Rights groups call for urgent reforms in UK legislation

Following the ruling by the British court against the extradition of four Rwandan Genocide suspects, two prominent human rights organisations have called for the immediate amendment of the UK law.

Following the ruling by the British court against the extradition of four Rwandan Genocide suspects, two prominent human rights organisations have called for the immediate amendment of the UK law.

According to a joint report by REDRESS and African Rights, the London High Court released the suspects despite upholding a lower court’s conclusion that the evidence presented by the Rwandan government showed that the men had a case to answer for their role in the Genocide.

The four suspects; Vincent Bajinya, Charles Munyaneza, Celestin Ugirashebuja and Emmanuel Nteziryayo are all accused of Genocide, Complicity in Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Conspiracy to Murder, Forming a Criminal Gang and Inciting Disorder.

Bajinya was a medical doctor heading the National Population Office (ONAPO) while the remaining three were Bourgmestres (equivalent of district mayors) during the Genocide.

Emphasising that the decision means the fugitives would not be brought to Rwanda for trial the activists added:“Neither will they face trial in the United Kingdom, leaving a serious space for impunity. The UK’s domestic legislation prevents the men from being tried there.”

“Although the International Criminal Court Act of 2001 allows UK courts to try Genocide crimes perpetrated abroad, the Act is not retrospective and therefore does not apply to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi,” the document states in part.

“Survivors of the genocide will be horrified that these men will not face justice. Genocide is not the type of crime that can simply go unpunished,” the Director of REDRESS, Carla Ferstman, is quoted in the statement as saying.

“There is evidence against all of them and as they are in the UK, the obvious place for a trial following today’s decision is here. It is unconscionable that a gap in UK law is a barrier to this.”

Much of the evidence about the suspects was first brought to public by Africa Rights and according to the watchdog’s director Rakiya Omaar, this reminds that the Genocide has left a legacy of suspects around the world and all States must work together to ensure that they do not become safe havens.

“There are other individuals in the UK against whom there are allegations of participation in the Genocide. This problem will not just go away. It is important that the UK Government steps up its efforts to have such suspects brought to justice,” she said in the report.

According to the activists, this indicates that the present UK law is out of step with international law which made Genocide an international crime since the end of World War II and therefore opens to prosecution in all states, including where suspects are found.

Other countries have previously refused to extradite suspects to Rwanda, yet domestic legislation in place in these countries ensures that suspects are held accountable.

Such legislation has led to the conviction of perpetrators of the Genocide in Belgium and Netherlands and investigations are currently ongoing against suspects in several other countries, including Canada, Germany, France and Finland.  

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