Senate yesterday voted in favour of ratification of extradition treaties between Rwanda and three African countries, namely; Ethiopia, Malawi and Zambia.
But the chamber also heard that government’s efforts to enter into such bilateral arrangements with several countries faced obstacles, mainly owing to lack of political will on the part of some governments.
The treaties are especially key to efforts designed to bring Genocide fugitives holed up in different countries to account.
The Government has issued 1000 indictments – in at least 30 countries – for suspected perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi which claimed the lives of over one million people.
The State Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Evode Uwizeyimana, also told Senate Friday that Genocide fugitives have a tendency to move from one country to another in an attempt to escape justice.
“For instance, there are many people who are suspected of participating in the Genocide against the Tutsi who are based in Southern Africa. When they hear of such (extradition) treaties, they often cross over to another country,” he said.
Nonetheless, he added, we will continue to pursue such people to ensure justice.
He also said that talks are at advanced stages between Rwanda and Mozambique for the two countries to seal an extradition treaty.
The minister said that negotiations for such a treaty with Zambia started way back in 2009 through 2017.
He was responding to Senator Tito Rutaremara who asked him to explain in detail the specific challenges that Rwanda faced in this effort.
The biggest obstacle is the lack of political will (to cooperate) by some governments, Uwizeyimana said.
He also cited cases where some fugitives acquired citizenship of host countries, which constitutes a legal challenge.
The minister further pointed out that some governments undermine the magnitude of the Genocide and its impacts on the Rwandan society.
“In some countries, some of the fugitives are given refugee status making them automatically protected by international treaties,” he added. “In others, they are given citizenship and that also is problematic because in that case, they are sometimes protected by their host countries’ constitutions”.
The success of extradition arrangements is largely dependent on political will on the part of the country in question, he said.
Uwizeyimana asked senators to approve the ratification of the treaties during the plenary session without subjecting the bilateral treaties to further scrutiny by a senatorial standing committee as par standard practice.
“It is important that this process is expedited so that those who are supposed to face justice are brought to book,” he said. “If you ratify this, it will come into force because this is the only remaining step.”
Senators ratified the treaties as requested.
Rwanda has extradition treaties with several other countries.