Over a week ago, the UK High Court upheld an earlier ruling barring the extradition of five men suspected of being among the ringleaders of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The five men were all in positions of leadership during the Genocide.
They are Emmanuel Nteziryayo, Vincent Brown (aka Bajinya), Charles Munyaneza, Celestin Mutabaruka, and Celestin Ugirashebuja.
The court, among others, ruled that the system in Rwanda is such that there is risk that innocent men might be wrongly convicted.
Rwandan lawyer Laurent Nkongoli said that the continued refusal by UK to extradite is based on feeble grounds, saying that Rwanda has adapted its judicial system to such extraditions, and that has been endorsed by several Western countries and the United Nations.
“In my opinion, the UK court decision is in disregard of contents of article 6 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 9th December 1948,” Nkongoli said.
It reads in part: “Persons charged with genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.”
After reading through the 153 page appeal judgment, Dr Andrew Wallis, a UK-based journalist, academic and writer who has extensively written about Rwanda, said “this is a highly complex matter”.
Wallis, author of “Silent Accomplice: The untold story of the role of France in the Rwandan genocide,” has followed the UK trial for the last 11 years.
He says the findings of the latest appeal judgment are ‘‘no surprise at all though hugely disappointing to the survivors and those who wish to see these most serious charges fully played out in a court of law.’’
According to Wallis, if the UK justice refuses to extradite suspected mass killers to non-western countries due to the high bar it has made in terms of accepting the status of the relevant countries’ judicial system and governance, it must, as a signatory to the 1948 Genocide Convention, undertake to fully investigate and put on trial such individuals.
The UK government has for many years been remarkably forthright in its dismissal of the ability of countries such as Rwanda to give a fair trial while equally totally failing to carry out investigations into those entering the UK under false names and with a past record of untold horrors in the states they are fleeing, Wallis said.
“Even when such individuals, after five years of residency, apply for UK citizenship, concerns about their past actions are overlooked. There is an evident failure of political will by the UK government or Ministry of Justice to make sure accused do stand trial in the UK. The result is impunity to the most serious offences,” Wallis said.
Wallis also said that it should also be noted that the five Rwandans accused in the UK were only arrested after they were discovered by investigations into their past by national and local media groups - not by the UK authorities.
This is “a highly worrying state of affairs,” he said, and seems to show that police or crown prosecution service either do not have the resources, the will or the mandate to investigate and put such individuals on trial.
Linda Melvern, a British investigative journalist and author who has also written extensively about the Genocide against the Tutsi, including her two booksp: A People Betrayed and Conspiracy to Murder, pointed to what looks like a substantial hole in the various judgments previously produced by British courts.
In December 2015, a UK Judge declined to permit extradition of the five suspects to Rwanda, following a 66 day hearing.
Melvern said: “In the various judgments which have been produced by the British courts regarding the extradition of Genocide suspects the existence of an organized external opposition to the current Rwandan government is ignored. There is no mention of a campaign of genocide denial waged by fugitive génocidaires and their acolytes together with various dissidents.”
According to Melvern, this campaign has played a role in the extradition cases in the UK and it certainly has influence over the recent coverage of Rwanda in the Western media.
“Among the aims of this diverse group is to divide Rwanda along ethnic lines and destroy the reputation of the current government. It is a movement which uses propaganda, disinformation, and fake news. It spreads rumour and falsehood. It seeks to convince the world that the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi never happened,” she added.
Four of the suspects – Brown, Munyaneza, Nteziryayo and Ugirashebuja – were the subject of extradition proceedings in 2007 and 2008. Kigali made its second extradition bid in April 2013, naming all five.
As a way forward, Wallis noted, the UK appeal court has said it would consider there could be a final chance for three of the accused to be extradited, provided a list of concerns about the Rwandan judicial system, and especially the Rwandan bar association, which provides the defence lawyers, are met.
Wallis is of the view that considering this is highly contentious, such demands by the UK are unlikely to be met - or even accepted.”
“As a result, it will fall to the UK authorities to make sure these genocide charges are faced by the accused in a UK court of law. UK law was changed in 2010 to allow this to happen. However, the UK appeal judges make clear, they are hugely reluctant for this to happen - not least because of the excessive cost and because it then opens the door for literally hundreds of other war criminals, now in the UK, to be tried here with all that [it] entails,” Wallis said.
At the present, he observed, “it seems to me” the Government of Rwanda has now to work with the UK to get these cases on trial in the UK as soon as possible.
It is far from an ideal solution but seems the only one where justice may be served, he said, adding that survivors need to keep pressing their local members of parliament in the UK and the Ministry of Justice for this to happen.
“And very importantly, UK authorities should start investigations with a view to bringing to trial as soon as possible other Rwandan genociadires residing in the UK who have so far avoided any action taken against them,” Wallis said.
“Genocide is a political crime and unfortunately justice is too often subject to political as well as judicial considerations. As with cases in France, Belgium and Italy (the Vatican) this has meant suspects have been able, quite literally, to get away with mass murder.”
There are no general treaty arrangements covering extradition between the UK and Rwanda.
Jurisdictions that have previously sent suspects to Rwanda include Canada, The Netherlands, United States, Norway and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
In 2011, the European Court of Human and People’s Rights ruled that the Rwandan judiciary conforms to international norms.