Rwandan genocide - extradition found to breach Article 6

On 22 December 2015, following a case which has lasted for more than two years in the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court, Deputy Senior District Judge Arbuthnot discharged five men from a Rwandan extradition request relating to the 1994 genocide.

 

The decision marks the culmination of an nine year battle on behalf of the Government of Rwanda to secure extradition of the men, who are alleged to have participated in the genocide. In 2006, the Government of Rwanda and the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding which gave rise to the first set of extradition proceedings in 2007. The Secretary of State ordered that extradition should take place, and all defendants appealed to the High Court. In a landmark decision of the High Court in 2009, Lord Justice Laws ruled that extradition would breach Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the risks of witness intimidation and absence of judicial independence in Rwanda.

 

Following a shift in the approach of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2009, when the Court started to transfer genocide cases to the Rwandan High Court for trial and a number of European jurisdictions followed suit, the Government of Rwanda signed a second Memorandum of Understanding with the UK and launched the second round of extradition requests in 2013. The second extradition hearing started in April 2014.

 

Since then, the case has centred around the political regime in Rwanda, the provisions of Rwanda's Transfer Law, and the ability of the Rwandan criminal justice system to provide fair trial rights in genocide cases. The case has heard evidence from witnesses across the world, including  evidence from a range of political scientists and lawyers specialising in the Rwandan genocide. A number of lawyers in the case travelled to Kigali, Rwanda in order to investigate the position of defence witnesses. The case was considered by the United Kingdom Supreme Court in 2014 during an interlocutory judicial review relating to anonymous witness evidence. The case has involved detailed consideration of the recent jurisprudence of the ICTR and the ongoing genocide trials in the High Court in Rwanda.

 

In refusing to send the defendants' case to the Secretary of State, Judge Arbuthnot found:

 

"From the evidence I heard and read I have no doubt at all that the overall picture of Rwanda is of an authoritarian repressive state that is not less so than it was and is probably more so than in 2008-9, a state that is stifling opposition in a number of ways. There is evidence that the state is suspected of threatening and killing those it considers to be its opponents or they simply disappear at home and abroad. There is evidence that suspects can be tortured in secret camps where basic human rights are ignored."

 

In Government of Rwanda v. VB and Others, Celestin Ugirashebuja was represented by Edward Fitzgerald QC and Kate O'Raghallaigh, instructed by Namita Pawa at Hallinan Blackburn Gittings and Nott. Charles Munyaneza was represented by Tim Moloney QC, instructed by O'Keeffe's Solicitors.

 

For BBC coverage of the judgment, see here.

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