Rwandans will today, Tuesday, April 7, commence activities to commemorate the more than a million lives lost in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, for the 26th time.
Twenty-six years later, one of the biggest challenge Rwanda continues to grapple with is bringing to book key perpetrators.
The country has issued hundreds of indictments and international arrest warrants for Genocide fugitives to dozens of countries, but efforts to respond to Rwanda’s requests have been slow especially in Africa.
According to Johnston Busingye, the Justice Minister and Attorney General, more than half of indicted fugitives currently live in African countries, with those countries expressing little efforts to collaborate to bring them to justice.
The National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) has so far issued indictments and international arrest warrants to 33 countries in four continents – Africa, Europe, North America and Australia.
“The response towards our requests has not been forthcoming, it has been at a slow pace, especially in Africa where more than half of the indicted fugitives live,” he said.
The Justice Ministry indicates that at least 1,140 indictments have been issued, through the Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit of prosecution, but only a few countries have been cooperative, mostly in Europe.
The cooperation by these countries has been multi-pronged; some have been arrested and extradited to Rwanda, others have decided to try the fugitives in their own courts, while others, where such fugitives have been naturalized as citizens, have been stripped of their nationalities and deported.
In general, about 23 trials have been held abroad taking place in Belgium, Sweden, France, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Finland and Switzerland.
“We had also received about 24 fugitives who were brought back to Rwanda for trial,” the Minister said.
Those came from the United States of America, Netherlands, Uganda, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Malawi, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Others are referrals from the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the Mechanism (United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals).
Most of the notorious criminals are those who are wanted by the Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunal (MICT), and most of them are on the War Crimes Rewards Program, a US government State Department.
This includes Felicien Kabuga (last whereabouts in Kenya), Protais Mpiranya (suspected to be in South Africa) and Augustin Bizimana (suspected to be in DRC).
Kabuga is a notorious former businessman who funded the genocide machine, Mpiranya commanded the infamous presidential guard that was the engine of the Genocide, mainly in Kigali while Bizimana was the defence minister in the genocidal regime.
Others at large that were deferred to Rwanda by the UN tribunal are; Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama , Aloys Ndimbati, Charles Sikubwabo, Charles Ryandikayo- whose whereabouts are not known till today.
Others like Jean Uwinkindi and Bernard Munyagishari have since been transferred to Rwanda from ICTR and faced the hand of Justice and have been duly tried in Rwanda courts of law.
Busingye said the remaining work is substantial, especially when it comes to engaging host countries of fugitives, most of whom are politically motivated to give shelter to the suspects.
“There is work of engaging the host countries to act by either trying the fugitives in those countries or extraditing them to Rwanda for trial. Again, there is still some work to do with tracking other fugitives at large for trial,” he noted.
He believes this is a task that will continue but a lot of efforts need to be placed in the follow-up of the issued indictments for execution.
From the numbers, less than fifty were either tried abroad or brought back to Rwanda for trial, highlighting the need for host countries to collaborate with Justice Institutions in Rwanda.
What limits justice?
Genocide fugitives continue to roam free in countries, especially in the Southern Africa and many of them have since joined a bandwagon of so-called opposition politics, a cover they use to continue evading the long arm of the law.
On the other hand, these countries claim to lack legal framework to base on as some countries’ legislation have gaps in legal provisions repressing the crime of genocide.
This means some countries didn’t have genocide as a crime in their domestic laws.
Busingye highlighted others don’t have extradition treaties with Rwanda.
At the same time, the pursuit for justice is challenged by change of identities, nationalities, and address by fugitives and to some extent lack of political will by some countries.
“It is high time that all countries in general hosting fugitives to put in place some mechanisms to either try the fugitives in their territories through their domestic jurisdiction,” he said.
The Minister insisted that alternatively, host countries can surrender them (fugitives) to Rwanda through extradition so that justice is dispensed without undue delay.
Last year, Ibuka – the umbrella organization for Genocide survivors – made a fresh call to the international justice community to collaborate with Rwanda to bring to justice perpetrators.
“Early release of those who masterminded the Genocide (by MICT), acquitting them, reducing their sentences and not collaborating to bring others to book, has made us grieve more,” Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, the organisations President said during last year’s commemoration.
Dusingizemungu, believes geopolitical and personal interests of countries and leaders have ultimately slowed the progress for pursuit of genocide justice.
“In countries where progress has been slow, for instance, you realize they are the same countries that supported the Genocide against the Tutsi. France is one example,” he said.
On the other hand, he added, some perpetrators who still roam freely are the same people that drained government coffers, leaving the country with millions of money that they use to bribe countries.
Felicien Kabuga is one of the key fugitives who have reportedly found safe haven in Africa (Net)Follow https://twitter.com/Julio_Bizimungu