Rwanda: What's Holding Back Extradition Treaties?

Photo: New Times
Genocide suspect Bernard Munyagishari arrives at Kigali International Airport in August 2017.
16 October 2017

Rwanda's quest to have extradition treaties with several countries across the world are being derailed, potentially delaying delivery of justice.

Over the last seven years, Rwanda has put out about 39 extradition treaty requests, 18 of them with African countries. However, even on the continent itself, only three have been signed with officials at the Ministry of Justice saying there is need for increased diplomacy and negotiations.

So far, only Ethiopia, Zambia and Malawi have signed and ratified binding extradition treaties with Rwanda.

Providence Umurungi, the head of international justice and judicial cooperation at the ministry, told The New Times that signing treaties would expedite extradition of Genocide fugitives.

"We have very many indictments for Genocide fugitives who are mostly in Africa. We have been trying to sign extradition treaties, and we have secured six extradition treaties so far out of eighteen in Africa. This year we signed three, Malawi, Zambia and Ethiopia. We are negotiating to sign another one with Mozambique," she said.

Surprisingly, a number of African countries have not been very cooperative in this regard but the authorities are keen to continue using diplomacy and negotiations.

"It is not very encouraging in regards to African countries and we are having to do a lot of diplomacy and negotiating. But where we have these treaties, they are ready to cooperate," she added, citing Malawi.

The department is aiming at securing more treaties by 2020 to ensure that fugitives are brought to book. Without treaties, Rwanda could face challenges of extraditing suspects who have committed crimes in Rwanda but have since fled the country as is often the case with several Genocide fugitives.

New dedicated department

It was in this regard that the Justice ministry set up the Department of International Justice and Judicial Cooperation tasked with overseeing the putting in place and implementation of such treaties.

"In regards to our policy, we previously only had a unit in the Genocide fugitive and tracking unit and now at the Ministry of Justice we have a Department of International Justice and Judicial Cooperation," Umurungi said.

On whether joint lobbying by the East African Community could facilitate the signing of more treaties, Umurungi said that it could come in handy.

"As a bloc, joint lobbying can work as the region negotiates for political partnership with other countries. It is largely because of political interest and their relations with Rwanda," she said.

The department is targeting Southern African countries, where there are a number of fugitives at large.

Currently, the department is working to close a treaty with Mozambique in the coming days.

However, despite the lack of extradition treaties, some countries in Europe such as The Netherlands have extradited fugitives to Rwanda as they are not required to have such treaties.

When contacted on the issue, a number of foreign envoys who spoke on condition of anonymity said the lack of the extradition treaties could be due to the nature of their legal frameworks and would require input from their respective legislature.

Others said their countries are in full support of the bringing fugitives to justice by extraditions but the process is often delayed by bureaucratic processes in their countries.

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