Leon Mugesera’s extradition: are Canadian judges alien to Rwandan realities?

Over the years, the narrative about the Rwandan genocide has radically evolved. From Hutu as bearers of the entire responsibility of such atrocity against Tutsis, and what such crime implies, things have changed in the way that it is presently reasonable to picture Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, as the main instigator of that abominable crime.

Despite many years of tergiversations, mainly providing a victor’s justice, even the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, started recently making some sense out the true context which characterized the period during which the genocide was committed. It is under such loop that some convicted perpetrators the tribunal had saw their sentences significantly reduced.

At the time ICTR seems apparently obliged to review its initial perspective of convicting its suspects, even those who were wrongly presumed genocide master minders, it looks surprising to note that Canadian judges consider Rwanda as a country where any justice can be done for a genocidaire who is presumed innocent until found guilty. This notwithstanding the fact the Rwandan government represented by Paul Kagame is itself accused of acts of genocide against Hutus in the Democratic Republic of Congo and crimes against humanity inside the country.

In his article that was published online in French on 8/1/12, Christian Mutware of Jambo News explains how the Rwandan community has been outraged by Canadian judges of extraditing Leon Mugesera to be judged in Rwanda.  The following is my English translation of the initial text.

Extradition of Leon Mugesera: The Rwandan community is outraged

“Mugesera will be tortured to death,” indicated the president of Congrès Rwandais du Canada, Emmanuel Hakizimana, while explaining his indignation about the deportation of Leon Mugesera to Rwanda where he would face a trial of “incitement to genocide.”

Indeed, the Rwandan community in exile is outraged by the decision of Canada to deport Mugesera to “his worst enemies.”  It is feared that, if extradited to Rwanda, the accused who has been living in exile in Canada since 1993, will not get a fair trial.

Thus opposition political parties FDU-Inkingi, Congrès Rwandais du Canada and the family of Leon Mugesera have each in turn denounced his extradition but instead requested that a trial be held under the law on universal jurisdiction for that former professor at the ’Institut Pédagogique National du Rwanda’

FDU-INKINGI expressed “their disapproval on the fact that  a democratic country like Canada could extradite a person to Rwanda whose life could seriously be endangered.”

Supporting arguments for FDU-Inkingi position are reflected in their press release on the matter, and include among others:

1 ° the Mapping Report of the UN in which the Kigali regime is accused of committing atrocities against Hutus in Congo in 1996, crimes that could be described as genocide.

2 ° the refusal to extradite to Rwanda other Rwandan nationals from several countries such as Sweden, Denmark, France, the Republic of South Africa; even the accused in  some ICTR cases.

3 The report of the Irish organization Refworld detailing the dangers faced by Rwandan refugees who would be subject to forced repatriation.

4 ° Rwanda is accused or suspected of assassination attempts and murders in different countries (South Africa, United Kingdom, Uganda …).

5 ° Political leaders are imprisoned: Victoire Ingabire, Me Bernard Ntaganda, Deo Mushayidi , Charles Ntakirutinka, Dr. Theoneste Niyitegeka and journalists and other anonymous whose only crime is to have criticized the Kagame regime.

On behalf of the ‘Congrès Rwandais du Canada,’ Emmanuel Hakizimana, its president and professor of economics at the University of Quebec in Montreal, said that “even if Rwanda abolished the death penalty in 2007, the country had always committed extra-judiciary killings.”

In the interview with the newspaper “Le Soleil”, he cites as an example the case of regime’s dissidents who have been tortured before being executed. “Kagame rejoices to know that Mugesera will be back,” declared M.  Hakizimana.

Indeed, in this regard, Mugesera’s lawyer said that according to experts we can hardly rely on promises of Rwanda and that “once there, Mr. Kagame would directly interfere.” In his opinion, no mistake should be made in deporting his client, since it would not be a surprise to learn later that he had been ‘killed by a road accident on his way to prison.’

In a phoneinterview with The Sun newspaper, Mugesera’s wife indicates, “It’s really hard, it’s very difficult, ‘ and adds, ‘Let me tell you this: we have followed the events of 1994 on television as you did. My husband was here. We arrived in Canada on August 12th, 1993. When they claim that it is him who killed people, this is unbelievable. I don’t know how to describe the fallacy!’

For Mugesera’s family and friends, extraditing him equates to condemning him to torture and cruel and humiliating barbaric death through extra-judiciary execution or disappear in the hands of his political enemies in power in Rwanda who have done everything to get him.’

Mugesera family cites as example the case of Ms Ingabire, assassination of Rwandan journalists or the inability to have a defense because even lawyers are imprisoned, Rwandan or foreign like the U.S. Peter Erlinder.

The family requests therefore that:

1. Mugesera not be deported to allow him to exercise his rights to appeal as permitted by Canadian laws and other concerned international conventions and treaties the country is a party to.

2.  The accused be judged in Canada, under Canadian law of universal jurisdiction.

In addition, Human Rights Watch in a report of 168 pages published Tuesday, May 31, 2011, had highlighted many “gaps and failures” and had cited “violations of the fundamental right to a fair trial and limits the ability of the accused to defend themselves effectively, decision-making can be biased (often caused by the relationship of the judges with the parties in a case or preconceived views of what happened during the genocide), leading to allegations of wrongful conviction ; allegations based on what turned out to be false accusations, related, in some cases, to the government’s desire to silence critics (journalists, human rights activists and government officials) or to disputes between neighbors and even among family members; intimidation by the courts or authorities of witnesses, attempted bribery against certain judges to get the desired verdict, and other serious procedural irregularities. ”

Extradition that raises questions

It is indeed questionable to see Canada, a country that has adopted a law on universal jurisdiction and without any treaty of extradition with Rwanda, to renounce to applying its competence which would allow to organize a trial that would be more equitable on its territory but rather opt for extradition to Rwanda of someone who lived under its protection for over 17 years with his family and is a Canadian citizen.

Let’s recall that RPF presently in power in Rwanda has blood on its hands for having killed Canadian citizens(Father Claude Simard, a native of Roberval, in the parish of Ruyenzi, was murdered October 17, 1994, and Father Guy Pinard, a native of Shawinigan, murdered in the parish of Kampanga, February 2, 1997 “embarrassing witnesses for a blood thirsty regime obsessed  with crime” (Onana 2002, p. 131, see also Philpot 2007, p. 65-89).

Under these conditions, given the points outlined above, it is legitimate to question the true nature of the extradition: is it political or legal?

 

Source: Jambonews

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