When it comes to the issue of Genocide fugitives, France remains a country that will always be at the centre of the debate in the foreseeable future. This week the Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga, was in the news raising the same concern he has raised over the years: France’s continued refusal to extradite genocide suspects to Rwanda.
There are certainly several other countries where Genocide fugitives have found a safe haven. Protais Mpiranya, the notorious commander of the former Republican Guard under Habyarimana’s regime, is said to be holed up in Zimbabwe, with some alleging that he sometimes gives a hand in suppressing political dissents down south.
The millionaire financier Felicien Kabuga is reported to be hiding within the region. Others are in the jungles of the Congo. However, there is a major distinction in how the characters – all wanted for the heinous crime of Genocide – have been treated in the different continents and countries they sought a safe haven.
France has been unique in the way it has handled the cases of the many fugitives who are living in relative comfort in the European country. Recently, it was reported that Kanziga Habyarimana, the head of a coterie of palace courtiers that made the Genocide happen, had been granted permanent residence in France.
In the African countries where people like Kabuga and Mpiranya have been hiding, it can be said that they found favour from corrupt government officials who managed to bend the rules or circumvent the rule of law to give them succor.
Here in these African countries, these highly wanted fugitives have lived under the radar and it is not easy for those who seek to bring them to justice to locate them or clearly implicate anyone in aiding their quest to evade justice.
When it comes to European countries like France, the story is completely different. To get anything of substance in Western Europe, one has to be documented at all levels of society.
You can not buy medicine apart from simple painkillers like panadol, without a doctor’s prescription. And you can not see a doctor without documented legal residence. Maybe, some do but it is always an uphill task.
So, for most of these people who fled to countries like France, there are records and they can be traced and located at different places at different points of their lives since settling in Europe.
So, most of these guys who have cases, if they are brought up, will always have to be put through the process of justice.
Then, its at that point that observers get confused or, like has been the case with many in the French justice system, people who are observing are left speechless when the suspects get away easily, even when their crimes are well known and were relatively prominent people in Rwanda.
In a number of countries like Norway, Sweden and Denmark, we have seen prosecutions of the suspects and almost no complaints have been raised from the authorities or survivor groups like Ibuka in Rwanda.
But for France, it continues to baffle many people. One would have hoped that the political leaders in France who supported the Habyarimana dictatorship are no longer in power and so these fugitives would not have it easy in France.
Even if they were to be in power, it is generally acknowledged that there is a separation of power in Western Europe that no politician would have the capacity to influence judicial processes.
But then, things are more complex than we imagine. The issue of Jean Louis Brugueire is instructive.
He was a magistrate who carried out the widely publicised judicial witch-hunt against RPF leaders. He was at the time a judicial officer. So, apparently, the support the Genocidal regime received from French quarters over the years went beyond political support to reach the realm of the judiciary.
But all this continues to expose the judicial, social and political hypocrisy inherent. When the West adopted the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) initiative, it was hoped that such cases would also fall in such a category.
It should not just be about intervention to protect lives.
But bringing to justice such fugitives, ideally, should fall in that moral boundary of R2P, if the judicial mechanism, also in place can not serve the purpose.
At the end of the day, Ngoga’s comments that one can not expect those who supported the Genocide to bring to justice their clients is justified.
If France had no confidence in the Rwandan judiciary all the years, then how many of the fugitives were at least extradited to the ICTR in Arusha?