In a major breakthrough that could see more of Rwanda’s Genocide fugitives returned home to stand trial, Sweden has become the first country to endorse the extradition of a Genocide suspect.
Exactly 45 days after the Swedish Supreme Court ruled in favour of the extradition to Rwanda of Sylvere Ahorugeze, their government yesterday gave the court decision a political blessing.
Ahorugeze, a former director of the Civil Aviation Authority, had first been arrested in Denmark in 2006 but was later released over what the Danish judiciary said was lack of evidence.
He is accused of having spearheaded massacres of 25 people in a Kigali suburb where he was heading a band of militias.
Ahorugeze will be the first fugitive suspected of playing a role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to be extradited from a European Country to Rwanda for trial.
The decision drew applause from Rwanda. “We commend the decision by the Swedish judicial and political leadership…it sends a clear message that no one commits Genocide and gets away with it,” said Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama.
He added that the decision proves wrong other countries that have ruled against extraditions to Rwanda.
“It is a right decision and we believe that the Rwandan justice system will be able to prove wrong the doubting Thomases that our judiciary is fair and reliable,” said Karugarama during an interview.
He assured that justice will be dispensed to the satisfaction of both the suspect and the critics.
Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said that this being the first suspect to be transferred to Rwanda in years, his case is most likely to set precedence for more transfers from other countries.
“It is going to be a test case for us and we are ready for the challenge; we are prepared enough to handle the case in observance of international standards,” said Ngoga.
Ahorugeze was rearrested in the Swedish capital Stockholm on an Interpol Red Notice which was still active despite his earlier release by the Danish.
According to Jacqueline Mukangira, the Rwandan Ambassador to the Nordic countries, the extradition of Ahorugeze will be effected within the next three weeks.
The extradition will be jointly carried out by the Swedish police, Interpol-Stockholm and the Government of Rwanda, according to Mukangira.
Media reports from Sweden quote Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask commending the progress that has been made by Rwandan judiciary, calling upon other states to extradite fugitives in their respective countries.
“Rwanda has improved its justice system radically…the international community can’t wait for ever, and must show respect for the steps taken there.”
“It is extremely important for the reconciliation process after what occurred in Rwanda to try and convict those suspected of these crimes,” she added.
Several fugitives are in custody in different countries including Sweden’s neighbour Finland where one Francois Bazaramba is detained.
Unlike Sweden however, the Finns decided to try Bazaramba in their courts. Several countries had in the past turned down extradition of suspects, most of them responsible for the Genocide that left over a million people dead, under the pretext that Rwanda was not prepared to handle the cases.
Most of the countries however, have used a ruling by the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as precedence to deny extradition.
The ICTR last year refused to transfer five cases referred to it by the Tribunal’s Chief Prosecutor to Rwanda despite the several reforms the judiciary had made.