Fight against impunity

Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Claver Gatete
Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Claver Gatete

Fight against impunity not Rwanda’s task alone – Amb Gatete

James Karuhanga, The New Times, 12th June 2023

Justice for the victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda is not merely about prosecution; it is about timely justice, Rwanda’s permanent representative to the UN, Amb. Claver Gatete, stressed on Monday, June 12.

Gatete was speaking at the UNSC debate on the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) when he, among other things, noted that Kigali welcomes the cooperation extended by the law enforcement agencies of South Africa, Mozambique, and Eswatini, which led to the May 24 arrest of genocide fugitive Fulgence Kayishema who had been on the run for 22 years.

Kayishema, a former head of the Rwandan genocidal government’s judicial police who evaded arrest by using multiple aliases and, among others, disguised himself as a Burundian national and then as a Malawian, was one of the fugitives on the defunct ICTR’s most-wanted list.

Gatete added: “Every delay in this process equates to justice denied. It’s disheartening that the pace of justice is slowed by a lack of cooperation from some member states, despite clear Security Council mandates and judiciary instruments urging such cooperation.

The UK is one of the few countries in the West yet to try, extradite or deport Rwandan Genocide suspects. The key genocide suspects in the UK include Dr Vincent Bajinya, who is accused of coordinating killings in Kigali’s Nyarugenge District where he set up and led a roadblock to kill the Tutsi. Others are Célestin Ugirashebuja, Charles Munyaneza, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Pierre Célestin Mutabaruka who headed the agricultural and livestock project, Crête Zaïre Nil – CZN. Mutabaruka, a pastor, is accused of leading an attack on a church in April 1994 in which 20,000 Tutsi were killed.

He said that such delays not only hinder the pursuit of justice but also impede the opportunity for criminals to face trial and be held accountable for their crimes.

“A recent instance highlighting this issue is the Trial Chamber of the Residual Mechanism decision ruling that Félicien Kabuga is unfit to continue standing trial—a deeply disheartening outcome for the survivors, victims, and the people of Rwanda as a whole.”

He highlighted that the international community has officially confirmed Rwanda’s ability to conduct genocide trials in complete compliance with international due process standards.

“In recent years, as emphasized in Prosecutor [Serge] Brammertz’sreport, Rwanda has effectively carried out trials and appeals for cases referred to it by the Mechanism. Nonetheless, considering the substantial volume of appeals, we continue to welcome the ongoing partnership and support provided by the Mechanism.”

1,148 indictments in 33 countries

As of June 2023, Rwanda has issued 1,148 indictments against genocide suspects in 33 countries and the Interpol Secretariat.

Available information indicate that at least 84 per cent od these indictments were sent to 18 African countries.

“Furthermore, we call upon the rest of the nations, particularly those where indictments have been issued, to double their efforts in arresting the remaining fugitives within their jurisdictions.”

Despite the provision in Article 28(3) of the Mechanism statute for assisting national authorities in the prosecution of serious violations of international humanitarian law, Gatete said, “we observe an inexplicable reluctance from some states to cooperate.” This inaction, he said, in the face of available options for deportation, extradition, or conducting trials within their territories, hinders the fight against impunity.

Gatete extended Kigali’s gratitude to countries that demonstrated commitment to justice by extraditing or prosecuting fugitives on their soil, noting that their action reinforces the belief that the pursuit of justice is not insurmountable but merely requires the will to act.

Each year in April, he said, UN member states stand with Rwandans as they commemorate the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

“They show us compassion and acknowledge our resilience. However, when we send the indictments, our appeals are often met with silence. We need Member States to demonstrate solidarity in our pursuit of justice, as they do when we commemorate.”

Not a task Rwanda should shoulder alone

Rwanda and Rwandans have come a long way from the dark events of 1994, Gatete said, stressing that, however, having prominent genocide perpetrators remaining active in the spread of genocide ideology and incitement right on the country’s borders threatens the hope of a truly peaceful society.

He called for reflection on the plight of survivors, whose peace is continually disturbed by the knowledge that perpetrators are still at large. “They yearn for the day when justice will no longer be delayed, when the guilty will finally answer for their actions, and when the victims can find solace in knowing that their suffering has not been forgotten,” Gatete said.

“Let me reiterate that the fight against impunity is not a task that Rwanda should shoulder alone. It is a collective responsibility that we, as the global community, must undertake. We plead with all Member States to consider the gravity of the crimes committed during the genocide against the Tutsi, the prolonged suffering of the survivors, and the potential instability that the ongoing impunity poses.”

Rwanda, he said, pleads with all UN member states to consider the gravity of the crimes committed during the 1994 genocide, the prolonged suffering of the survivors, and the potential instability that the ongoing impunity poses.

“Each day that a fugitive remains free is another day that justice is delayed. And as we all know, justice delayed is justice denied.”

Speaking “as a voice for the victims and survivors” of the genocide against the Tutsi, Gatete appealed to all member states to demonstrate their solidarity not just through words of sympathy, but through decisive action.

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