THOUSANDS OF people who had a hand in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi had by 2012 been convicted in Rwanda. Some served their sentence and were out by then. Yet a UK court still said the Rwandan judicial system would not guarantee a fair trial.
Four suspects arrested in the UK in 2007; Charles Munyaneza, Emmanuel Nteziryayo, Célestin Ugirashebuja and Dr Vincent Bajinya – and later, a fifth fugitive, Célestin Mutabaruka – would continue to sunbathe in UK beaches, pop champagne, etc, all because the UK declined to extradite them to Rwanda to answer for their heinous deeds in 1994.
British judges reasoned that such suspects would suffer “a flagrant denial of justice,” claiming extradition would lead to a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards the right to a fair trial.
Similar negative perceptions had been thrown in the faces of Rwandans in their quest for justice for the more than a million victims of the Genocide. Europeans jurisdictions, as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) played their cards but Rwanda did not just sit back sulking.
Several reforms in the judicial systems later saw the ICTR, the European Court of Human and People’s Rights, as well as other jurisdictions such as Norway, Canada, US, among others, have since indicated that the Rwandan legal system is competent to try cases of international nature and transferred suspects to Kigali.
Effectively, the five suspects now before the UK Westminster Magistrates Court have lived their proverbial nine lives of the cat.
The 2012 refusal to extradite the suspects was a first for Britain, whose judicial system is known for cooperating with others world over on cases of foreign suspects.
If there is any bag of excuses left with the British courts, it should be holding air tickets and handcuffs for these suspects. The current extradition hearing should be just a formality because previous excuses have proven to be just that: excuses.
Should Westminster Magistrates Court use any further excuses, it is for the UK that the bell will toll.