Paris, October 28, 2011 (FH) - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on October 27 that "if extradited to stand trial in Rwanda, Sylvère Ahorugeze would not risk a flagrant denial of justice". If confirmed in appeal, this decision could reverse the jurisprudence regarding extraditions to Rwanda.

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Sylvère Ahorugeze, a Rwandan charged with genocide in his home country, had filed a complaint before the ECHR to dispute Sweden's decision to extradite him to Rwanda, notably on grounds that he would not be guaranteed a fair trial.

However, the ECHR stated that "referring to experience gathered by Dutch investigative teams and the Norwegian police during missions to Rwanda, the Court concluded that the Rwandan judiciary cannot be considered to lack independence and impartiality".

ICTR's recent decision to extradite genocide-accused Pastor Uwinkindi to Rwanda also strongly influenced the ECHR's judgment. The court asserted that "there had been no information leading to the conclusion that Hutus generally were persecuted or ill-treated in Rwanda", and that "the conditions in the prison in which Ahorugeze would be detained and, if convicted, would serve his sentence were satisfactory".

Sylvère Ahorugeze was the head of the Rwandan Civil Aviation Authority in 1994. In 2001, he moved to Denmark where he obtained a refugee status.

In 2007, Rwandan authorities requested his extradition from Denmark on suspicion of involvement in genocide and crimes against humanity. According to a press release issued on October 27 by the Registrar of the ECHR, "as no evidence was presented in support (...) the Danish authorities did not respond to that request".

In July 2008, The Rwandan embassy in Stockholm informed Swedish authorities that Ahorugeze was visiting their country. As a result, Sweden apprehended him in compliance with an international arrest warrant. The Rwandan prosecution immediately requested Ahorugeze's extradition so that he could be tried for genocide, murder, extermination and involvement with a criminal gang.

The extradition request was accepted in July 2009, leading the defendant to file an appeal before the ECHR.

On July 27, 2011, Ahorugeze was released from detention after two years in remand custody. He was allowed to join his family in Denmark, where the ECHR's decision took him by surprise.

"We were not expecting this decision. M. Ahorugeze was shocked", his Swedish lawyer Hans Bredberg told Hirondelle News Agency on Friday. He added that, if his client were to be extradited, no Rwandan would agree to testify in his defence. "Even his close relatives, who still leave in Rwanda, would not want to testify", he asserted.

Sylvère Ahorugeze has three months to appeal the case. Hans Bredberg said that he will take into account the upcoming ICTR appeals court decision concerning the extradition of Pastor Uwinkindi.


© Hirondelle News Agency