The High Court in London will today begin the appeal hearing in a longstanding case concerning extradition of five Rwandans suspected of participating in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The suspects are Vincent Bajinya, a medical doctor; Celestin Mutabaruka, a former pastor; as well as three former mayors Celestin Ugirashebuja, Charles Munyaneza, and Emmanuel Nteziryayo.
They were separately arrested in 2013 in the UK after an extradition request from the Rwandan government, which has, for over a decade, requested that they are brought to Rwanda to answer for the crimes they stand accused of.
The Government has proven that the courts in Rwanda are strong and competent enough to provide fair trial for the suspects but the request was still rejected, according to officials.
Westminster Magistrates lower court last year rejected the Government's appeal to extradite the suspects, saying there was a risk they would not get a fair trial in Rwanda.
This, officials maintain, is despite the precedence set by the United Nations Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which billed the Rwandan judicial system competent and transferred several suspects to Rwanda.
The precedence was later invoked by the European Court of Human and People's Rights, which has rejected appeals by several suspects who fought extradition to Rwanda and national jurisdictions, including US, Canada, The Netherlands and Norway.
Following the rejection by Westminster Magistrates lower court, the Government appealed to the high court at the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, UK.
The hearing will last eight days.
A statement from Urumuri, a UK-based organisation for the survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, said it was a pity that over a decade after the initial extradition case against the suspects began in the UK, justice has not been done.
Despite the horrific crimes these men are alleged to have committed, Urumuri members say the suspects remain free, as the survivors continue to face a lifetime of suffering as a result of genocide.
"If the high court again rules that the accused cannot be extradited, the UK has a duty to act swiftly to put these individuals on trial here (in UK); failure to do so will continue to harm the reconciliation process and the long journey toward national healing in Rwanda," reads the statement.
"It would also be an act against the UK's own judicial tradition and a violation of the UK's ratification of the 1948 Genocide Convention."
According to members of the umbrella, failure to extradite these suspects will further encourage those who may have been involved in genocide and other crimes against humanity to feel protected in the UK, a wrong message to send to the world.
"The appeal will determine whether to uphold the earlier judgment, of December 2015 that the accused would not receive a fair trial if they were extradited to Rwanda. However, this judgement stands counter to numerous other decisions by national and international bodies that recognise the Rwandan legal system as both fair and competent," adds the statement.
It cited other extradition cases, including three suspects who have been extradited to Rwanda by Canada, and others from other Western countries and the US.
ABOUT THE SUSPECTS
Vincent Bajinya, alias Brown: Alleged to have been part of the powerful presidential network that organised widespread massacres and killings of numerous Tutsi at roadblocks in the capital, Kigali, in conjunction with the Interahamwe militia. He was living in Islington, North London when he was first arrested.
Celestin Mutabaruka: Pastor of a Pentecostal church. Alleged to have worked with the militia to organise and assist in the slaughter of around 20,000 men, women and children. According to witnesses, some were tortured by having their eyes gouged out before death. He is now said to be living in Kent, UK.
Charles Munyaneza: Former mayor of Kinyamakara Commune in the then Gikongoro Prefecture (currently Southern Province). Alleged to have participated in the planning and implementation of massacres in his jurisdiction. He is alleged to have led attacks on Tutsi over Mwogo River in which thousands were slaughtered. He was living in Bedford at the time of his arrest.
Celestin Ugirashebuja: Former mayor of Kigoma Commune in Gitarama Prefecture. Alleged to have assisted in the planning and implementation of massacres in areas where he had authority. He is said to have ordered militia to kill Tutsi who were brought to his commune office and gave instructions for Tutsi to be tricked to come out of hiding and killed. He settled in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex on arrival in the UK.
Emmanuel Nteziryayo: Former mayor of Mudasomwa Commune in Gikongoro Prefecture. Alleged to have assisted in planning and implementation of massacres in his area. He is said to have personally led a militia group that carried out extensive killings. After arriving in the UK, he lived under a false name (Emmanuel Ndikumana) in Wythenshawe, Manchester, claiming benefits as a Burundian asylum seeker.