The extradition process of hundreds of masterminds of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi entails a lengthy process but government will not relent, Prosecutor-General Richard Muhumuza has said.
Muhumuza’s comments, last week, followed the extradition of Leopold Munyakazi by the US immigration department.
Munyakazi is accused of using his position as an academic to entrench discord among Rwandans, on top of ordering massacre of the Tutsi in his birthplace of Kayanzi commune in the former Gitarama Prefecture, now Southern Province, according to the Prosecution.
“We are determined to continue pressing for extradition with regard to countries that are reluctant to honour their obligation to extradite or prosecute genocide fugitives,” Muhumuza said.
Over 200 indictments
Muhumuza called for cooperation of nations harbouring Genocide fugitives, both at political and judicial levels.
“Rwanda has sent many extradition requests to different countries on different continents. While the process is always tedious, it is easier where countries cooperate with us. More and more countries are cooperating and we expect more extraditions soon,” he said, adding that about 206 indictments were sent out last year.
“We are pursuing extradition and, in some cases, we are making progress.”
Munyakazi, the fourth deportee from the US, was initially arrested in Rwanda in 1999 but released on bail. While prosecutors compiled evidence, however, in 2004 he fled to the US before his trial resumed.
According to the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) which last year wrote to the US government seeking Munyakazi’s extradition, during the Genocide, Munyakazi wielded a lot of influence that allowed him to incite many people to commit massacres.
In 1994, the suspect, then a varsity lecturer, was an influential figure. Considered one of the key ideologues of the 1994 Genocide, Munyakazi is accused of being a member of a group of intellectuals at the former University of Rwanda who designed and propagated the ideology of excluding the Tutsi in schools and employment.
Genocide researcher Tom Ndahiro was at Kigali International Airport, last week, when Munyakazi was handed over by US authorities to Rwanda National Police and Rwanda National Prosecution Authority.
Ndahiro said: “It was a great moment to see a Genocide fugitive like Munyakazi disembarking from an aircraft. I knew it had crossed the Atlantic Ocean just to bring him back to face justice.
“It was a political gesture by the US government that they are still mindful of the duty and responsibility they have as a nation to prevent and punish the perpetrators of the most heinous crime; genocide.”
Ndahiro said he first met Munyakazi around 2002 when the Genocide suspect was a lecturer at the then Kigali Institute of Education (KIE). Ndahiro was a human rights commissioner and activist fighting genocide ideology then.
“We met in meetings and that is where I heard him saying RTLM was an appropriate response to challenge RPF’s Muhabura (radio station),” Ndahiro said. “I knew Munyakazi back in 2002. He is a virulent genocide ideologue who defends RTLM."
Established in 1993, Radio Television des Mille Collines, better known as RTLM, was a private radio station that incited hatred and violence against the Tutsi.
“In 2004,” Ndahiro said, “I think it was wrong to allow him [Munyakazi] to go out of the country before facing justice.
Nonetheless, Ndahiro added, the suspect’s deportation has sent a message to other fugitives that it is “a matter of time.”
“It is also a slap on the face of people like Ken Roth and his organisation, Human Rights Watch, who defended Munyakazi ignoring serious accusations against him,” Ndahiro said.
“It should be everybody’s wish that the world emulates what the US, Canada, Norway and others have done in deporting the likes of Munyakazi. Unfortunately, I don’t expect much from France which was principal baker of the genocidaires’ government before, during and after 1994.”
To-date, the most wanted fugitives: Felicien Kabuga, Augustin Bizimana, Protais Mpiranya, Fulgence Kayishema, Charles Sikubwabo, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Aloys Ndimbati and Charles Ryandikayo, are subject to a US Department of State bounty of up to $5 million for information leading to their arrest.
Three of them – Kabuga, Mbiranya and Bizimana – are the only suspects whose indictments were kept by the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which was replaced by the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals.
In June, the head of the Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit (GFTU), John Bosco Siboyintore, said challenges faced in the course of tracking them include lack of political will by some countries and inadequate information on the whereabouts of the fugitives.
Other obstacles include lack of extradition treaties and bilateral legal frameworks with some countries; suspects lying that they are being sought for political persecution, and the impossible conditions of identifiers such as DNA profiles, fingerprints, photos, and others, as usually requested by Interpol before it publishes red notices.
In total, about 605 indictments and international arrest warrants have been issued against Genocide suspects in 32 countries in Africa, Europe, North America, Canada and New Zealand.
The top 10 countries with the biggest numbers of indicted fugitives are Uganda with 147, DR Congo with 145, France with 39, Belgium 37, Malawi 32, the USA 21, Kenya 21, Netherlands 18, Tanzania 13 and Burundi with 13.