The East African on October 2, 2011 released the following:
“By A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT, The EastAfrican
Rwanda is coming under renewed global pressure to craft new strategies to arrest wanted genocide suspects from their hide outs ahead of next year’s UN court deadline.
Seventeen years after the 1994 genocide, at least 65 of the key masterminds remain at large despite efforts to track down genocide fugitives.
Concern is mounting ahead of the 2012 deadline when the mandate of the Arusha based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) — the UN court set up to deal with the atrocities — expires.
Nine of the most wanted genocide masterminds remain at large, with a bounty of $5 million each on their head under the US Rewards for Justice Programme since 2004.
Despite the incentive, some of the most wanted suspects remain untouched; notable among them is Felicien Kabuga, an alleged financier of the Rwanda genocide who has been rumoured to be hiding in Kenya.
Only 32 fugitives have been arrested by Interpol out of the over 97 red notices (arrest warrants) issued.
“It’s a huge problem.
They also have access to resources that allow them to hide from capture. But just to remind you; it took 10 years to track down Osama bin Laden,” said Ronald Noble, the Secretary General of Interpol, adding there was a need for a new strategy to fast track the arrest of the fugitives who have become “more elusive.”
“The fugitives usually move under false names and travel documents to evade arrest with 10 genocide suspects so far arrested with false documents,” he said. However, the Interpol chief observed that with increasing regional and cross-border cooperation among countries, progress has been made towards limiting the movements of the fugitives, citing recent arrests of genocide fugitives in Uganda and DRC.
However, Rwanda is on the verge of achieving a major breakthrough as several European countries holding fugitives have finally looked into the possibility of extraditing the suspects to face trial in Rwanda.
Among countries Rwanda has been involved in a long-standing debate with requests to have suspects extradited home are France, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark.
The argument has been that Rwanda does not have competent courts to accord extradited individuals a fair trial, a claim Rwanda dismisses.
“We have always been ready. Our position is clear, we are ready to take on these cases,” Rwanda’s Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said.
Several requests, including some to the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), have been turned down in the past on the same grounds. However, earlier this year, some countries including Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden and the ICTR itself, began to give in, agreeing to the argument that Rwanda has made some major reforms in the judiciary and can try some of these cases.
Norway has said it would extradite Charles Bandora, a genocide suspect who roamed several African countries before ending up in the Scandinavian country, but he appealed the decision in the European Human Rights Court (EHRC), which is yet to decide.
The Netherlands on the other hand has appreciated several reforms in the justice sector, some of which it finances, but it is yet to extradite any of the several suspects in Dutch jails. It will all depend on the EHRC.
The same is the case with Sylvere Ahorugeze in Sweden.
But then, just as Rwanda braces itself for the first ever extraditions from a European country, human rights watchdogs including Human Right Watch (HRW), Amnesty International and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) are opposing the development. The groups have argued before the Strasbourg-based European court that Rwanda does not yet have a judiciary that is independent enough to accord the fugitives a fair trial.
“In theory, Rwanda is reforming its judiciary, but in practice those measures are still insufficient,” Carina Tertsakian from Human Rights Watch told the International Justice Tribune.
Ms Tertsakian, whose work permit was cancelled in April last year by Rwanda immigration authorities, and the representatives of Amnesty International and CHRI argue that the trials of the suspects risk being “politicised,” once transferred to Rwanda.
Mr Ngoga, however, dismissed the allegations, instead accusing the rights group of attempting to derail a process that was reaching a “promising stage.”
Mr Ngoga insists that organisation such as HRW, which has had a number of run-ins with the Rwandan government and Amnesty International, are determined to frustrate efforts to ensure justice takes its course.
“These organisations are always ready and opportunely present to oppose every initiative that would bring back to Rwanda genocide fugitives,” Mr Ngoga said.”
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