2013: the year that was in the justice sector
Rwanda was this year accused by the UN experts and donor countries, of supporting the M23 rebels in the DR Congo, an event in 2013, which led to the cutting of foreign aid, subsequently leading to a low economic performance at the start of this year.
Luckily enough the M23 have gone and Rwanda has been cleared of the accusation, and slowly by slowly the economy has recovered, with some donors reinstating Rwanda’s budget support, and the country now has prospects of even performing better among the top six African countries.
During the state of the nation address 2013, President Paul Kagame said that the country cannot afford moving backwards since it has made significant transformation which has resulted to European countries, through the European Court of Human rights, trusting the justice system to start extraditing genocide suspects to Rwanda.
He said that the recognition of Rwanda’s justice system was a basis for Rwanda to act more and especially speeding up the local court cases and process of justice.
“We must increase service delivery at all levels especially the grassroots. I repeat…we must make a step in service delivery, despite the fact that we are ranked well. This is not enough. What we have managed to achieve means that we can do better than that” he stressed.
Genocide cases in this year saw the Rwandan government winning the trust of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the European Courts of Justice agree that Rwanda was suitable place to prosecute genocide fugitives who have been arrested in various European countries, including France who in 2012 didn’t feel that the suspects would face fair justice.
Prior to June 2011, the ICTR rejected several requests from the ICTR Prosecutor to transfer detainees to Rwanda, saying that Rwanda did not fulfill the conditions for a fair trial. This year UN court has changed its position following a series of judicial reforms in Rwanda.
Some of the notable cases included the extradition of Leon Mugesera (Canada), Charles Bandora (Norway) and Bernard Munyagishari.
In 2014, it will be an eye opener as Rwanda prepares for the extradition of five UK based genocide suspects- Emmanuel Nteziryayo, Charles Munyaneza and Celestin Ugirashebuja who were all mayors (bourgmestres), plus Celestin Mutabaruka-former head of an agricultural project) and Vincent Bajinya (former medic), who was a medical doctor who have been living in London, UK.
Next year will also be interesting to see how French government will handle cases of genocide suspects, of whom it has been confirmed that they will be extradited to Rwanda.
Some of the French cases include – Pascal Simbikangwa, a former Rwandan intelligence officer, Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, who practicing in the Gisors parish of northern France, while France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, is expected to decide on an appeal against a decision to extradite two men of Rwandan origin, Claude Muhayimana and Innocent Musabyimana to Rwanda.
Closing of the ICTR into a residual court was a moment to reflect on whether justice was achieved. The ICTR has managed to indict some 93 people, all of whom were arrested with the exception of nine most wanted men – Augustin Bizimana, the Minister of Defence of the interim Government during the time of the atrocities;
FélicienKabuga, who is believed to have financed the genocide; Protais Mpiranya, who as Commander of the Presidential Guard Battalion in the Rwandan Army allegedly oversaw all the units in the battalion; as well as Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Charles Sikubwabo, Aloys Ndimbati, Ladislas Ntaganzwa and Charles Ryandikayo.
US Government also put a US$5 million cash bounty on these Genocide Fugitives and listed them among the most wanted in the world. The US ‘Reward for Justice’ Program still targeting genocide fugitives and the state department has pledged continued support to track down fugitives wanted for their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, to face justice
In the meantime, the ICTR has also postponed to the beginning of next year 2014, the hearing of cases of Mathieu, Ngirumpatse, who was president of the MRND, and his vice -president Karemera.
The 75 most high-profile genocide suspects were tried by a special U.N. tribunal based in Tanzania which has now finished hearing cases. Rwanda tried an estimated 2 million suspects through its “gacaca” system of community courts. It is estimated that 65 percent of those were convicted.
The sector also registered success with some of the cases of genocide suspects like Grégoire Ndahimana getting sentenced for their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
This year will also not go without mentioning the death of Rwandan born model Lina Keza, who was murdered by her former spouse David Kikaawa. This case caused a big uproar from the Rwanda communities locally and international, with social media becoming a means of criticizing the incident.
The good news was the UK Police has since managed to arrest and incarcerate Linah murder suspect- who actually turned himself in.