The Kenyan government last week signed an extradition treaty with Rwanda that will enable the kenyan government to apprehend and extradite to Rwanda criminals wanted by the rwandan justice system.
This is after years of negotiations.
At the signing, Kenya’s Attorney General Mr. Amos Wako rightly referred to the treaty as historic; something that would enhance diplomatic ties between Nairobi and Kigali while Rwanda’s Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama, said it was good for the whole region. Other countries, with which negotiations are ongoing, have been announced.
But while these are nice gestures to people like me, there is little excitement about this recently signed extradition treaty or any of those anticipated to be signed.
The legal procedures seem to be so long that it makes you think there is no need for such a commitment.
Take for example how long it has taken Kenya to put pen to paper; Mr Alex Keiter, the former Kenyan Ambassador to Rwanda told the media in August 2007 that Nairobi was in the final stages of endorsing the deal.
He said then that the process would be finished in the next four months. Now, one wonders why it took so long.
Doesn’t it demonstrate a lack of commitment to bring culprits to book? There is one infamous genocide fugitive, Felicien Kabuga, who has been rumoured to be in Kenya. There could be others.
Some elderly or ill genocide witnesses are passing away while suspects, who they could finger, aren’t yet arrested for the crimes they are alleged to have committed.
I think it is not fair for a suspect to be tried for his alleged crimes long after witnesses to pin him or her are dead. It’s already hard enough for the Prosecution to win cases with witnesses, imagine what its like without witnesses.
While the time it takes to sign an extradition treaty is a cause for concern, the matter that is most worrying is this, what is to be done when we don’t have any treaties signed at all?
How many genocide suspects are believed to still be at large, comfortably living in their adopted countries? I think quite a number. Does the lack of extradition treaties mean that such suspects will never be brought to book?
In my opinion, the tool to realistically fight impunity is for governments to push for explicit authorisation for arrest and expeditious extradition of suspects on international ‘Wanted List’s.
This should especially apply to genocide fugitives because many of them have evaded justice for years and are capable of interfering with witnesses.
Leaving suspects to freely roam the world in the name of following due process makes the aggrieved parties feel betrayed by the suspects host countries.
These arguments may not sound legal opinions but they need careful consideration.
The capital punishment, which was previously a stumbling block to the transfer of suspects to Rwanda is no longer in place. What other genuine excuse is there?
The author is a journalist with The New Times