Rwanda: Busingye Urges UK to Expedite Trial of Genocide Suspects

The statue depicting the valour and heroism that was manifested during 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi by Rwandan Patriotic Front (now Rwanda Defence Force) soldiers (file photo).

The Minister of Justice, Johnston Busingye, has expressed gratitude to the UK Members of Parliament (MPs) who are pushing for the trial of suspects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi who are roaming freely in the European nation.

Busingye who also doubles as the Attorney General, made the remarks on April 26, during a virtual discussion with a group of UK MPs and House of Lords (APPG on war crimes).

The discussion revolved around genocide suspects living freely in the UK.

Busingye said that around 2007 Rwanda located on the territory of the UK, five key Genocide suspects. They are Dr. Vincent Bajinya (a medical doctor who at the time of the Genocide headed the then National Population Office (ONAPO), Celestin Mutabaruka (a pastor), Charles Munyaneza, Emmanual Nteziryayo and Celestin Ugirashebuja (who were Burgomasters (mayors) for the communes of Kinyamakara, Mudasomwa and Kigoma, respectively, all in southern Rwanda.)

Busingye expressed Rwanda's gratitude to the members of the APPG on war crime and to acknowledge the cross party effort that was inaugurated on March 3, 2021.

The group was formed to look into matters relating to the presence of alleged Rwandan war criminals in the UK and the prosecution of those who participated in the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994.

"Finally, a UK Cross Party Parliamentary Group will stand with us in pursuit of justice in a matter whose beginning we all know but whose end we grow more disillusioned about each day that passes," he said.

In the aftermath of the genocide, Busingye observed, one key thing to do was to ensure justice for the victims by bringing to justice those suspected of involvement.

Delayed justice, safe haven for the fugitives

Busingye indicated that given the UK's refusal to be a safe haven for Nazi war criminals that culminated in the passing of the war crimes Acts in 1990, and the subsequent action on individual suspects, Rwanda made every effort to secure the extradition of the five fugitives.

However, he added, it was fruitless.

In 2015 and in 2017 a British District Court and the High Court ruled that there was compelling evidence of the involvement of the five in the genocide against the Tutsi, but, Busingye said, none could be extradited to Rwanda 'because that would breach their human rights'.

"The High Court didn't rule on what could be done. For the 5 fugitives the way forward was clear as day; British justice had afforded them a securer safe haven on a blank cheque," the Minister observed.

However, he said that as British justice doubted the quality of Rwanda's justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and countries including the United States, Canada, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden ruled that Rwanda's justice met international standards and extradited fugitives to face justice.

"Its 15 years of attempts to bring the five [Genocide suspects in the UK] to justice. We tried extradition it was refused, we agreed. We requested in-country trials, it was accepted. We were asked to provide support; we, needless to say, accepted and did," he said.

But, he said, four years have elapsed and Rwanda is still watching and waiting for the one signal that will show the genocide victims, in their lifetime, that finally there is commitment to bring these fugitives to justice.

"It seems that the one thing known about this rule of law and accountability process is that we will not be seeing the start of the trials of these men anytime soon. Dear friends, Rwanda does not seek revenge and will not," he said.

"Rwanda does not prejudge the five suspects, whether they are innocent or guilty will be decided by courts. All we seek is that due process is followed and that justice, so far delayed, does not end up denied," he indicated.

Meanwhile, he said, the UK's failure to act on these five fugitives should also be seen from this unfortunate angle; that by default it amounts to implicitly enabling genocide denial.

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