He is at large and basking in the kind of life the weather in South Africa can offer. Back home, relatives of the hundreds of citizens he killed at a hospital he was working in during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi continue to wonder when justice will be served.
He is Pierre Mugabo, a former medical doctor at University Teaching Hospital of Butare (CHUB), and now a fugitive basking in ‘glory’ in South Africa.
The government, too, has twice tried to either have Dr Mugabo extradited or tried by the South African legal system, in vain.
Mugabo is wanted by Rwanda for Genocide and other crimes against humanity that survivors in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi believe he committed in former Butare, currently in the Southern Province.
Several witnesses say the doctor murdered his hospital colleagues at CHUB, and their children during the Genocide, and participated in organising other killings in the area.
Rwanda sent South Africa both indictments and arrest warrants for Mugabo in 2007, but there has been neither his extradition nor trial in South African courts.
The New Times understands the suspect continues to teach in the Pharmacy Department at the University of Western Cape in South Africa.
News of the suspect’s continued presence on South African soil and his continued employment were confirmed by officials at the University of Western Cape last week.
“Prof. Mugabo still teaches at the pharmacy department,” a source at the university’s Faculty of Sciences confirmed in an e-mail.
The university administration said in previous interviews with the media that they continue to employ the suspect because they consider him innocent until a guilty verdict is delivered in courts.
The lecturer’s continued presence in South Africa and how the Rwandan prosecution has been working to secure his extradition to Rwanda was confirmed by Rwanda’s top prosecution officials in an interview last week.
Convicted in absentia
Mugabo was charged in Rwandan courts in absentia with nine others in the famous ‘trial of doctors’ by the Gacaca court of Ngoma Sector, Southern Province.
Along with other defendants in the Gacaca court, they were found guilty of Genocide crimes committed at CHUB and were sentenced to terms ranging from 19 to 30 years in jail.
Naphtal Ahishakiye, executive secretary of the umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors, Ibuka, said countries that host genocide suspects should not have doubts about sending them to Rwanda for trial.
“People should learn to trust the Rwandan justice system. They need to understand that bringing Genocide suspects to Rwanda where crimes were committed is fair for survivors and the country has indeed fairly tried many Genocide cases so far,” he said.
John Bosco Siboyintore, head of Rwanda’s Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit, told The New Times that figuring out how to work with the South African government and judiciary remains a priority to ensure that Genocide suspects in the country are either extradited to Rwanda or tried in their courts.
“We always prefer extradition but we ask that whenever they can’t do it, then they should try the suspects in their courts,” Siboyintore said.
“Many African countries are still slow in turning up Genocide suspects. So we are in talks with their governments and we have been assessing their legal systems in order to request the extraditions in line with the requirements of their laws,” he added.
Part of the problem, the prosecutor explained, is the fact that Rwanda is juggling a complicated legal system in South Africa.
“Part of the complication is a common law system like how to certify indictment files in the South African laws,” he said.
South Africa responds
South African high commissioner to Rwanda, George Twala Nkosinathi, confirmed last week that there is indeed a certification process in South African laws of what came from Rwanda.
Nkosinathi said: “A certification process that must be plausible, that must be able not to be interfered with by any other persons.”
He said part of the issues that needed to be clarified before the South African judiciary could accept the indictments from Rwanda against Dr Mugabo was a poor understanding of Gacaca courts in Rwanda on part of the judiciary in South Africa.
“That has been sorted out and I don’t think there is any problem in relation to that. I am sure there is a lot of communication between legal people in Rwanda and South Africa and I am sure they will be able to deal with the issues,” Nkosinathi said.
Siboyintore travelled to South Africa late last year and held discussions with South African officials to explain Gacaca as a legitimate process that was helpful in trying Genocide perpetrators.
“When John Bosco sat down and went through the whole process in engaging with the entire delegation there was clear understanding for the first time of how a Gacaca pronouncement can also be applied in law in a legal court,” the South African high commissioner said.
Kigali also wants the extradition of Dr Mugabo’s wife, Felicitée Musanganire, a nurse sentenced in absentia to 20 five years in jail in 2006 by Gacaca court in Southern Province.
She was found guilty of establishing a road block opposite FAUCON Hotel in Butare town, where she is accused of having checked identity cards of Tutsi and those identified were subsequently killed near the National University Library.