Genocide suspect Charles Bandora, who recently lost battles against his extradition from Norway to Rwanda arrived at Kigali International Airport yesterday evening.
He is the first Genocide fugitive to be extradited to Rwanda, following a series of deportations and a transfer of one suspect from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
At exactly 07:00 p.m., the KLM commercial flight carrying Bandora touched down at Kigali International Airport transporting the suspect from the Norwegian capital Oslo, marking the end of the suspect’s battles against extradition.
After the plane touched down, Bandora remained on board for about 20 minutes as Norwegian officers processed extradition formalities with their Rwandan counterparts.
Upon arrival, Bandora clad in grey cap, grey jacket, a white striped shirt and a red t-shirt, was served with an arrest warrant and his rights read out, before being handcuffed by a Rwandan National Police officer. Norwegian officials handed Bandora to National Prosecutor and Head of the Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit, John Bosco Siboyintore. In turn, in accordance with the relevant legal provisions, Siboyintore handed Bandora over to the designated Judicial Police Officer.
He was then led to a waiting white Nissan truck which then drove away.
Former businessman Bandora, 60, is accused of organising and participating in the Genocide against the Tutsi, particularly the killings of hundreds who had taken refuge at Ruhuha Church in the former Ngenda Commune, currently in Bugesera district.
His extradition was confirmed by a European Court of Human Rights, which on Friday last week rejected his appeal that he would not get fair trial once transferred to Rwanda.
At the time, he was a businessman and the vice-president of the MRND, the party well known for having conceptualised and implemented the Genocide that left over a million people dead in just 100 days.
Prosecution spokesman Alain Mukuralinda said that Bandora will be detained for a maximum of 72 hours during which police will be processing his charges and after which his file will be forwarded to the National Public Prosecuting Authority.
The extradition is a result of a 2008 Rwandan request and a resultant Interpol international arrest warrant dated 16 April 2009.
According to Prosecution, Bandora will appear before a court within seven days, where “readiness by both parties to commence substantive trial will be assessed.”
A statement issued by the prosecution upon Bandora’s arrival welcomed the first extradition.
“Bandora’s physical transfer is historic as it is the first such extradition decision to be carried out. Other such physical transfers resulted from transfer or deportation decisions as opposed to extradition requests initiated by Rwanda,” reads the statement, adding “Similar extraditions are pending in various national jurisdictions and this could lead to more extraditions to Rwanda in the very near future.”
Bandora will be tried, according to the Transfer Law, in the Special Chamber of the High Court trying cases referred to Rwanda from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and other jurisdictions.
The statement also states that “the Public Prosecution would like to thank the Kingdom of Norway for the significant vote of confidence it has given to the Rwandan justice system and for the smooth implementation of this extradition. Norway’s timely and effective execution of justice has been exemplary.” The final decision to extradite Bandora came hardly a month after the Norwegian court sentenced another Rwandan, Sadi Bugingo, to 21 years in prison for his role in the Genocide.
“Nineteen years after the devastating events of the 1994 Genocide, this is a landmark day for Rwandan justice and for continued trust and cooperation between Rwanda’s national justice system and its foreign and international counterparts,” reads the government statement.
The extradition of Bandora, who first surfaced in Malawi – where he was arrested and later released under unclear circumstances – is widely seen as positive sign, especially given pending cases, mainly in Europe where scores of fugitives are awaiting extradition.
Among these is the former Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority, Sylvaire Ahorugeze, whom Sweden has not extradited, even after a petition to European Court of Human Rights was lost.
Nordic countries have taken a significant step in dealing with Genocide fugitives who have successfully eluded justice for nearly two decades, compared to other European countries, according to Kigali.
Besides Bugingo, a Finnish court in 2010 handed a life sentence to Francois Bazaramba, a former cleric over Genocide charges.
Others are Denmark which earlier this month convicted Yvonne Basebya, a Rwandan woman over her role in the Genocide.
However, some other countries in Europe have been severally accused by Prosecution of lacking interest in pursuing the fugitives on their soil.
Most have arrested, and sent investigative teams to Rwanda to get on-ground information on the suspects, and in some cases arrests made but the suspects are released under circumstances that remain unclear, according to Rwandan prosecutors.
Rwandan says one such countries is France, which remain a den of most of the affluent Genocide fugitives, including the former First Lady Agathe Habyarimana, former military leaders and top clerics most of whom seen as some of the architects of the Genocide.
Some of these – including Ms Habyarimana – have been arrested and then released.
Another European country that has been accused of handling fugitives with soft gloves is Britain.