Rwanda: Genocide Fugitives and the Protracted Pursuit for Justice

Photo: New Times
Genocide suspect Wenceslas Twagirayezu in the hands of Rwanda National Police officers upon arrival at Kigali International Airport after he was extradited from Denmark in December, 2018.

Since the establishment of the Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit (GFTU) at the National Public Prosecution Authority in November 2007, a lot has been done in the quest to arrest Genocide fugitives even as the journey has not been smooth.

This is according to Prosecutor-General, Jean Bosco Mutangana, told The New Times.

Mutangana, who was the Head of the GFTU at that time of its creation, explained that investigations started from scratch with limited information on the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and their whereabouts.

"It was also not easy for witnesses to come direct on board to adduce evidence which would amount into a prima-facie case," he said.

"Host countries to alleged suspects of genocide also reacted very slowly on our call to apprehend Genocide fugitives. So, as time went on, countries especially from Europe and some from North America contributed to our call for justice either through trial in their domestic jurisdiction or extradited fugitives to have them tried in Rwanda."

Since 2007, some 1,012 indictments and warrants have been issued in 32 countries in Africa, Europe, North America and Australia.

Kigali acknowledges there are challenges, including the fact that fugitives constantly change their address and nationality, lack of bilateral treaties with many countries hosting fugitives and a lack of political will in some countries.

Some fugitives also often disguise their genocide cases as political persecution, while those who have obtained nationalities of the host country are hard extradite, Rwanda government officials say.

Optimism

Mutangana said: "Yes, there is hope. Our justification for hope is based on the reaction of some countries on their efforts to hold accountable Genocide fugitives by either trying them in their jurisdiction or sending them to Rwanda for trial."

About 22 Genocide fugitives, including eight in Belgium, two in Canada, and three in Sweden, have been tried in those respective countries.

According to the NPPA, the remaining 21 cases have been completed, with 20 cases leading into convictions with sentences ranging from life imprisonment as the highest to six years imprisonment as the lowest, and one acquittal.

In addition, government says, about 19 Genocide fugitives have been returned - extradited, transferred or deported to Rwanda.

While the now defunct International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) made three transfers, the Netherlands has extradited two and deported one.

The USA has deported four, Denmarkextradited two and Norway one. Malawi transferred one while neighbouring Uganda has deported three, and Canada two, among others.

Set a good example

Mutangana said: "These trials abroad and extradition to Rwanda set a good example for other countries which have not reacted to follow suit, this is what gives us hope that there will be no impunity no matter how long it may take."

Moreover, not everyone involved in this campaign is that cheerful in the face of obstacles such as lack of political will, and time.

Regarding why the pursuit for justice has taken long in his native France, Alain Gauthier, president of Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR), which has for two decades worked to bring dozens of Genocide suspects living there to book, observed that they will not give up despite the impediments.

It is only belatedly, he noted, that a semblance of effective measures to go after Genocide fugitives were taken by Paris.

France alone is home to, among others, Agathe Kanziga, widow of former President Juvenale Habyarimana, Manasse Bigwenzare, a former judge, Sosthene Munyemana, nicknamed "the butcher of Tumba" for atrocities he was involved in southern Rwanda, and Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a Catholic priest accused of having a direct hand in killings in parts of Kigali.

In January 2012 of a team of investigating judges of the "pôle crimes contre l'humanité" was established in the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) of Paris to investigate cases of Rwandans implicated in the Genocide.

Moreover, Gauthier added, the role of the French government of 1994 has never really been recognized by the country's politicians.

"All this only delays the judgment of fugitives. It should also be noted that the prosecution of those suspected of having participated in the genocide and residing in France is based solely on the work of associations such as the CPCR, which has filed the last 25 complaints," Gauthier said.

"The Public Prosecutor's Office recently decided to prosecute two people. But it is a recent decision. Another fact: France refuses to extradite persons targeted by an international arrest warrant sent by Rwanda. To date, 42 such refusals are known to us."

Finally, he noted, it must be recognized that, since crimes were committed far from France, investigations by French judges and gendarmes require a lot of time.

Where is the hope?

Gauthier hopes that French justice can continue the work undertaken in recent years.

"We hang onto life long enough to continue our own work," he said.

Time is running out, the 70-year-old noted, since it is working in favour of the mass murderers.

The retired high school principal and his Rwandan wife, Dafroza Gauthier - a Genocide survivor - started CPCR in 2001to ensure that Genocide suspects living in France and across Europe are brought to book.

"It is more and more difficult to collect testimonies: the memory fails, survivors do not want to talk anymore. Do not forget that some survivors still live in fear. And families of killers do not hesitate to give them money to make them shut up!"

Despite all challenges, Gauthier said, one has to remain confident.

"We will try to do the maximum we can, although we are aware that we will not be able to prosecute all those who have taken refuge in France."

An inquiry by Washington, DC, law firm Cunningham Levy Muse LLP, in 2017 detailed afresh the involvement of France in the planning and execution of the 1994 Genocide.

Genocide researcher Tom Ndahiro acknowledges, and thanks, countries that have cooperated in Rwanda's pursuit for justice.

But he too remains bothered by the fact that such fugitives still boast strong friends in the international community.

Ndahiro said: "Thanks to some countries that managed to extradite or try some of the genocidaires. But, we still have many more countries that don't care at all about justice and allow impunity to prevail."

"The U.K, Vatican, Netherlands, France, several African nations, and others do not seem to care at all. It is as if Genocide [to these countries] is not a crime but a misdemeanour. I am not very optimistic because history shows little to give me hope to see positive change."

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