Calls grow for UK to help bring 5 key Genocide suspects to book
Survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi have once again called on the United Kingdom to either put on trial or extradite five suspects who have been living in this country for more than two decades.
The key suspects are; Vincent Bajinya, Celestin Ugirashebuja, Charles Munyaneza, Emmanuel and Celestin Mutabaruka.
Rwanda first notified the UK government of the presence of these suspects on its soil back in 2007 when they issued indictments.
An extradition battle ensued with Rwandan prosecution winning the first case in 2008 before the suspects appealed on the grounds that they would not get fair hearing in Rwanda. In 2009, an appeals court ruled in their favour.
Rwanda made a fresh extradition bid at Westminster Magistrates Court in 2013 following judicial reforms but again it lost.
However, In 2015 and in 2017, a British District Court and the High Court ruled respectively, that there was compelling evidence of the involvement of the five in the genocide against the Tutsi, but none of them could be extradited to Rwanda because that would breach their human rights.
The court did not rule on what would be done to bring the group to justice.
The Executive Secretary of the umbrella organisation of survivors associations; Ibuka, Naphtal Ahishakiye told The New Times in a telephone interview that the UK owes a big ‘justice debt’ to victims and survivors.
“There are survivors who are no longer with us who passed on years later knowing that people like Bajinya are living a comfortable and free life in the UK. It is unfair and the UK owes those who are gone and those who are still here a big debt of justice debt,” he said.
Ahishakiye said that as long as there is little to no political will, delivering justice to the victims and survivors is going to continue being a challenge.
“It is discouraging because if they cannot put on trial or extradite these five, what about the rest? The fact that these five are now elderly is a reminder that indeed justice has not only been delayed, it has been denied,” he said.
He called on the UK to pick a leaf from countries like The Netherlands which has tried and even extradited some suspects.
Demeaning to the victims
The president of the Alumni of Genocide Survivors’ Students Association (GAERG), Egide Gatari, says to survivors, this can be interpreted as undermining those who were killed and the ones that survived.
“As survivors, the only thing that we request for is justice. Hearing that a country like the UK that has functional laws and a reputable human rights record continues to protect those who participated in the killings can be interpreted as not giving value to the innocent people that were brutally killed and those that survived,” he said.
He said that this is a reminder that the UK has adamantly declined to understand or even participate in the aftershocks of the genocide including adamantly refusing to call the genocide against the Tutsi its actual name.
Not seeking revenge
In April this year, the Minister of Justice and State Attorney Johnston Busingye told Members of the United Kingdom House of Lords and other Members of the British Parliament that Rwanda is not interested in revenge and will 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 said.
Members of the United Kingdom House of Lords earlier this year announced the formation of a group that is expected to urge the UK government to bring to justice genocide fugitives who are still roaming in the country.
Busingye reminded that it has been 15 years of attempts to bring the five to justice saying that when extradition was denied, Rwanda had agreed to a trial by the UK courts.
“We are still watching and waiting, 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,” he said.
Who are these suspects?
Vincent Bajinya, who has now changed his name to Vincent Brown, was a medical doctor who at the time of the Genocide headed the then National Population Office (ONAPO). He is said to have been a coordinator of a militia in the capital Kigali, with several witness accounts alleging that he organised regular meetings in his home in the days preceding the Genocide where plans to kill the Tutsi were hatched.
The other one is Celestin Mutabaruka, presently a Pentecostal preacher in the UK.
Mutabaruka, who at the time of the Genocide was running Crête Zaïre-Nil (CZN), a forest management organisation in Musebeya, southern Rwanda, is accused of having led a gang of killers that murdered many people on Muyira Hill in Bisesero in mid May 1994, among other atrocities.
The other three – Charles Munyaneza, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Celestin Ugirashebuja– were bourgmestres (mayors) for the communes (districts) of Kinyamakara, Mudasomwa and Kigoma, respectively, all in southern Rwanda.
Munyaneza and Nteziryayo, whose communes fell under what was then Gikongoro prefecture, are accused of giving orders to exterminate over 50,000 Tutsi who had sought refuge at Murambi technical school during the Genocide.
Ugirashebuja is accused of commanding Interahamwe militia to kill thousands of Tutsi in his commune, according to witness accounts.