KIGALI - The indictments issued against top brass of the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) will now be handled at a continental level.
This was revealed Wednesday by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Tharcisse Karugarama, following a resolution by African Heads of State condemning the abuse of universal jurisdiction by European judges to indict the RDF.
“Despite the fact that Rwanda has got the right to defend herself from such anarchical allegations, the African Union has given a general sense of approach to the problem,” Karugarama told the press yesterday. It was also observed during the Summit that there were double standards in issuing the indictments.
“They agreed that the act was a one way traffic whereby no African judge would indict a European under this kind of arrangement,” Karugarama explained. The indictments in contention were issued by two judges from France and Spain.
The presidents of the AU member states condemned the indictments after President Paul Kagame briefed them on the situation. According to Karugarama who also attended the Summit, the indictments were met with protests from several presidents at the summit.
“The President gave them an account on how Africa has continuously fallen victim to various injustices from the West including slavery and colonialism, telling them the irony surrounding these indictments,” Karugarama said.
The Heads of State resolved that the President of the AU, Tanzanian leader Jakaya Kikwete, table the case before the UN Security Council and the General Assembly.
“They also agreed that all African states should hold all these indictments in contempt,” Karugarama revealed. This is not the first time the indictments have met condemnation.
The Pan-African Parliament had earlier reacted bitterly to the same indictments, calling for ‘immediate action from the Heads of State.’
Other bodies that had earlier denounced the indictments included an inter-ministerial meeting that took place in the Congolese capital Brazzaville which brought together ministers from the Great Lakes Region.
Karugarama also said that there was complicity in the actions of both judges basing on the two documents.
“For example they use the same witnesses, most of whom have since died, and this was done in a way that finding the truth will not be easy,” he said.
Meanwhile, the minister said that there has been little or no cooperation from both France and Spain, despite their verbal recognition that the documents were flawed.
For instance the French, despite agreeing that the indictments were not legally binding documents, have deliberately refused to sign the instrument of accession brief that recognizes the competence of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hear the case.
The Government of Rwanda last year petitioned the ICJ) to resolve the matter but, according to the International Law, nothing can be done before the French accepts the jurisdiction of this court.
Some of the indicted officers have also gone in pursuit of their rights by petitioning various courts both in Belgium and France but have, according to Karugarama, been frustrated, as they are still waiting for France to submit itself to the ICJ, which court, in his view, was capable of handling the case impartially.
“For example, three people who are on Judge Jean Louis Bruguiere’s list have taken their case to a French court, but up to now the court has not fixed the date for the hearing,” the minister said.