22 February 2017

Rwanda: Kigali Seeks Extradition Treaty With Brazzaville

Rwanda is taking steps to ratify an extradition treaty with Congo-Brazzaville where some 13 suspected genocide fugitives are residing.

The EastAfrican has learned that the Rwandan parliament will in the coming weeks ratify the treaty to make it possible to extradite the 13 suspects to face trial for crimes committed during the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. The House of Deputies has begun debate on a draft extradition treaty.

Meanwhile, Rwanda cites frustration in getting more countries to co-operate in arresting fugitives who fled the country after committing atrocities during the genocide.

"Extradition of genocide convicts has been slow because some countries did not share good diplomatic relations with Rwanda in the past, but this situation is improving with time," Evode Uwizeyimana, the junior Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, told The EastAfrican.

Once in force, the treaty with Brazzaville would ensure genocide fugitives and convicts in Congo are successfully extradited to either face trial in Rwanda or complete their prison terms at home.

"The treaty is designed to be reciprocal; Congo Brazzaville should also be able to legally request Rwanda for the extradition of any of its citizens suspected of crimes in the country," he explained adding that Rwanda's goal was to expand the sphere of countries that can take on the task of bringing genocide suspects to justice.

"If it was possible, we could have as many extradition treaties as possible; so that the process of bringing people to justice from any country is simplified. It is now about politics and diplomacy," he said.

In total, the Genocide Tracking Unit in last March announced that it was pursuing 522 genocide suspects globally, half of whom are hiding within Africa.

The list has however grown to 647 genocide suspects, sources from the unit say, as continual updates are made following investigations that provide more information.

Uwizeyimana could not speculate on when the house was likely to ratify the treaty with Brazzaville only saying: "We requested the lawmakers to expedite the process, but it is within their time and we do not need to rush them."

An extradition treaty however, is not the only avenue through which a suspect can be sent back to his country for trial, according to Bosco Mutangana, Rwanda's Prosecutor General.

"The importance of extradition treaties is something we want to push, but countries should not consider this as the only choice. We have memorandums of understanding with several countries - and these are equally effective for international crimes such as genocide," he said.

He faulted some countries for lacking the initiative to try genocide suspects and for exploiting the lack of extradition treaties to block repatriation of suspects for trial.

"Think about it; it has been 22 years after the genocide happened. If there are no extradition treaties, what have these countries done to ensure that they punish fugitives who seek refuge in their countries," he wondered.

"They signed the 1948 treaty on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. So there is no justification for taking little or no action in the fight genocide."


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