The United States has condemned the recent release by Germany of Genocide fugitive Callixte Mbarushimana. Arrested in July, Mbarushimana, who is also the current Secretary General of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) was released by a German court despite pleas by the Rwandan Government to extradite him.
“We are disappointed that leaders like Callixte Mbarushimana and FDLR President Ignace Murwanashyaka are able to operate with impunity although they continue to support FDLR efforts to evade justice, propagate violence, abuse civilians, and illegally exploit DRC’s mineral wealth,” reads a statement from the US Department of State.
The US officially blacklisted the FDLR and its top leaders and branded a terrorist group.
Both Murwanashyaka and Mbarushimana are currently in Germany from where they coordinate the activities of FDLR, a group that is largely composed of perpetrators of the 1994 Tutsi Genocide.
“The FDLR, the root cause of instability in eastern DRC, continues to commit crimes against humanity in eastern Congo instead of laying down its arms and repatriating to Rwanda for reintegration,” the statement further reads.
This outfit is currently fighting alongside the DR Congo government forces against the forces of Gen. Laurent Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).
The decision to release Mbarushimana was simultaneously made with another order to free Onesphore Rwabukombe, a former Mayor of Muvumba Commune, now in the Eastern Province, who is also a fugitive wanted over his role in the Genocide.
Mbarushimana, who was working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) during the Genocide, took charge of the UN mission after the evacuation of expatriates.
He subsequently took advantage of this interim position to facilitate the Interahamwe killers for whom he provided transport and other facilities to enable them access their victims. He also actively participated in the killings.
According to reports, it is these allegations that led to Mbarushimana’s subsequent dismissal from the UN.
Lawyers speak out
The release of these fugitives, who were both on Interpol Red Notice, was shortly followed by the controversial arrest in the same country, of Rose Kabuye, the Director General of State Protocol. This has led to various international law experts accusing Germany of double standards in its judicial system.
‘Germany, a country that should be more sympathetic to victims of the Genocide given its own tragic history, has shown where its sympathies lie by arresting Kabuye and in the same week releasing FDLR leaders,” said Dr. Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, a renowned panafricanist.
He questioned the applicability of international law, saying that European countries are manipulating it according to how it better serves their interests.
“What kind of international law is this? And for how long must poachers continue to play game park keepers? How can there be respect for International law when powerful countries treat its principles like a la carte menu?” wondered Abdul-Raheem, who is also the former Secretary General of the Global Pan African Movement.
Kabuye’s arrest was as a result of the controversial indictments against her and eight other Rwandan officials, issued by French Judge Jean Louis Bruguière.
The Interpol has refused to recognise these indictments which many legal analysts say are inadmissible. Other activists who condemned the manipulation of the International Law by the Europeans included Brian Kagoro, a Zimbabwean international human rights lawyer.
“The International Law must be seen to be objective not subjective and what worse still is the fact that such was done by Germany, a country that has been party to the horrific acts that befell Rwanda,” said Kagoro by telephone.
He said that the release of both Mbarushimana and Rwabukombe “and more so to arrest a person who liberated even the few survivors”, was especially an insult to the memory of Genocide survivors. He termed the release of the fugitives and subsequent arrest of Kabuye, a serious abuse of the international human rights.
“How could a respected senior official of a sovereign State be arrested and humiliated in that nature over such trumped up allegations that were not even investigated?” wondered the Zimbabwean, who is also a panafricanist.
“My position as an international lawyer is that international law should not be used to settle political differences between countries,” he underscored.
Emmanuel Rukangira, a local lawyer conversant with the International law, also said that in releasing the two suspects, Germany acted in contravention of the Geneva Convention.
“Both Rwanda and Germany are party to the Geneva Convention which binds all signatory states to punish Genocide and crimes against humanity…they would have at least tried them if they could not extradite them to Rwanda,” said Rukangira, a former State Prosecutor.
He said that Germany was bound to have both the moral and legal obligation as a member of the UN, to deal with the fugitives as required by the law but not releasing them.