The Minister for Justice, Johnston Busingye, has said he believes that “nothing has changed yet” in as far as how Rwanda and Britain view cases of Genocide fugitives who continue to walk freely in the United Kingdom.
He made the remarks shortly after a closed door meeting with Jo Lomas, the British High Commissioner to Rwanda.
“At least not until we get to see practical work by the British judicial system, we can say that nothing is new for now,” Busingye told journalists after the meeting.
The meeting came just a day after the Rwandan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Yamina Karitanyi, speaking during a Genocide commemoration event in London, expressed regret that, 11 years on, a decision is still pending on five extradition cases of the Genocide fugitives living in the UK.
“The United Kingdom, which is signatory to the Genocide Convention Law, should act and take appropriate action to allow the law to take its course before it is too late for survivors to witness justice,” Karitanyi said in her address to the mourners in London.
The suspects who were arrested but later released are Dr Vincent Bajinya, Célestin Ugirashebuja, Charles Munyaneza, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Célestin Mutabaruka.
On several occasions, the UK courts have ruled against their extradition to Rwanda on technicalities. Rwanda even requested that they be tried by the UK courts but nothing has been done for over a decade.
“As you would expect, we talked in detail about this issue that is so close to the hearts of the Rwandan population, Rwanda’s justice system and to the Rwandan government,” Busingye said of his meeting with Amb. Lomas.
“I raised all the issues that need to be raised around this; one is the time it is taking—it is now 11 years since we started trying to get these people extradited to Rwanda for trial, and once we said: ‘if you can’t extradite them to Rwanda, try them in your courts’ and the High Commissioner assured me that the Metropolitan police has seriously taken up this issue.
“What I strongly expressed is that to us, time is of essence; whether these people will be put to trial and their innocence or guilt proven is so important in their lifetime. It is useless after they are dead. I insist that time is something all judicial systems need to bear in mind as we deal with issues of justice, particularly justice that relates to genocide crimes. There is no way someone can take so much time on a matter like genocide. Justice delayed is justice denied indeed,” Busingye said.
According to Amb. Lomas the issue of Genocide suspects who are currently in the UK is one her government takes “very seriously”. However, Lomas noted, investigations being held by UK’s Metropolitan police are still in “early days”.
“It is, however, a judicial issue and not a political issue so we cannot get involved. What I did is to reassure the minister that the Metropolitan Police have launched a preliminary investigation to see whether they will be a case that can be brought forward. And the crime prosecution service will eventually make that decision.
“But it is early days’ investigation but I have reassured the Government of Rwanda that we are taking this case very seriously and we are following it very closely,” the High Commissioner said.
So far, Rwanda has sent out 845 indictments to different countries but only 17 fugitives have been extradited or deported. Countries such as Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Canada, U.S.A and Uganda have extradited or deported Genocide suspects to Rwanda.
“The reasons upon which the British judicial system has based on to say that these people will not receive fair trial is unfounded. The British Judicial system should interrogate this issue more because many countries across the globe have extradited Genocide suspects to Rwanda and they are all at different phases of their cases and we have not had the fears expressed by the British Justice system justified in any of those cases,’’ Busingye said.
“None of these people left Rwanda going to Britain as a guest, or to visit or live there. They were all working here and serving in different top public offices. They left (Rwanda) after 1994 and in circumstances of fleeing the suspected crimes of which they need to stand trial. The rest of excuses are creations in order to find some kind of defence,” he said.