A Malawian court has ruled the decision to proceed with the extradition process of Genocide suspect Vincent Murekezi will require political blessing.
This follows the suspect's appearance before a Maliwian principal Resident Magistrate in the capital Lilongwe on Tuesday, during which prosecution produced evidence pinning Murekezi on a role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The evidence produced before court had been forwarded by Rwanda's National Public Prosecution Authority.
During the proceeding, the principal magistrate, Patrick Chirwa held that the decision to proceed with the extradition trial would require guidance from Malawian Minister for Home Affairs and Internal Security.
The decision was proceeded by an argument by the suspect's defence, who held that the court had no jurisdiction to try the case, adding that there were no legal basis for the court to charge the renowned fugitive of genocide.
This was albeit all the evidence submitted to Malawian authorities by the Rwandan prosecution, but the defence lawyer urged that his client could not be extradited to Rwanda because there was no extradition treaty between the two countries.
Murekezi was tried and convicted in absentia by a Gacaca court in Huye District for having masterminded the Genocide against the Tutsi in his native Tumba sector.
The law in Rwanda allows him to seek retrial once extradited.
He was arrested in December last year in the Malawian capital, where he had reportedly amassed wealth as a businessman, having successfully evaded capture for several years.
He had acquired Malawian citizenship in 2003, after reportedly paying a hefty $5000.
"There is no treaty that supports the process in this country and genocide is not an extraditable offense under the extradition act,” Wapona Kita, Murekezi's lawyer told a fully-packed court Tuesday.
In response, the Malawian state, represented by Counsel Steven Kayuni, dismissed objections by the defence to stop extradition process, claiming they do not add any value to the matter at hand.
London Scheme for Extradition
He said that despite the absence of an extradition treaty between Rwanda and Malawi, there were other instruments that could be invoked to order an extradition, including the London Scheme for Extradition.
The London Scheme for Extradition provides for extradition of suspected criminals between Commonwealth member states.
Both Rwanda and Malawi are members of the Commonwealth.
“The London Scheme has been around for over 40 years and can warrant Malawi to carry out an extradition and has provisions where governments including Malawi and Rwanda can transfer fugitives between them,” argued Kayuni.
He added: “If the Magistrate Court is deemed an incompetent jurisdiction for this matter, proceedings can be taken up to the high court since Rwandan authorities have submitted all requirements necessary for Murekezi's extradition.”
After a short break, Magistrate Chirwa said that there was no need to commit the case to high court, adding that his court had the jurisdiction to try an extradition hearing.
“Based on the arguments by the state, I believe the magistrate court has all jurisdiction to carry out an extradition process,” said Chirwa.
He however said that there was need for court to seek direction from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security before the extradition proceeding could get underway.
He ruled that the case will resume next week on January 25 while Murekezi will remain in custody.
Murekezi, who had previously been arrested and released by Malawian authorities, was finally apprehended after a public uproar by Malawian civil society organisations in December.
This was after it emerged that he could have bribed his way to acquire citizenship from the the southern African country.
Several other indicted fugitives remain in Malawi and prosecution says they are working closely with their Malawian counterparts to ensure they are brought to book.