The Canadian Government has brushed aside an Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights- Committee Against Torture (OHCHR-CAT) request to stay the deportation of Leon Mugesera to Rwanda to face justice for his role in the lead up to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Issuing a brief statement, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said that Mugesera will be removed as “soon as possible in accordance with Canadian law” despite the OHCHR-CAT request.
After close to two decades evading the long arm of the law, the Federal Court yesterday ordered Leon Mugesera to surrender to the Canadian Border Services Agency today by 2PM Eastern Standard Time (8 PM Central African Time).
Today’s deportation might be delayed after Mugesera was admitted to the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université Laval suffering from what his lawyers described as a stress-related attack on Wednesday afternoon. Doctors at the Quebec City hospital will not let him fly until his medical situation is resolved.
The OHCHR-CAT had asked the Canadian government to put Léon Mugesera’s deportation on hold until it could investigate his claims he faces torture if returned to Rwanda.
The Canadian Federal Court gave a clean bill of health to Rwandan courts, saying that they were capable of trying Mugesera, whose incendiary speech in 1992 played a major role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.
“It is reasonable to believe in the good faith of the Rwandan government and to conclude the rights of individuals accused of participating in the genocide, will be respected and that they will not be persecuted,” Justice Michel Shore is quoted in the media as saying.
Mugesera, a former lecturer at the National University of Rwanda’s Nyakinama Campus, is said to have made a final attempt to frustrate his deportation by petitioning Justice Shore’s court claiming he would not get fair trial in Rwanda.
He made his final appeal after getting notification that he would be deported to Rwanda on January 12, by the Canadian Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, after he had exhausted all channels to block the deportation.
“This fellow has had the advantage of every level of appeal, including the Supreme Court of Canada. At some stage, we actually have to remove war criminals and stop talking about doing it,” Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, said after yesterday’s ruling.
In Rwanda, members of the general public and government officials welcomed the news and Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said that his deportation was long overdue.
“We welcome this long awaited moment. For the past 19 years, Mugesera has evaded Justice and manipulated the system in a jurisdiction with every needed resource to verify facts,” said Ngoga.
According to Ngoga, the world is becoming small for Genocide perpetrators and architects alike, saying; “The next step, and one for which we are well prepared for, is to conduct a fair transparent trial.”
For Marie Ignacianna Mukansanga, a former student of Mugesera, bringing him to Rwanda would be the best news for survivors of the Genocide.
“We were at school when this speech was publicized in the media, I remember getting stomach pains…shortly after, he fled the country definitely, with assistance from top politicians in Kigali,” said Mukansanga, now herself a lecturer at the National University of Rwanda.
Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide, said the development is an indication that Genocide fugitives, wherever they are, will very soon run out of hiding places.
“He has fought deportation for so many years, but the truth eventually prevails…he has had supporters in his quest to evade justice but his role in the demise of over a million Tutsis could not be hidden forever,” said Mucyo.
Mucyo, who is a former Prosecutor General and minister of Justice, said the final decision to deport Mugesera should be emulated by other countries habouring genocide fugitives, adding that major developments this week are a major blow to revisionists of the Genocide.
In fact, in pronouncing the ruling, the judge in Canada said that Mugesera, in all the appearances he made in court, did not at any time recognize the existence of the Genocide.
Defence lawyers also concur that the fact that many Rwandan fugitives, in their quest to evade justice, have used the excuse of the judiciary not being impartial, should not be ground to bloc extraditions.
“The Rwandan judiciary should not be an excuse to block extradition or deportation…all minimum requirements are in place in all aspects. The judges are professionals with requisite experience and we have lawyers to defend them in case they need them,” said Athanase Rutabingwa, the president of Kigali Bar Association.
He hastened to add that the Rwandan laws are flexible enough in that whoever needs a foreign advocate, they are admissible in courts and the bar readily accredits them.
“But our lawyers are competent and recognized even at the most respected institutions…we have lawyers registered at the ICC and others at the ICTR, so really in terms of competence, I think we are capable,” said Rutabingwa, a criminal lawyer.
He however counseled that previous experience shows that it is always better to rely on Rwandan legal counsels, saying that foreigners have proven inefficient because of not being acquainted with the laws of the land.