13 February 2018

Rwanda: Senate Urges More Efforts to Track Genocide Fugitives

There is need to urgently increase the budget and personnel for the country's Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit (GFTU), a senatorial standing committee said in a report yesterday. Mike Rugema, the chairperson of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security, said the unit was understaffed and underfinanced and this affected the implementation of its critical mandate.

Rugema was presenting a report about his committee's findings following discussions with government representatives on the subject of pursuit of Genocide fugitives.

Committee members held discussions with officials at the Ministries of Justice and Foreign Affairs, the National Public Prosecution Authority, and the Law Reform Commission, among others.

Rugema pointed out that the Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit - which is under the National Public Prosecution Authority - was understaffed and the underfinanced, which he said affects the effectiveness of their work.

GFTU is charged with tracking the whereabouts of Genocide fugitives, preparing indictments and working with foreign jurisdictions during investigations into the alleged crimes by the fugitives in question.

"We appreciated the work that they do. This is work that requires due diligence and expertise. However, right now, there are only 10 prosecutors working in GFTU and some of them are sometimes required to perform other ordinary judicial duties because the prosecutors' office is generally understaffed. As a result, this causes delays in putting together files and following up on fugitives," he said.

MP Rugema pointed out that the unit needs to be sufficiently staffed to help improve the tracking of Genocide fugitives and efforts to bring them to book.

"They (GFTU) told us that they need for at least 15 prosecutors and 15 investigators to specifically follow up on these cases. The justice sector also indicated that there were budgetary constraints which limit their capacity to track fugitives out of the country," he told the chamber.

Countries with most fugitives named

Rwanda has over the years issued over 800 Genocide indictments in 33 countries.

While the real number of people who committed Genocide against the Tutsi that are still roaming the world remains unclear, Rugema said that hundreds of people were currently under investigation.

"There are 300 people that are currently under investigation. 280 are yet to be investigated but this will be done during 2018/2019. There are also 71,658 dossiers of people who were convicted by Gacaca courts in absentia," the lawmaker told his colleagues during yesterday's plenary session.

During subsequent deliberations, an idea was also mooted on the floor of the house of Rwanda having an Ambassador at Large whose job would entail traveling around the world, especially to countries that received indictments for Genocide fugitives from Kigali, to advocate for justice and diplomatic support in this effort.

Senator Dr Jean-Damascene Ntawukuriryayo particularly called for fresh efforts to ensure that Genocide fugitives holed up in neighbouring DR Congo and Uganda are brought to book as soon as possible.

"We have (extradition) treaties with DR Congo and Uganda yet these two countries have the biggest number of Genocide fugitives. We need targeted measures to address this issue," he said.

Senator Tito Rutaremara wondered why there was need for more staff in the GFTU yet even the indictments that had been sent out have not yielded expected results.

"What is the purpose of adding more staff when even the indictments that have been sent out have not bore fruit? The big issue here is the lack of political will on the part of the countries that are harbouring the fugitives," said the veteran politician.

Rutaremara added: "If there was something that we could do to have more people tried from wherever they maybe or extradited, then we could consider adding the unit more staff. For now, though, I don't see the necessity," he said.

According to official figures, DR Congo and Uganda top the list of countries that habour most indicted Genocide fugitives at 254 and 226, respectively, followed by France (42), Malawi (42), Belgium 39, Kenya 28, Tanzania 25 and US (23). The others are Netherlands (18), Congo Brazzaville 16, Canada 14, Burundi 14. Mozambique 12, Zambia 11, Central African Republic (eight), Cameroon seven, Norway six, and Germany six.

Officials say that, of the 33 countries that received indictments for Genocide fugitives, only six have hitherto responded positively.

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