The hearing to determine whether five men in custody in the UK can be extradited to Rwanda to face charges over their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi has been set for October 28.
The suspects, including three former mayors, then called bourgmestres, were arrested in May and their extradition hearing will be held at the Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London.
Emmanuel Nteziryayo, from Mudasomwa commune, Charles Munyaneza, from Kinyamakara, and Celestin Ugirashebuja, from Kigoma, all in the present day Southern Province, are contesting Kigali’s quest for their extradition.
Others in the same boat are Dr Vincent Bajinya, former head of the National Population Office, and Celestin Mutabaruka, who headed a project called ‘Crete Zaire Nil’.
“We are only going to follow up the case in court, hear what is said, but as of now I can’t comment,” said John Bosco Siboyintore, the head of the Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit (GFTU).
Although Kigali and London have no extradition treaty, Rwanda has asked that the suspects be extradited under a bilateral arrangement, officials say.
Siboyintore observed that under international law, cases as serious as genocide or complicity to commit genocide do not require an extradition arrangement to be in place saying that “a memorandum of understanding can be considered.”
“Under international law, a country has the obligation to either extradite or try suspects of such serious crimes as genocide and crimes against humanity,” he said.
Unlike Mutabaruka, the other four–Nteziryayo, Munyaneza, Ugirashebuja and Bajinya, evaded justice for years because of what legal analysts called ‘loopholes in the British legal system.’
The quartet was first arrested in 2007, only to be released after two years.
Previous refusals to extradite them have been put to test after the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the European Court of Human and People’s Rights and other jurisdiction have since said the Rwandan legal system is credible enough to try cases of international nature.
Previously, reluctatnce to extradite the suspects had been premised on a past decision by ICTR that Rwanda’s legal system was not strong enough.
Rescinding the ICTR decision followed series of judicial reforms that saw a special chamber for suspects of international calibre, including those referred by ICTR or extradited from other countries, established in Kigali.
Since then, two suspects have been transferred to Rwanda from ICTR custody, while Leon Mugesera (Canada) and Charles Bandora (Norway) were also transferred to Kigali.
The ICTR decision was reinforced by the European Court of Human and People’s Rights, which Bandora petitioned but the court ruled that the Rwandan judiciary was strong enough to impart fair trial in such cases.