Léon Mugesera’s final deportation ruling today

A Canadian court will today give its final ruling on whether Genocide fugitive Leon Mugesera should be deported to Rwanda or not.
EMBATTLED: Leon Mugesera.
EMBATTLED: Leon Mugesera.

A Canadian court will today give its final ruling on whether Genocide fugitive Leon Mugesera should be deported to Rwanda or not.

The latest twist in the ongoing legal battle of the fugitive’s deportation to Rwanda played out in the Quebec Superior Court courtroom, on Friday, as his lawyers fought hard to buy him more time in Canada.

Earlier, Canada was poised to deport the 59-year former linguist lecturer but the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Committee against Torture (OHCHR-CAT), made a surprise intervention, requesting for a delay of the deportation order until it has investigated his claims that he would be tortured upon deportation.

During the hearing, a federal government lawyer, Lisa Meziade argued that the Canadian government spent over six years evaluating the risk of the possible torture of Mugesera, when deported, and found none.

She highlighted that the federal government is not bound by UN treaties, even if the country ratified them, if they are not incorporated into domestic laws.

If it succeeds, the OHCHR-CAT process could take some months but if it fails, the Quebec Superior Court of Canada is likely to order that Mugesera is put on a plane to Rwanda within hours of the decision.

If that happens, Mugesera will have landed in Kigali before Thursday, observers say.

When Mugesera went to court, on Friday, Janvier Forongo, the Executive Secretary of the survivors’ umbrella group, IBUKA, told The New Times that if they deport him, it will be a sign of the independence of the Canadian justice system.

“If they delay but later send him over, it will also be alright because easing people’s concerns here is essential. But it would be utter disrespect and disparaging to us if they rescind the decision to bring him home.”

Forongo said that Rwanda has made major strides in the justice sector, including removal of the death sentence, judicial reforms, commitment to international human rights regulations, as well as being a signatory to the UN convention that specifically prohibits inhumane conduct.

Forongo said: “They do not have any excuse of refusing to deport him because Rwanda meets all required conditions. Leon Mugesera must be deported to answer for his crimes.”

In a 1992 speech, Mugesera called the Tutsi “cockroaches” and “scum,” as he encouraged the Hutu to kill their neighbours.

Last week, last minute appeals by his lawyers to two Canadian courts and the OHCHR-CAT earned him a reprieve until January 20.

But after the reprieve, Canadian authorities deemed him a flight risk, after he fell mysteriously ill and they subsequently arrested and held him in an immigration detention centre.

During his heydays, Mugesera was a vice chairman of the party [MRND] that plunged Rwanda into the Genocide that claimed at least a million lives.

In his insidious speech on November 22, 1992, he allegedly told 1,000 party members that “we the people are obliged to take responsibility ourselves and wipe out this scum [the Tutsi]” and that they should kill the Tutsi and “dump their bodies into the rivers of Rwanda.”

Jean Thierry Karemera, a lawmaker, said on Sunday, that Canadian courts have no reason to doubt the Rwandan judicial system.

Karemera said he was expectantly waiting to see what judgment will be passed in Canada since it’s among countries that consider themselves as advanced in defending human rights, worldwide, and should thus make the right decision on the Mugesera issue – deport him to Rwanda where he committed the alleged crime.

“They should have no reason not to deport him. I am waiting to see the decision they take, and what answers it will provide.”

“Everything Mugesera said is well recorded, and known. When he is deported, it will be very welcome as his trial will help answer many unanswered questions,” Karemera said, recalling that several European countries as well as the Europe Court of Human Rights have ruled in favour of extraditing genocide suspects to Rwanda.

Mugesera fled to Canada to avoid prosecution, and has ever since waged a 15-year legal battle to avoid deportation.

The UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), last week, handed over the file of former pastor Jean Uwinkindi, who is expected to arrive in Rwanda – from the tribunal’s Detention Facility in Arusha, Tanzania – anytime soon. The suspect lost his appeal against the transfer late last year.

The United States has so far deported three Genocide suspects to Rwanda, two of them last year.

james.karuhanga@newtimes.co.rw

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