27 February 2014

Rwanda: Anger As French Court Overturns Extradition Order of Genocide Suspects

Photo: Damien Glez/RNW
21 years after the Genocide

Rwanda has expressed disappointment in a French court's decision overturning a previous ruling that approved the extradition to Rwanda of two Genocide suspects.

The court also upheld an ealier decision that rejected an extradition bid involving a third suspect.

The Cour de Cassation on Wednesday ruled that the trio, Claude Muhayimana, Innocent Musabyimana and Laurent Serubuga, suspected of involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, in Rwanda, cannot be extradited to Kigali because genocide had not been legally defined as a crime in 1994.

The court overturned a November appeals court ruling approving the extradition of Muhayimana and Musabyimana. The same court upheld a September decision by another lower court rejecting the extradition of Serubuga, a former colonel.

"The denial of extradition doesn't take away France's obligation under international law to try persons accused of genocide and other heinous crimes," Prosecutor General Richard Muhumuza said.

"While we respect court decisions, the denial of extradition that would have enabled trial of accused persons in the country where their crimes occurred is very disappointing. We will continue to cooperate with French judicial authorities to ensure that the three suspects are tried," Muhumuza added.

The Cour de Cassation said the trio could not be judged for a crime that was not legally defined at the time the acts were committed.

Muhayimana, now a French citizen, is accused of participating in the massacre of the Tutsi in Kibuye town, now Karongi, while Musabyimana, 40, alias Ibrahim Niyonsenga, is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors in Kigali issued an international arrest warrant for his arrest in November 2012.Interpol's red notice says he was born in Giciye, former Gisenyi prefecture, now Rubavu District.

Serubuga, 77, a deputy chief of staff of the former Genocidal Rwandan army, was arrested near the northern French city of Cambrai last July following an international arrest warrant issued by Rwanda.Last September, a lower court in Douai rejected Rwanda's request for his extradition and ordered his immediate release.

French-based rights group, Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), maintains that Serubuga was a very important figure during the Genocide especially since he was part of a group of officers called "The Juvenal Habyarimana comrades of July 5, 1973," who helped overthrow former President Grégoire Kayibanda.

France early this month opened the genocide trial of a former army captain Pascal Simbikangwa, an intelligence chief during the Genocide. Simbikangwa, 54, was arrested in 2008 while living under a pseudo name "Safari" on France's Indian Ocean island of Mayotte.

Simbikangwa, a paraplegic, is accused by the French prosecution of supplying arms to the Interahamwe militia and ordering the massacre of the Tutsi in the former Gisenyi prefecture, currently Rubavu District.

On February 4, Simbikangwa, admitted to court that he financed Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) the extremist radio that called on the public to hunt down and kill the Tutsi during the Genocide.

Like numerous other Genocide suspects on its soil, France refused to extradite Simbikangwa to Rwanda and decided to try him under laws that allow French courts to consider cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in other countries.

His case is the first trial related to the 1994 Genocide to take place in France.

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