Rwanda calls for cooperation in bringing Genocide fugitives to book
Written by: George Kalisa
Wednesday, April 11th, 2018, 4:36
The Gacaca courts that started work in 2002 had tried 1,958,634 by 2012 when they officially closed. The Executive Secretary of National Commission for the fight against genocide, Dr. Jean Damascène Bizimana told George Kalisa in an exclusive interview that most African countries have not been cooperative in regard to implementing the 2017 AU resolution and UN Conventions related to genocide crimes and have not yet tried genocide fugitives of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi He said that 18 genocide fugitives have so far been extradited, deported or transferred to Rwanda and just between 2013 and 2017 about 4,682 convicts that were tried and earned sentence in prison by the Gacaca courts had appealed to the normal courts.
Q: What is the state of cooperation between Rwanda and countries harbouring the 1994 genocide fugitives still on the run regarding their arrest and extradition?
A: Thank you, the National Commission for the fight against genocide [CNLG) works closely with other institutions and law enforcement organs in Rwanda and outside the country to pursue and bring to book genocide suspects. We still have suspects of 1994 Genocide in the country that have evaded the prison sentences they had received. They were sentenced by Gacaca courts but are still on the run. There are about 2,500 and the number could even be bigger. The files we have, prove that they had been sentenced but they keep on moving from one district to another and changing the jobs they do to foil their identity.
Q: What about those living overseas?
A: Then, those who live overseas. There’re two important things to note. First, it is incumbent upon and under the mandate of the justice system to gather and produce evidence backed by the testimonies of witnesses and then scrutinize the files to establish where and when the suspects committed the crimes from.
What CNLG does is to follow the files of Gacaca and depending on tip-offs from the communities, we give a report to Rwandan courts. We try to identify where they currently live in collaboration with IBUKA and Diaspora communities in different countries. There is IBUKA in Belgium, Italy, Holland, Switzerland to whom we share information after identifying the country where the genocide perpetrators live.
We, also, utilize the diplomatic channels between other nations and Rwanda to bring these genocide fugitives to book. There’re mainly two options – those nations may decide to prosecute them using their justice systems, this particularly applies to suspects that hold the nationalities of the countries where they live because there’re countries that cannot extradite their citizens.
Alternatively, they may extradite them and be tried in Rwanda where they committed the genocide crimes.
Q: What does the law say?
A: According to United Nations Conventions that provide for the prevention genocide and punishment of genocide crimes there are two options. One, a genocide suspect can be tried in the country of his current residence. Two, they can be extradited to the countries where they committed the crime, in this case Rwanda. Some counties have, indeed, complied with the UN convention on this matter.
However, before trial they first carry out investigations where CNLG cooperates with judges and prosecutors from different countries. We facilitate them to access evidence, witnesses and/ or files and ruling that are obtainable at the Gacaca courts. We cooperate with Holland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Canada, Finland and Sweden.
The problem is still with the African countries in general. They’ve not cooperated as expected or according to the UN Conventions on genocide as regards the pursuance and arrest of the genocide criminal in their countries to face justice.
But, a few of them have cooperated during the two years or so. Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia are good example. We trust that other nations will follow suit because in April 2017 the AU adopted a resolution which obliges all AU member states to arrest and try the genocide suspects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi – which obliges them to put in place laws that punish for genocide denial of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. What is in the pipeline are the discussions with those countries that they implement the resolutions as soon as possible.
Q: How many genocide cases did the Gacaca courts handle and when did they officially close?
A: Gacaca courts tried 1,958, 634 with 10 years. They started in 2002 and closed in June 2012.
Q: What are the strategies in place to ensure that the genocide ideology is uprooted from the Rwandan society?
A: We’ve have many strategies of fighting genocide ideology. We do sensitization and teaching about the history of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi especially among the youth. We do outreaches in High schools, Universities and in prisons mostly because the youth don’t know the history of the genocide. We, also, meet Rwandans of different walks in Itorero ry’Igihugu. We invest a lot in sensitization. Secondly, we teach the different manifestations of genocide ideology because there many who don’t know for sure what is meant by genocide ideology. There’s a law that was enacted in 2013, which deeply explains the genocide ideology, its manifestations and nature of punishments.
We explain this law so that people can know not only the consequences but also what it involves to commit the crime related to genocide ideology. We utilize the first week of commemoration every year from April7-13 by organising discussions and public talks everyday on different issues related to the genocide – including explaining the dangers of genocide ideology, strategies and responsibility of fighting it, ways of punishing offenders, and we remind them that the law on genocide ideology is enshrined in the Constitution of 2003 and other laws and national policy.
Then, the crime of genocide ideology is committed because there’re no laws punishing offenders, so we’re in the process of discussions with the UN to put laws punishing those who deny the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and they are many outside still denying it. We want all genocides that have been recognized by the UN to be accorded the same status. Remember, those who deny the Jewish genocide are prosecuted and punished. Therefore, the argument we are presenting is that all people who deny genocide against the Tutsi be equally punished in accordance with the genocide conventions of December 9, 1948 that prevent and provide punishment for genocide criminals.
Q: How many genocide convicts have so far appealed to the normal courts after they alleged that they had not been satisfied with the Gacaca courts?
A: About 4,682 convicts have appealed as follows. Between 2013 and 2014 814 and 702 convicts appealed while in 2015, 2016 and 2017 records show 1197, 1154 and 815 respectively.
Q: any message to Rwandans as they remember the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi for the 24th time?
A: I call upon everyone to reflect on the bad history that Rwanda went through, remembering that the country is on the right track of development but the country has come from far. We shall remember under the theme “Renew, Remember, Unite”. It was the government and top leaders in the government that masterminded, prepared and executed the genocide. That is why there people who became victims of the genocide be it the young or elderly – who deserve to be respected. Rwandans were killed because they were Tutsi, yet no one chooses to be born the way he/she is. It was the bad government and leaders who sensitized others to kill Rwandans because of their identity. This is a lesson Rwandans must always remember and burry the genocide ideology.
I urge Rwandans to stand with our leader and testify about the development the leaders have started and implement especially at the time when enemies of the state want to reinvent the history of the country and accuse the leaders who stopped the genocide and preside over the steady fast social and economic transformation.
The discussions and topics of this year will base on the theme, the uniqueness of the genocide, genocide ideology and its manifestations and strategies to fight it.