France needs to do more in dealing with genocide perpetrators – Ngoga

THE Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga has spoken out on the recent ruling by  a French Court that released genocide suspect Eugene Rwamucyo. In an exclusive interview conducted by Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah, the prosecutor general  termed the ruling as a temporary setback against Rwanda’s  drive towards according justice to those aggrieved by the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.Excerpts
Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga. (Photo: J. Mbanda)
Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga. (Photo: J. Mbanda)

THE Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga has spoken out on the recent ruling by  a French Court that released genocide suspect Eugene Rwamucyo. In an exclusive interview conducted by Fred Oluoch-Ojiwah, the prosecutor general  termed the ruling as a temporary setback against Rwanda’s  drive towards according justice to those aggrieved by the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.

What is your department doing to ensure that the  release of Rwamucyo does not set a bad precedent in the fight against genocide?

First of all we have to acknowledge the fact that the release has already set a bad precedent. We also have to accept the fact that other decisions that happened before be it by the ICTR or by other European jurisdictions did actually set a bad precedent.

What really happens is that each and every decision refers to a previous one. On that issue I must add that people who influence such decisions particularly some human rights organizations that persuade European courts not to decide in the favour of our requests at a later point, do refer to those same judgements for the purposes of continuing with the trend, setting a pattern.

Such actors have now described it as a build up of a consensus to the effect that Rwanda is not the kind of jurisdiction that can be trusted. I call this a kind of vicious circle of manipulation of the situation whose only beneficiaries are perpetrators of the crimes of genocide.

What is the next course of action?

It is not easy for me to tell the next course of action. Scenarios keep on changing. It is a case by case appraisal of each situation. For the case of Rwamucyo we are trying to reach out to our French counterparts. One thing that we have to keep in mind is that much as we have such decisions that are not in favour  of our requests, we cannot just sit back and say that we have to respect them.

If anything, these decisions much as they are serious setbacks to our efforts, can not be taken as a representation of consensus of opinion in those countries. For instance, I would not say that everybody in France is happy with such decisions. We have our prosecutors who are as dismayed as we are.

We also have other civil parties that are equally on the forefront to bring to book such perpetrators such as Rwamucyo and others. These organizations are still continuing to partner with us to make sure that we can change the course of events surrounding such cases.

So what should we expect in the next few days?

We are depending on our partners such as our prosecutors who are more conversant with the French laws. What I have in mind is to invite them to Rwanda or for us to travel to France to discuss with the relevant parties the next course of action. So what I can say is that options are being thought about. The only option that is not being considered is that of giving up. That is not an option for us.

In your view, is there a connection between the leaking of the UN mapping report on the DRC implicating Rwanda for having made   gross human rights violations and release of Rwamucyo? Do you see any connectivity or linkage of sorts between the two incidences in terms of timings and situations on the overall fight against genocide?

I really don’t think that there is any connection between those who leaked the report and the Rwamucyo release. However, having said that, I must add the fact that these are series of things happening as a consequence of a general manipulation of people bent on   tarnishing the image of Rwanda.

In this plot  , some of these people are to some extent succeeding to manipulate the facts in order to get other people to make decisions that are not entirely based on facts and these includes European courts. So, to answer your question, more precisely, I must say that I rule out these two parties coming together to chart out what they should do. However, I am not ruling out the fact that both are products of collective efforts bent on tarnishing Rwanda’s image by manipulating the course of events to make sure that we have some of the European courts to be persuaded to make such decisions.

How would you view the work of the French investigation team on the circumstances surrounding the shooting down of the plane of the former Rwandan President Juvenile Habyarimana on one hand, while Rwanda on the other hand, had already wound up its own investigations that included European forensic experts? What does such a move by France mean to the larger Franco-Rwandan bilateral relations while relating it  to the larger Rwamucyo case?

I always try not to be involved in the larger and general built up of the political understanding between Rwanda and France. I can only discuss legal issues. However, I am not ruling out the possibility or the fact that political understandings actually facilitate what we do within the justice sector. But the French owe us justice.

That said, it is not enough for the French to make numerous trips of investigations. It is not enough for the French to make   statements to the effect that they are willing to change the course of events. What matters more is what they do. It matters less what they say.

In the area of justice, more specifically within the area of dealing with genocide perpetrators, who are abundantly available in France, the French have not done anything tangible. In such a scenario I must emphasize that the French owe us justice. It remains incumbent for the French to do something visibly and tangibly.

What is the status of the Victiore Ingabire trial?

Investigations are on going. For me I have never seen a trend that goes down in terms of what we are doing. So we have an upward trend and as I said in the past it is always our priority to conclude this case. There are people who thought and actually said that this case was likely to be dropped after elections but let me state clearly that we will pursue this case to its logical conclusion.

Why is there a contradiction between the Ministry of Justice that says that Rwanda’s judicial system is professional and impartial and those who say that this very system cannot accord genocide suspects fair trial?

I think that  we have done a lot in terms of building our judicial system. After the genocide we have carried out wide ranging reforms. Meaning that, our reforms constitute the latest round of comprehensive reforms in the region. We are much better in comparative terms than many countries.

Therefore, the allegations, that ours is not impartial does not hold any water and thus cannot be said to be allegations based on facts. If anything, such allegations are never substantiated.

These are allegations that are made in general terms and are allegations that are made by people who only base their arguments  on fallacious  assumptions.
By this,  I mean that if you were to look at their allegations in isolation, you would definitely come to a conclusion that   such people are the same people who accuse Rwanda in everything that we do. They are the kind of people who look at Rwanda as a failed state.

Related to this question is another contradiction by the United Nations on the perception of justice system in Rwanda. While on one hand the UN would happily use Rwandan prisons and soldiers to try and meet global needs of justice, it is the same UN that is saying that Rwanda is actually a perpetrator of impunity.

I don’t think that it is a contradiction. It is hypocrisy. They come to us when they think it suits their needs. They are using Rwandan prisons to lock up convicts from Sierra Leone and our soldiers to keep peace in Sudan but   at the same time one of the UN agency would happily accuse us of being genocidal. They would even happily accuse us of having one of the worst prisons on earth. To that end, I would say that it is hypocrisy. However, what is important to us is that we have to continue to be seen to be improving day by day.

So, how would you want to pursue some sort of redress to such perceptions?

The best thing to do is to continue pursuing what is right for us. We have to get those who have good faith to appreciate based on what we have done and based on evidence available on the ground. Otherwise I don’t know how easy the task of persuading people who are not even willing to listen. The best approach would be to continue doing what is right for us and not to be deterred by such criticism that are not based on facts.

What is the next course of action now that Rwamucyo cannot be extradited-Should the French try him?

That is the most disturbing situation. We have always cooperated with any foreign jurisdiction that is willing to try these suspects even those that have accused us of incompetence. So if France was willing to prosecute Rwamucyo and others we will fully cooperate irrespective of how they have defined us.

The most disturbing situation is that they are not trusting our system and they are not offering a solution within their own system. So the question is- how more advanced are their system if they cannot offer solutions to the problems that they have identified with our own system which they don’t trust.

Closely related to that question is the fact that during French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s visit  to Rwanda, a new chapter was opened which was meant to herald warming up of relations but it seems that things are not working out, at least within the justice sector

Obviously, if this question was directed at the French, what they will tell you is that, opening up of a new chapter in the Franco-Rwandan relations is purely a political issue. They would also say that political issues are completely different from judicial matters and that issues to do with Rwamucyo case as judicial matters should not be linked to larger political issues. This kind of thinking would be a straight answer for you. Going by that logic, I would say that I am not going to play down any efforts by French political establishment to open up a new chapter with Rwanda. Neither would I say the decision on Rwamucyo by a French Court is a factor that would slow down the political progress that both countries are making. I would not say that. However, I would rather say that the judicial institutions both in France and Rwanda is challenged to ensure that the impunity gaps being created through some of these decisions is ended. We prefer to take these processes as separate even though I have a belief that both complement each other.

Comment on the likely perception of Rwanda as one of the countries spearheading fight against the genocide once the leaked UN report is published in its current form.

I am not the relevant authority to answer that question. But I will say that the fight against genocide and Rwanda’s unwavering commitment to this fight through its contributions to fend off efforts by other people propagating genocide elsewhere, is fundamentally entrenched in our constitution. It remains our belief. But that is something Rwanda can do in that specific context and framework.

I think our political authorities have said how Rwanda is likely to react if the report is published in its current form. This thinking is very much in tandem with the framework on Rwanda’s contribution to Darfur which is our belief in defending people threatened by genocide.

The main issue is that Rwanda is not ready to continue working with the UN that is on one hand accusing it of committing the genocide when the same Rwanda is being seen as preventing the same genocide. However, I think that Rwanda still believes that it is obliged as a country to come to the assistance of people threatened by genocide. So the issue is under which framework should we be working and under which context should we be assisting such people.

If you fail to get a redress from French courts, will you think about seeking justice in other jurisdictions?
I said that all options remain open except giving up. We will look at other possibilities.

By this I mean that if the French are setting up a precedent then Rwandans have to set up another precedent, elsewhere, as this is a race against justice.
You are right on that one. That is a very fundamental argument. That, we should consider options available beyond one particular European country. I agree with you that as we continue building our efforts, we should also look at certain areas such as at the European Union level of justice.

Anything you would wish to add?

I would wish to conclude that France owe the Rwandan people justice. If genocide remains a serious crime against humanity then as Rwandans, we remain challenged not to be discouraged by some of these decisions or set backs that we experience as we move forward to get justice. Hence such decisions should actually reenergize us to stay on course and to remain focussed on what is at stake which is that our people need to get justice. This is a generational challenge. We should never be naive to think that this fight can be won within our current generation.


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