With only four days left, the much anticipated deportation of Leon Mugesera from Canada, looks imminent, after 16 years of legal and political battles to extradite him to Rwanda to face charges related to inciting violence and crimes against humanity he committed two decades ago.
The Canada Border Services Agency set January 12 as the date for his deportation, years after Canadian immigration authorities decided that he was persona non grata on their soil.
However, with a few days remaining, Mugesera’s former defence lawyer, Guy Bertrand, has launched a media campaign, claiming that once deported, the wanted man would be killed, insisting that Canada had ‘made a serious mistake’ by extraditing him.
Rwanda has already welcomed the decision by Canada to finally deport Mugesera who is wanted for inciting masses to commit genocide using an incendiary speech believed to have been behind the formation of the Interahamwe militia and subsequent execution of the genocide.
Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga has dismissed the allegations by Mugesera’s lawyers as “baseless and misplaced”, and another desperate attempt to thwart a court decision using the media.
“There is not a single allegation on his perceived fate he is making now that he did not make before,” he said.
“Similarly, his allegations are not fundamentally different from what other suspects make when faced with a similar situation,” Ngoga told The New Times.
He however observed that the most important thing is that Canada has finally agreed to send him to Rwanda to face trial, noting that the rest should be considered attempts to interfere with the process.
“What is important in our view is that finally, after a long time, Canadian law enforcement could be willing to implement what their courts decided,” Ngoga said.
“This comes at a time when, from the ICTR in Arusha, to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, a consensus is built on the need to get Rwandan fugitives to face trials in Rwanda. We remain determined and committed to conduct trials in a manner that meets required standards.
National systems, Canada inclusive, have means and abilities to assess situations they need to, which are why media petitions meant to circumvent court decisions, are misplaced. If that was a practice to be condoned, court decisions would loose relevance,” he added.
Mugesera, a former lecturer at the National University of Rwanda and at Nyakinama campus, is infamously known to have penned one of the most virulent speeches inciting Hutus to kill Tutsis.
He could have been deported in July 1996 after the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada decided that his 1992 speech was an incitement to violence and ethnic hatred, and ordered his deportation, but he kept fighting the decisions.
It appears however that fate has finally caught up with him. His new lawyer, Johanne Doyon, who stepped in after Bertrand quit in December, is expected to be in Federal Court in Montreal on Monday, according to Canadian press.
Associations of Genocide Survivors and widows have also welcomed the deportation of Mugesera whose speech in Gisenyi is known to have instigated the first killings in Kibuye, Bugesera and the east of the country, as early as 1992 and 1993.