KIGALI - The Rwandan government has protested against the ruling by a London Court to block the extradition of four Rwandan Genocide suspects to stand trial in Rwanda.
The UK high court ruled on Wednesday that the Rwandan suspects faced the possibility of a ‘deliberate denial of justice’ if they returned to Rwanda for trial and ordered that they be set free immediately.
Vincent Bajinya 45, Charles Munyaneza 48, Celestin Ugirashebuja 53 and Emmanuel Nteziryayo 44 are accused of genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, conspiracy to murder, forming a criminal gang and inciting disorder.
“What we want is not really Genocide suspects to come in Rwanda to be tried, they can be tried anywhere, we only want to see them stand trial,” said the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga in a press conference held at his office.
“This is a burden to Rwanda as it is to the UK, which makes it a safe haven for war crimes suspects.”
Bajinya was a medical doctor in Rwanda while the other three were Bourgmestres (Mayors) of different districts in the country.
High Court judges John Laws and Jeremy Sullivan overturned an extradition order from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that was approved by a lower court in June 2008.
Rwanda applied for the extradition of the four men and British officials, including members of the Crown Prosecution Service and two police officers visited Rwanda for investigations.
According to Ngoga, the London court’s mistrust is sourced from information from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and Human Rights Watch that Rwanda’s judicial system does not have competence to try Genocide suspects who fled to developed countries, especially Europe.
“There is misleading information from these two institutions which makes it almost impossible to pursue Rwandan Genocide suspects in those countries,” Ngoga added.
“They actually don’t have anything wrong with our law but they only say it may not be followed, I don’t understand how shoplifting suspects can be tried while Genocide suspects cannot.”
Ngoga added that Human Rights Watch has extreme hate for the government of Rwanda as it has ignored all the progressive developments in the Rwandan judicial system. He however squarely placed blame on the UK’s judicial system that has ‘loopholes.’
Meanwhile, a British NGO Aegis Trust which has an office in Kigali has also condemned the UK court decision of letting the quartet move freely.
“This ruling highlights the serious loopholes in UK law on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity,” a statement from AEGIS TRUST reads.
The statement also says that the case of these four men fall into what has been described by the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald QC, as an ‘impunity gap’ in the UK law.
In an interview, the CEO of Aegis Trust, Dr. James Smith said that because of the loopholes, the suspects cannot be extradited and at the same time they cannot be prosecuted in the UK.
Smith said that people suspected of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity can only be prosecuted in the UK if the acts were committed overseas after 2001 when the International Criminal Court Act was enacted.
“For survivors, this verdict couldn’t come at a worse time. It destroys hope. It demonstrates that the suspected killers of their families enjoy freedom in Europe. The impunity of genocide suspects is a denial of justice for the survivors.”
“If British courts cannot extradite these men to Rwanda, the British Government should immediately amend UK law to enable the prosecution of suspected mass murderers.”
The four men, were arrested in different parts of England in December 2006, and have pleaded not guilty of their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.