No more genocide trials should take place abroad because Rwanda’s justice system has acquired the required level of credibility and maturity to handle the cases, Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, told The New Times Friday.
He said this in an exclusive interview, while commenting on the recent developments regarding genocide suspects being sent to stand trial in Rwanda from various countries.
“‘Bring all these suspects home is our message now. It is a new approach that may even cause some delay, but it is a price worth paying,” Ngoga proclaimed.
“How long are we going to continue supporting prosecutions in (North) America and Europe when we have the capacity to do it here? What sense does it make for a country to choose who to send and who not to send?”
This policy shift follows recent developments, especially the deportation of genocide suspect Leon Mugesera from Canada, which Ngoga described as a turning point.
Apart from Mugesera’s deportation, the imminent transfer to Rwanda of another genocide suspect, Jean Uwinkindi, from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), is another case in point.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has also approved the extradition of Sylvere Ahorugeze, another genocide suspect.
“For us, it means a lot. And I am not just looking at Mugesera alone; I am looking at the ICTR decisions, I am looking at the European Court of Human Rights’ decisions – all of them are actually important steps that are turning the page,” he said.
“I think we have been doing the right thing for quite some time but it is about the international community now recognising that we are a justice system that has acquired the level of credibility and maturity to handle cases that were previously thought to be too big for us”.
Mugesera’s deportation is expected to pave way for the deportation of at least nine other allegedly notorious Rwandan Genocide suspects that Canadian authorities have been investigating.
“There are nine suspects in Canada; who for many years have been the subject of investigation by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). I am talking about nine people that Canadians have investigated for years and they have told us they think they have cases to answer.”
Canadian investigators are expected in the country this week and Ngoga says his message to them will be brief and clear.
“The investigations have been going on for a very long time, and in good faith. Canadians have spent a lot of money in these cases. So, now it is time to close the chapter and send them back home. I have delivered the same message to Scandinavian prosecutors who are here”.
The Chief Prosecutor of Norway, the Deputy Chief Prosecutor of Denmark as well as teams from France and the US are in the country to investigate genocide related cases.
“Why should Canada send Mugesera, and not the nine others suspects they have been investigating? I believe all those nine are in the same situation as Mugesera.”
He faulted countries like the UK and France, which have failed not only to extradite but also to try genocide fugitives on their territories.
In the UK, such suspects include Vincent Bajinya, Charles Munyaneza, Celestin Ugirashebuja and Emmanuel Nteziryayo.
“The point is not whether they will do it or not; but whether they have justifiable reasons not to do so (extradition),” Ngoga stressed.
France ‘most disappointing’
Of the European countries that harbour Genocide suspects, France is the most disappointing, Ngoga said.
“The French have been the most disappointing, because, every other day, they arrest someone, the following day he is out. They have been the worst performing. They even failed to get the two cases that the ICTR gave them to take off,” Ngoga said:
ICTR referred to France cases of Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a former priest and Dominique Ntawukuriryayo, but none of the cases have been tried.
“But to all of these countries; from the UK, to France, Belgium, Canada and the US and all other countries that harbour genocide fugitives, we are saying, ‘bring them home’”.
In the past, Rwanda’s requests for the extradition of genocide suspects were denied – largely on the premise that the ICTR had earlier rejected similar requests from Kigali.
But now that the ICTR has referred cases to Rwanda, Ngoga thinks other jurisdictions should follow suit.
“They should go by the same logic; if the ICTR was found to be relevant then, it should be found to be relevant today!”
Hundreds of genocide suspects continue to reside in various parts of the world.