A Norwegian court on Wednesday ruled to extradite Eugene Nkuranyabahizi, 41, to Rwanda to stand trial for his role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Nkuranyabahizi has lived in the Nordic country since 1999. He was arrested in May last year following an indictment sent to Norwegian authorities by the Rwandan judiciary.
He is accused of participating in the massacre of Tutsi in the former Nyakizu Commune, currently Nyabihu and Nyanza districts.
The Norwegian prosecutor handling the case, Per Zimmer, said after Wednesday’s ruling that he was optimistic an extradition was imminent.
However, Nkuranyabahizi’s lawyer, John Christian Elden, said he would contest the decision at the Supreme Court.
Nkuranyabahizi is linked to several killings in Nkakwa, Kibangu, Cyahinda and around the Kanyaru River area.
A former teacher, Nkuranyabahizi was a member of the MDR-Power, an extremist political party during the Genocide.
He is accused of working with the Interahamwe militia to murder several Tutsi who were attempting to cross the border to Burundi.
Rwandan prosecution spokesperson Alain Mukuralinda said, although there is still a window for appeal, they are optimistic the suspect will be extradited.
“Norway has set jurisprudence in extradition cases following the extradition of Charles Bandora. We have no doubt the same will happen in this particular case,” Mukuralinda said.
Currently, another Oslo-based Borgarting Court of Appeal is hearing an appeal by Sadi Bugingo, who was in February last year, sentenced to 21 years in jail for his role in the 1994 Genocide.
Besides Norway, there are efforts by some other European countries to bring to book individuals responsible for the Genocide which left over 1 million people dead.
The Dutch Supreme Court recently ruled in favour of the extradition of Jean Claude Iyamuremye and what remains is a political decision by the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice.
Also, in January, a district court in the Netherlands ruled that Genocide suspect Jean-Baptiste Mugimba be extradited to Rwanda. However, Mugimba still has a chance to appeal the decision.
Among other cases tried in the Netherlands include that of Yvonne Basebya, who was last year sentenced to six years for his role in the Genocide.
Also, in 2009, a Dutch court sentenced Joseph Mpambara to 20 years for his role in the 1994 Genocide.
He appealed the ruling and, in July 2011, the higher court sentenced him to life in prison for war crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994. They are both serving their sentences in Dutch prisons.
In March this year, the UK initiated a process to extradite five men accused of taking part in the Genocide.
However they have since been released from custody on a provisional basis.
The suspects include three former mayors in present day Southern Province; Charles Munyaneza (Kinyamakara commune), Emmanuel Nteziryayo (Mudasomwa commune), and Celestin Ugirashebuja (Kigoma commune).
The others are the former head of the National Population Office, Dr Vincent Bajinya–who now goes by the name Dr Vincent Brown, and Celestin Mutabaruka, who headed Crete Zaire Nil project.
French legal dilemma
Although several European countries have either attempted to try or extradite Genocide suspects, France has been on the spot for not extraditing or prosecuting any.
A few have been arrested, but judicial processes to extradite them have always stalled.
French courts say they would not send a suspect to Rwanda since the country didn’t have laws punishing genocide as a crime by the time it was committed.
French courts also cite the principle of non-retroactivity in their penal code. However, Senator Jean Damascene Bizimana, says France was doing this on purpose.
Rwanda’s 1996 organic law was given a retroactive mandate of apprehending Genocide suspects, meaning it was empowered to try crimes committed between 1990 and 1994.
Under the 1948 Genocide Convention, the international community is obliged to act once genocide occurs anywhere in the world.
“The reason why the penal code didn’t have genocide as a crime is because those that drafted it were also planning genocide,” Bizimana said.
He, however, said that the 1948 Convention is very clear; “The Convention instructs countries to extradite genocide suspects, if not, charge, prosecute and sentence them or transfer them to other jurisdictions to be tried. France as a member of the international community should have adhered to this.”
The senator said French judges have paid little attention to crimes committed outside their country and called for political action to reverse the trend.
Andre-Martin Karongozi, an international law expert, wondered why France has consistently refused to extradite suspects to Rwanda, something he said contradicts the positions of both the ICTR and the European Court of Human Rights of which France is a signatory.
“Trying genocide suspects is simple mathematics, countries like Belgium set a jurisprudence of using the law against humanity to try several Genocide perpetrators, the same happened in several other European countries, so France should stop giving excuses,” he said.