Another French court yesterday turned down a request to extradite a Genocide suspect accused of killing 349 people during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The court in Aix-en-Prevence, in south of France, declared that it could not order the extradition of Pierre Tegera, citing a ruling by a higher court, the Cour de Cassation, in February that a case could not be judged on the basis of laws passed after the alleged offences were committed.
It ties in with Paris’ continued reasoning that Rwanda’s Genocide laws were passed at least two years after the Genocide was committed in 1994.
Tegera, 62, is accused by rights activists of taking part in massacres of the Tutsi in Kibilira, in northern Rwanda. The former head of an agricultural research station has been working as an ambulance driver in the French Riviera city of Nice. He lost his political asylum status in France in 2008.
He was arrested in Nice in July 2013, following an international arrest warrant issued by Rwanda.
Dr Egide Karuranga, a Genocide survivor based in Canada, said it was unfortunate that in a democratic country like France, the judicial system operates in a geometrically variable manner when it comes to human rights violations.
“There is also an apparent pro-Genocide attitude in the governing elite. It’s high time French people demanded their government to release the grip on justice and liberate their conscience by admitting and apologising for their wrong deeds during the Genocide against the Tutsi,” Dr Karuranga said.
Kigali maintains that if a country cannot extradite any suspect, it could at least use its own courts to ensure that justice prevails.
Ibuka executive secretary Naphtal Ahishakiye, said: “It’s a shame that 20 years after the Genocide, France continues to block justice with regard to Genocide against the Tutsi. That this decision comes as we mourn our loved ones is even more sickening.”
But he hopes that, perhaps, when the current French political establishment that has influential figures of Rwanda’s former genocidal regime loses power, the new generation of French leaders will not protect Genocide suspects.
“We won’t be deterred by this. We will fight on until justice prevails,” he said.
Ibuka is the umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors’ associations.
Prosecutor-General Richard Muhumuza said the latest decision was disappointing but not surprising since it is one of many extradition requests involving Genocide suspects that the French courts have turned down.
“While we respect court decisions, we don’t agree with the rationale because we believe it is flawed,” he said.
“The crime of genocide, crime against humanity and war crimes have no time limits to prosecution. The suspects should not take these rulings to hope they will never face courts of law. We will pursue justice however long it takes,”
In February, France’s Cour de Cassation also ruled that three other Genocide suspects could not be judged for a crime that was legally defined after the genocide was made a punishable crime in Rwanda.
The president of Kigali Bar Association, Athanase Rutabingwa, said Paris is merely looking for excuses.
“What France is doing today has no legal grounds at all. Otherwise, why are countries like Norway extraditing suspects to Rwanda? Is it only France with the best interpretation of the law?” Rutabingwa wondered.
A district court in Norway, on Tuesday, ordered the extradition of Genocide suspect Eugene Nkuranyabahizi, the second Genocide suspect to be extradited by Oslo after Charles Bandora last year.