8 July 2009

Rwanda: Gordon Brown Assures Kagame on Fugitives

Kigali — In a move that rejuvenates Rwanda's hope of having justice administered on the Genocide fugitives, the UK government says it will make its legislation on war crimes retroactive making it possible for their courts to try Rwandan Genocide suspects in the country.

UK Premier Gordon Brown made the assurances while meeting President Paul Kagame at 10 Downing Street, London yesterday, The Premier announced that UK is changing its law on war crimes to back-date it to 1991, a move that will enable the UK to try those accused of Genocide in Rwanda.

This follows the recent release of four Genocide fugitives who had been arrested on the UK soils but were later freed because the existing laws in the UK did not have provisions to try the suspects.

The suspects could not be extradited to Rwanda and at the same time could not be prosecuted in the UK.

Currently, 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.

President Kagame and Gordon Brown also discussed a number of issues including Rwanda's bid to join the Commonwealth, security in the Great Lakes region as well as other bilateral issues.

Brown also pledged his government's support for Rwanda's bid to join the Commonwealth.

Rwanda now seems on the verge of joining the 53 member elite group following full backing by the UK as affirmed by the British Premier.

Last month Australia declared its support for Rwanda's bid expected to materialise this year during the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting slated for Trinidad and Tobago.

Shortly before the meeting of the two heads of states, the UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced the amendments that will allow UK nationals and residents accused of war crimes dating back to 1991 to stand trial.

"This is a positive development, it's a good initiative. The President (Kagame) has been particularly happy that the UK is finally supporting Rwanda to deal with Genocide suspects," said Claver Gatete, Rwanda's envoy to the UK

"The International community has done less to support Rwanda to deal with this issue of Genocide cases, even when they (International Community) watched as the Genocide happened."

Responding to a question on the status of General Laurent Nkunda, President Kagame told members of the press that the former CNDP leader as an individual was not the main problem and that the current challenges being faced needed to be understood in a wider context of the root causes of conflict and instability in the region.

He added that Rwanda and DRC are working closely together to appropriately resolve the issue of General Nkunda, and it should not derail the larger ongoing process of establishing peace, long-term stability and cooperation in development in the Great Lakes region.

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