A French Appeals Court in Dijon, a city in eastern France, last week ruled in favour of Rwanda’s extradition request for Genocide suspect Innocent Musabyimana.
However, activists, including those based in Paris, remain sceptical on whether the latest development will be any different from previous scenarios.
Alain Gauthier, the president of France-based rights group, Collective Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), an association that pursues Rwandan Genocide suspects living in France, told The New Times that he remained bothered by the likelihood that the suspect would eventually succeed in getting the extradition suspended.
Gauthier said, “No need to celebrate too soon. This is not the first time a Court of Appeal is in favour of extradition of an alleged génocidaire, but the Supreme Court has always cancelled such a decision. Why would it be different this time?”
In the past, similar court decisions granting Rwandan extradition requests were overturned on appeal by France’s highest court, the Supreme Court.
The Rwandan government has so far issued 21 indictments to France, but none of the suspects were extradited, or tried in France, for Genocide and crimes against humanity. The number of Genocide suspects living in France, however, is bigger.
The CPCR on its part has filed complaints for 25 high-profile Genocide suspects it tracked down in various parts of France. Musabyimana is among the 25.
Arrested on January 22, in Dijon, Musabyimana, alias Ibrahim Niyonsenga, 40, is wanted by Rwanda for Genocide and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Kigali issued an international arrest warrant for him last November.
Like Gauthier, Ibuka boss Prof. Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu and, Prosecutor-General, Martin Ngoga, are not convinced Paris is really working to bring the suspected mass killers on its soil to justice.
Prof. Dusingizemungu said Ibuka’s only request to France is that Musabyimana’s “extradition is ultimately granted so that he comes to appear before court, and that this happens to the many others like him.”
“They [France] are really slow on this in a manner that bothers us, yet they have all the requirements they could base on to arrest those people and extradite them to stand trial in the place where they committed crimes against humanity,” he said.
Ngoga, said, “That same court has made similar decisions in the past, which ended up being overturned by superior courts in France. It has become a vicious cycle. To be frank, I do not see anything to suggest significant change in political policy or judicial outlook.”
Last month, the French appeal court’s rejection of the extradition requests for Hyacinthe Rafiki Nsengiyumva, a former Rwandan minister, and Vénuste Nyombayire, both accused of involvement in the Genocide, frustrated Ngoga, who then said, “there is need to rethink our strategy as France, the country that supported the Genocide, cannot be the one to dispense justice.”
Nsengiyumva is a founder member of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda Genocidal militia, accused of participating in Genocide preparations alongside Col. Theoneste Bagosora.
Apart from Agathe Kanziga, widow of former President Juvenale Habyarimana, the file of Ex-FAR’s Lt. Col. Marcel Bivugabagabo is among the many that are still pending in French Jurisdiction.
Violating universal jurisdiction
Even though France and Rwanda have no extradition treaty, experts say France is supposed to adhere to a category of international obligations called erga omnes, to try or extradite Genocide suspects or suspects in other heinous crimes.
Erga omnes are obligations owed by states to the international community as a whole, and intended to protect and promote the basic values and common interests of all.
Examples of erga omnes norms include piracy, genocide, slavery, torture, and racial discrimination. The concept was recognised in the International Court of Justice’s decision in the Barcelona Traction case (Belgium v Spain) of 1970.
Rwanda has the right to complain of a breach and, last December, Ngoga threatened that Rwanda may take legal action against France over reluctance in bringing to book top Genocide fugitives on her soil.
“There cannot be any other logical explanation to this indifference other than France’s own role in support of the genocidal government,” Ngoga said.
Top French political and military officials are accused of directly participating in the 1994 Genocide.
Apart from Canada and the US, Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has transferred cases and suspects to Rwanda.