Monday, 24 June 2013

Is the tide turning on Genocide suspects?


Bandora is handcuffed upon arrival at Kigali International Airport. Norwegian authorities extradited Bandora and also handed Sadi Bugingo a 21 year jail term. 
A positive development in the search for justice appears to be taking shape with latest developments indicating that Western countries are now acting on fugitives and apologists of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.  

The Genocide suspects who, for close to two decades, found safe havens in Western counties are feeling the pressure after several host countries stepped up efforts to arrest, prosecute, extradite or deport them.

The move is particularly attributed to the trust Western countries now have in Rwanda’s judicial system as well as the pressure mounted on them by their citizens who want the suspected killers amidst them to face justice, according analysts.

Dr. Jean Damascene Bizimana, an expert in public international law, says that before 1994, the then government had many strong allies around the world and it took long for those countries to build confidence in the current government.

“Basically, the major reasons as to why it took almost a decade and a half to start seeing action against these killers is political trust; Western countries now have confidence in the current government and believes that it serves the interest of the people unlike what they believed after the Genocide,” said Bizimana, who is currently a senator.

As a result of that, Bizimana observed that Western countries were also left with minimal options of handling the genocide suspects since the ICTR was closing down.

“This is when countries started enacting laws to try Genocide suspects or extradite them,” said Bizimana.

 The latest in the series of legal actions is a move by German prosecutors who, recently filed terrorism charges against three men whom they accuse of being core members of the Congo-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia.

The FDLR is a terrorist group that comprises perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. It maintains a genocide ideology with the goal of wiping out all Tutsi.

The three men hold German nationality and were identified as Jean Felicien Barabwiriza, 43, Jean Bosco Uwihanganye, 66, and Bernard Twagiramungu, 49.

They are accused of forming a German cell of the FDLR in 2011 that took over propaganda operations.

Twagiramungu faces an additional charge of breaching German export laws by giving money to another suspect.

The FDLR has for the last 19 years operated in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where they are accused of engaging in mass rapes, pillage and killings.

Maitre Laurent Nkongoli, a commissioner at the national human rights commission attributed the development on Kigali’s attitude.

He pointed out that European countries usually have a uniform opinion over some issues and that when France wielded to much influence in Rwanda in the early ‘90s, many of the western countries decided to take the French position.

Nkongoli points out that it is upon the Kigali government to stay on course by ensuring that they don’t bend low to criticisms or give up on the efforts of ensuring all Genocide suspects are apprehended.  

As countries mount the hunt for killers, the United States has made even extra efforts by staking US$5 million (about Rwf3.2 billion) for information leading to the arrest, transfer and conviction of top FDLR leader Sylvestre Mudacumura.

Mudacumura is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, torture and attacking civilians.

Similarly, in May 2011, Ignace Murwanashyaka, the head of the militia group, and his deputy, Straton Musoni, went on trial in the south-western city of Stuttgart accused of masterminding, from their homes in Germany, atrocities in eastern DR Congo in 2008 and 2009.

Although the Germany move has been highly welcomed by the Germans and Rwandans living in Germany, questions still linger as to why the justice system took long to take action against the trio and expresses worry on the likely delay in the processes of investigation before they are tried.

“Truth is, people here in Germany are commending their government for the action taken but there are questions why it normally takes long to charge people practicing foreign terrorism on their soil,” said a Rwandan living in Germany who preferred anonymity. “My concern is mainly about Uwihanganye, whom I have known for years. He was released on grounds that he is sick but this is a trick people use to secure bail. And now that he is out, there is a possibility that he might tamper with evidence since he is actually connected here. His daughter works with the UN anyway.” 

Other fugitives

FDLR stalwarts aside, a quick look-around shows foreign jurisdictions are waking up to calls to bring to book other Genocide fugitives, who have successfully evaded justice for nearly two decades.

Some may have changed their identity to evade justice, while others lied about their past to unsuspecting immigration officials. 

However, whatever means they may have used the days appear to be numbered.

France, another popular safe haven, is dealing with about nine cases of Genocide suspects among them Rafiki Nsengiyumva who is known to have close connections with the FDLR and Agatha Kanziga who was last week denied asylum by a top French court, Le Conseil d’Etat (Council of State).

Nonetheless, the continued existence on French soil of Callixte Mbarushimana, who is not only the executive secretary of FDLR, but also a Genocide suspect, having orchestrated the killing of dozens of former colleagues at the United Nations in Kigali, and their families, is worth mentioning.

The Netherlands recently promulgated a law on extradition of people accused of Genocide in their countries of origin even though the Netherlands may not have an extradition treaty with that country.

This, according to legal analysts, implies that Genocide suspects like Yvonne Basebya who is battling genocide related crimes in the Netherlands may possibly be extradited to Rwanda.

Netherlands has previously sentenced Joseph Mpambara to life for crimes of Genocide committed in Rwanda.

Being the first European country to extradite a Genocide suspect to Rwanda, Norway currently is considered the most dangerous place for Genocidaires and FDLR members to seek refuge.

The Norwegian authorities extradited Charles Bandora to Kigali and also handed Sadi Bugingo the heaviest sentence - 21 years in jail.

The ongoing efforts are commended by the survivors of the Genocide, however, they want to see the trial processes kicked off without delay.

Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of genocide survivors’ umbrella association, Ibuka, says the progress made so far is a result of efforts both from Rwanda and the Western countries in improving the diplomatic approach to the problem.

Another key factor, is the reforms in Rwanda’s justice system that has seen foreign jurisdictions develop trust in its capacity to handle the cases professionally.

Rwanda, through its Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit, must relentlessly continue in the search for the suspects wherever they may be. 

The recent trends are proof that their efforts are slowly paying off.

The process may be long, but it is the responsibility of humanity to never give up in the quest for justice.


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