send an indictment to location A, they change address and move to location B and it will take time to know the new address,” he said.
“Some hide under asylum and refugee status and lie that they are being pursued for political reasons and sometimes their arguments are bought without crosschecking with the requesting state.”
There is also the issue of Rwanda not having extradition treaties with most of the host countries and treaties are the foundation of extradition, Nkusi added.
Prosecutor-General Jean Bosco Mutangana told The New Times that there was also a challenge where most African countries, that are home to the biggest number of fugitives, did not have funds to conduct investigations.
“Unlike most other countries in the West that have been able to come over and launch investigations about the role of the fugitives that are in their counties, for African countries, it is still a challenge for them to come to Rwanda and conduct investigations because of limited resources,” the prosecutor-general said.
However, Mutangana said the issue of lack of extradition treaties should not be a problem since countries already have bi-lateral relationships with Rwanda and are, above all, bound by the anit-Genocide Convention.
“I don’t find it is such a pertinent issue because this should be about bilateral relationships and mutual legal assistance and cooperation in criminal matters.
“I believe that countries can still carry out the extradition or even conduct the trials domestically because if you have ratified the Genocide Convention of 1948, you have two options; you either extradite the suspect to the country where the crime was committed or try the case,” said, who formerly headed the Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit.
However, Mutangana was quick to point out that, besides the challenges, genocide crime does not expire and no matter how long it may take, justice will be served.
He said, besides the tracking unit, other mechanisms had been put in place that no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of the suspects.
“We are prepared. It takes time but, eventually, we are going to ensure justice is served,” Mutangana said.
Genocide scholar Tom Ndahiro told this paper in a recent interview that there are powerful people and institutions that supported the Genocide against the Tutsi who do not wish to see the perpetrators tried.