The Associated Press on July 26 published an article concerning the issued arrest warrants for former M23 rebel group leaders by the DRC government.
My take on this is that nothing is wrong in doing so simply because no responsible government or international law system will protect a criminal from prosecution in his home country if justice was the ultimate end.
If my thinking is wrong then we’d have a boatload of mobsters and other wanted criminals ending up being untouchables.
However upon reading that article something strange rung bells in my legal mind as to whether the arrest warrants by DRC against former M23 rebel leaders is for prosecution or persecution purpose?
I want to believe that the Congolese legal experts did their homework very well before issuing the arrest warrants against Jean-Marie Runiga, Baudouin Ngaruye, Eric Badege and Innocent Zimurinda as reported by the AP.
My belief is assumed and premised on the fact that they knew very well that the convention and protocol relating to the status for refugees is limited in scope, in that it does not extend its application to those ‘refugees’ whom there are serious reasons for considering that they have committed war crimes or crimes against humanity, serious non-political crimes, or are guilty of acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Nonetheless, isn’t this legal knowledge at play to achieve a political agenda using the instruments of justice?
According to international law, the granting of territorial asylum is a right and not an obligation of States. Equally, it is not a subjective right to individuals, although the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that “everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
Bearing that in mind, I wonder if sufficient evidence has been gathered to incriminate and prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accusations made against the Congolese fugitives are valid, thus disqualifying them from enjoying refugee status in any country, including Rwanda.
If my worries hold sense, I don’t think that the enforcement of the arrest warrants would serve the purpose of justice! The fugitives deserve to be protected for the respect of Human Rights.
I have also endeavoured to open wide my other eye to read between the lines and tried to figure out the intentions behind the arrest warrants from a political and diplomatic point of view.
I trust that without fear and favour Rwanda will do the right thing. But what if Rwanda decided not to enforce the arrest warrants? Will Mr. Lambert Mende (the Congolese Minister of Information and Government Spokesperson) swallow it?
Believe me this will be another opportunity for him and institutions like Human Rights Watch to again come up with scathing literature and reports accusing Rwanda of violating human rights just for purposes of spoiling her good image and reputation internationally.
A Kinyarwanda saying goes that “akebo kajya iwa mugarura” which basically in this context, it better explains the principle of reciprocity provided under international law.
What signs of cooperation has the DRC government shown in arresting the very criminals who committed genocide crimes and wanted not only by Rwanda but international justice?
Furthermore, no democratic nation will extradite people who face death penalty, meaning the requesting state should provide adequate assurance that the individual’s trial and or punishment will not include torture or death penalty.
I am not in for impunity neither am I in for injustice! But I am trying to read between the lines the fate of these fugitives once extradited to DRC if Rwanda decided to extradite them.
DRC has not abolished the death penalty, which Rwanda has done. I am, therefore, concerned that the ‘justice’ they would face is a death penalty!
I wish to propose that if all evidence is in place Rwanda should bring to justice the accused under the principle of universal jurisdiction upheld by International law justice system.
The writer is a lawyer and media expert.