The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday pronounced its judgment in the extradition case of a Genocide suspect, Sylvere Ahorugeze, to Rwanda for trial.
The court unanimously ruled that Ahorugeze, 55, can receive a fair trial in Rwandan courts, contrary to what he and his lawyers claimed when they initially tried in vain to block the extradition.
Ahorugeze was arrested in Sweden in 2008 on an Interpol Red Notice following his indictment by the Rwandan prosecution, accusing him of playing part in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
He has since been battling against extradition. The European court was his latest attempt after all courts in Sweden ruled in favour of his extradition to Rwanda for trial.
According to Prosecutor General, Martin Ngoga, the ruling is a major breakthrough in the struggle to bring to book suspects responsible for the Genocide in which over a million people died.
“What it means is that the biggest court on the European continent has guided national jurisdictions on how to approach cases involving Rwandan fugitives. After this decision, we believe there should be no more obstacles in securing the extradition of fugitives,” he said
Ngoga added that it was a major development in efforts to track down Genocide fugitives, particularly on the European continent.
“We expect national jurisdictions in Europe to follow the guidance of their own highest court”.
He called upon NGOs vehemently opposed to the extradition process to objectively accept the decision and join hands in delivering justice to Rwandans, saying it was a court’s decision and have no grounds for criticism.
The decision is, however, subject to appeal to the Grand Chamber, in case either of the two parties is dissatisfied with the decision.
In 1994, Ahurugeze was the Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority, and allegedly committed Genocide and other crimes against humanity in Gikondo-Nyenyeri area of Kigali City.
He allegedly acted as a leader for the Interahamwe militia, trained and encouraged other government-connected militias to kill the Tutsi, to cause them serious bodily harm and to plunder their homes.
He is also said to have transported and distributed weapons to members of the Interahamwe and other militia, and also held meetings with local officials to plan and organise the distribution of weapons and incited civilians to kill and rape Tutsi girls and women.
Meanwhile, the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) recently filed applications to refer the case of Genocide suspects Bernard Munyagishari and Jean Uwinkindi, a former clergyman, to Rwanda, for trial.
On June 28, the ICTR decided for the first time to transfer to Rwanda Uwinkindi for trial.
The tribunal says it is satisfied with Kigali’s preparations to receive its first referral from the ICTR, after a Referral Chamber took into account the amendments that had been made to the Rwandan legislation since 2008, and found that issues that had led to the earlier refusals had been addressed.