The United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Great Lakes Region of Africa (APPG) yesterday called for urgent action aimed at preventing the UK being a safe haven for war criminals.
The call came after a decision by the United Kingdom High Court rendered a verdict blocking the extradition of four fugitives accused of masterminding the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The APPG, a union of more than 200 MPs and Peers working for peace and development in the region, wants UK legislation modified after the Wednesday judgment raised the prospect of suspected genocidaires walking free in the UK.
“The UK cannot be a safe haven for those suspected of some of the most serious crimes in International Law - war crimes, crimes against humanity and Genocide.”
“We must act quickly to close the current gaps in the law so that suspects can face justice,” APPG Chair, Eric Joyce, MP, is quoted in a release as saying. He also called upon the UK government to lend its support to changes in the law to close the loopholes.
The APPG Chair and other MPs met with the UK Home Secretary at the time the four Rwandan suspects were arrested to discuss changes to legislation, receiving an assurance that legislation would be seriously considered if extradition failed.
Rwanda has protested against the London Court ruling.
The four – Vincent Bajinya 45, Charles Munyaneza 48, Celestin Ugirashebuja 53 and Emmanuel Nteziryayo 44 are accused of genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, conspiracy to murder, forming a criminal gang and inciting disorder.
In addition to making the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court act retrospective, the APPG chair called for a removal of the residency requirement for prosecution that currently means that Genocide suspects who visit the UK for short periods cannot be arrested - and urged the government to consider re-establishing a permanent war crimes unit to pursue cases systematically.
Wednesday’s ruling blocked their extradition just a day after Rwanda and the rest of the world started marking the 15th commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
Under current legislation, suspects cannot face justice in the UK for even the worst acts of Genocide and crimes against humanity committed abroad unless they took place after the passing of the 2001 International Criminal Court Act.
The APPG is working with parliamentary colleagues and in partnership with the Aegis Trust to see that the law is changed as a matter of urgency, if necessary through a Private Members’ Bill currently under preparation.
Set up in 2000, the Aegis Trust is the leading British NGO campaigning to prevent genocide worldwide.
Survivors cry foul
Meanwhile, John Bell, a Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Clwyd South called the court’s decision disgraceful.
In a press relesase sent to The New Times, Bell said that it was “a sad and disgraceful decision that brings shame” to their judicial system.
“In 2008, along with other Conservative colleagues, I worked with some of the widows and orphan survivors of the Genocide and learnt much of their harrowing story. They’re not asking for revenge, simply justice,” pointed out the aspiring lawmaker.
He added that while in Rwanda, he evidenced what occurred in 1994 especially at Murambi School in the Southern Province where 50,000 Tutsi were massacred.
“Contrary to what our High Court suggests, the Rwandan government and legal system has dealt fairly with those perpetrators who have already been tried – indeed I met some of them who are now serving time.”
“If we really mean ‘never again’, then those accused of this barbarism should not receive refuge in our country,” he said.