Arusha, 7 June 2008 (FH) - A British judge acquiesced the extradition request formulated by Rwanda against four men, accused by Rwanda of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, murder and looting committed in 1994.

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Vincent Banjinya, who is allegedly a former militia leader, Célestin Ugirashebuja, the former mayor of Kigoma, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Charles Munyaneza, respectively former mayors of Mudasomwa and Kinyamakara, were arrested at the end of December 2006 in Great Britain at the request of Rwanda. The hearing began in September 2007.

In the absence of an extradition agreement between the two countries, a temporary agreement had been established in September 2006. The decision rendered on 6 June must still be endorsed by the Foreign Secretary; following that, the defendants will have 14 days to appeal before the High Court.

The decision of the British judge is contrary to that rendered by the magistrates of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on 28 May, in which they refused to transfer Yussuf Munyakazi's case to Rwanda, giving the reason that the Rwandan legal system does not allow, to date, for a fair trial, due notably of the pressure exerted by the executive on the judges.

For Judge Anthony Evans, "the human rights violations in the country, accepted by all the parties, does not have a direct incidence on the question of a fair trial" because guarantees were put in place. On several points - witness protection, detention, etc - the judge based himself on the institutional act of 2007 (established to allow the reception of cases from the ICTR), and estimated that the fact that "the law had not yet been tested" did not constitute "an argument not to extradite".

For the judge, "it is good that the Rwandan government wants to prosecute the alleged authors of the genocide in their own country". He thumbed his nose at the project to transfer cases to other countries, estimating that "the prosecution of those who are implicated could not be treated in a more suitable way before different jurisdictions", except for the ICTR, "established for this objective". France has already seized two cases at the request of the ICTR, within the framework of the strategy to allow for the closing of the Tribunal by 2010, as imposed by the United Nations.

Anthony Evans did not give any consideration to reports from NGOs, to which he preferred the 2007 report by the American State Department, on which he rests on several occasions. The report from Human Rights Watch, "which I am certain, reflects the views of other NGOs working in Rwanda, he wrote, gives only anecdotic tests". He specified that these organizations continue to work in Rwanda and to produce critical reports.

For the magistrate, "there is really no objective evidence" according to which the influence of the executive "affects the judiciary". He estimated that official criticisms of Rwanda towards the ICTR are not exceptional, but reflect what "politicians universally" do. As for criticisms formulated against the Spanish judge, "it is not of itself sufficient proof", he estimates, contrary to the ICTR judges.

In his 129-page document, the judge estimated that some of the witnesses, called in this case, do not need protection. In addition, Anthony Evans, judged that the testimony of Paul Rusesabagina did not "weigh" because it seems to be "only one relentless opponent of the regime". And that of Jean-Damascène Ntagwanza, a member of the League for the Protection of Human Rights in Rwanda (LIPRODHOR), now in exile in Europe, is "not credible".


© Hirondelle News Agency