31.08.07 - RWANDA/GENOCIDE - CREATION OF A SEARCH NETWORK FOR GENOCIDE FUGITIVE

The Hague, 31 August 2007 (FH) - Two organizations for the defence of human rights, Redress and African Rights, decided to set up a network intended to track genocide suspects that are still at large. 
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According to Jürgen Schurr, a German national, coordinator of the project, the two organizations will undertake to locate the suspects, to collect evidence to give to countries where genocide suspects have found refuge and to fight so that they are brought before justice. The team of African Rights, based in Kigali, will collect testimonies whereas Redress will transmit them in Europe.
 
Financed for a year by the Geneva based foundation OAK, this network will initially concentrate on five countries that have important Rwandan communities: France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom. "If the abolition of the death penalty in Rwanda is an important step, we do not concentrate on the requests for extradition because there are still many people awaiting their judgment, but rather on supplying elements of evidence, testimonies, and the localization of the suspects to address European countries" explains Jürgen Schurr.
 
The organization will work from the list drawn up by the principal state counsel's office of Kigali that was distributed to the chancelleries and on which features 93 genocide suspects in exile abroad, among which 37 are believed to be in Europe. This list was placed by Interpol on its database that gathers wanted persons. A list that the organization hopes to complete.
 
According to Jürgen Schurr, "a hundred suspects" would actually have found refuge in Europe. "They are perhaps not the most important, the planners of the genocide who are tried by the ICTR, but they had enough means to take refuge in Europe and undoubtedly count among the important persons". "Whereas the ICTR is on the point of closing its doors, it is essential to shoulder European countries and to motivate them to engage prosecution", he estimates.
 
The coordinator brushes aside any political exploitation of the project. "To investigate into the allegations which have been made, in particular in the political climate in which it has been set up, is the best way of getting rid of fallacious allegations. Talking about genocide is a serious charge and it is thus in our opinion crucial to investigate it" he said.
 
The commitment of European countries in the pursuit of war criminals is very unequal. At the foreground, the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium set up special teams charged with identifying and prosecuting the possible suspects of war crimes. In Denmark, a booklet invites immigration candidates to denounce suspects from their community. "We try to encourage certain countries to take the same route as utilized by the Netherlands and Denmark" explains Jürgen Schurr.
 
In 2002, the European Union set up a network of investigation of persons who committed war crimes. Since its creation, it has held four meetings. In May 2007, the meeting was devoted to Rwanda and was held in the presence of ICTR representatives, the international organization of police Interpol and the Attorney General of Rwanda. Within the network, prosecutors, judges and police officers engaged in specific technical discussions on the capacity of obtaining exhibits when crimes were committed in remote countries and on the protection of witnesses.
 
"For the moment, this European initiative has not receive great support, or at least not the support that we were expecting and it is also the raison d'être of our project. Such investigations require important financial means and countries have other priorities such as terrorism, organized crime, trafficking, even if they have signed international conventions on war crimes or torture. But if the investigations of war criminals do not appear in the priorities of countries, things are nevertheless evolving gradually ".
 
The first state sponsored initiative for searching for war criminals came from Britain and goes back to the Second World War. In Canada, a traditional land of exile, the government, since 1967, set up such a network, which aims at preventing "people accessory to war crimes or crimes against humanity to enter Canadian territory" and at taking "measures of execution necessary against those who succeed in entering Canada". Thus, on 27 April 1998, the members of the interim government in power between April and July 1994 in Rwanda were declared persona non grata in Canada.
 
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