TWENTRY-THREE years after the genocide against the Tutsi that led to the deaths of one million people in three months, the government of Rwanda government is still chasing some 400 fugitives accused of taking part in the killings.
These are the number of requests for extradition that the government has made, the country’s High Commissioner in London, Yamina Karitanyi, has said.
She added that many of these requests for those who allegedly took part in the 1994 genocide were in Europe and she thanked countries such as the US, Canada, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands, which ‘have cooperated with our judiciary in extraditing, deporting, or putting perpetrators on trial.’
Karitanyi was speaking at a service to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the genocide at St. Marylebone Parish Church in London this month.
She said it was important for the judiciary to continue the ‘fight against genocide fugitives and ideology.’
Karitanyi said those countries that had cooperated with Rwanda recognised that the country was ‘equipped to provide justice.’
She went on: ‘The UN International [Criminal] Tribunal for Rwanda, which was based in Arusha and is now closed, sent its outstanding cases back to Rwanda, having deemed the judicial and detention systems fully meet international standards for fair trials.
‘There are UN monitors in Rwanda to observe proceedings and that should further encourage others to extradite genocide suspects.
‘Moreover, the European Court of Human Rights issued a judgment in 2011 that trials in Rwanda were fair and extraditions could go ahead,’ she said, adding that since 2007 the death penalty had been abolished in the country.
But she expressed disappointment in the long judicial process going on in the UK to extradite five suspected fugitives.
She said: ‘…we have been fighting, for 10 years now, since 2007, five extradition cases of genocide suspects. We are now expecting a decision of the High Court to determine whether these suspects could finally face justice, either in Rwanda or here.
“But for now, and after 10 years, the suspects, a medical doctor, a Pentecostal pastor and three former mayors, remain free, even after the lower court in this country established that these suspects have charges of genocide and crimes against humanity to respond to.
‘Yet, they are not even required to attend their extradition hearings,’ Karitanyi added.
‘There are now reports of other genocide suspects moving to the UK from other European countries because they have determined that once in the UK, their eventual extradition, or trial in the UK, will be difficult and even if approved, would prove to be a lengthy process,” the High Commissioner said.
‘We now have a situation where genocide perpetrators are able to exploit the judiciary to evade justice. To genocide survivors, this is justice denied.’
Karitanyi added: ‘You may then appreciate, that at times, Rwandans wonder why perpetrators of the genocide against the Tutsi are not treated with the same concern as terrorists. Survivors could only wonder why the pursuit for masterminds of genocide, with all the laws and other resources in place, is not given the firmness that it deserves.’
The High Commissioner explained that the reason why there was a need to continue to remember the victims was because ‘we are faced with the appalling threat of genocide denial,’ continuing: ‘You see, in the age of information overload, and abuse of freedom of expression, perpetrators and their allies dare to deny the existence of the crime of genocide, or in the case of Rwanda and because the bodies of the victims are too many to deny, and the stories of the survivors too vivid to be ignored; there continue to be attempts to reduce the genocide against the Tutsi to an undefined act of mass killing.
‘The importance, therefore, of commemorating, is to honour the victims, as well as re-commit to applying two key principles: the responsibility to protect, and fighting genocide ideology and denial. We should safeguard historical clarity and not allow those who trivialise genocide or busy attempting to re-write the history of Rwanda to remain unchallenged.
‘For the sake of humanity, let us not remain indifferent. The price is simply too high, and sends a bad signal to the world,’ Karitanyi added.