The Netherlands has finally made an important step after extraditing Genocide suspects who have been expecting the country to give them eternal safe haven.
Two Rwandan genocide suspects who have lived and enjoyed protection by the Dutch justice, beating the legal loopholes for years, have finally arrived in Rwanda to face charges of genocide crimes back home.
Jean-Baptiste Mugimba 56, and Jean Claude Iyamuremye 38, arrived at Kigali International airport 19.10hrs local time aboard KLM royal Dutch Airlines on extradition orders to account for their role in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi that claimed over a million lives.
After arriving at the airport, the two suspects remained inside the plane for about 20 minutes for other passengers to disembark in the commercial flight which had other passengers from Amsterdam.
Silently and diplomatically with none of them saying a word, they disembarked the plane and entered in the detention van filmed by the media teams which included a Dutch based public TV -BNNVARA.
Iyamuremye aka ‘Nzinga’ was arrested in July 2013 at Voorburg, Netherlands. His case was referred to a Dutch court of First Instance in The Hague in October 2014 for an extradition hearing to face trial in Rwanda. Rwanda’s request was granted, but was never executed.
He is accused of involvement in the massacre of Tutsi who were hiding at former Ecole Technique Officielle de Kicukiro in Kigali in April 1994 and to burn houses of the Tutsi.
Mugimba, who was an employee of the National Bank of Rwanda, was arrested at his home in Leusden pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by Rwanda on 22 November 2012. He is accused of committing genocide in Nyakabanda area in Kigali city where he was Secretary General of the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR)- an extremist ethnic party.
He also used to distribute arms to the militia interahamwe, and to decide where, in Kigali, roadblocks to kill Tutsi were to be erected, according to prosecution.
After several appeals by the suspects, The Netherlands courts still ruled in favor of Rwanda government.
“This means 15 more suspects remain in The Netherlands out of the 18 deportation requests Rwanda made to the Dutch government,” said Jean Bosco Siboyintore, head of Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit.
Siboyintore also revealed that in the extradition agreement, Rwanda and The Netherlands agreed the two suspects will be monitored by Dutch judicial monitoring team.
The two suspects are the first to be sent in a group and they mark a decisive step by The Netherlands to cooperate more than ever with Rwanda in trying Genocide suspects.
The Netherlands Justice and Security minister visited Rwanda in 2014 where he said his country was ready to extradite or deport some genocide suspects to Rwanda soon.
However, last year, a parliamentary committee of The Netherlands who made a trip to Rwanda said their country needed more time to decide extradition.
“We are not a country where criminals should expect safe haven. But we are a country of peace and we need to always strike a balance between the two,” Sharon Sesthuizen, head of delegation said then.
Commenting on the extradition, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) Jean Baptise Bizimana said this is the best justice move and reassurance of hope for justice to be served.
“These have been long waited cases for Rwanda to see justice served. We have for several years asked for this to happen and it has taken so long due to delays in implementation,” said Bizimana.
Western countries, like France have been a safe haven for many Rwandan genocide suspects but the recent turnaround by some countries, except for France, to extradite the suspects serves as a warning to those in their hideouts.
Last week, the UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson was in Rwanda where he assured Rwandans that he will do his best to have all genocide suspects arrested as a way of bringing justice to genocide survivors.
“We will do our best to back Rwanda in this cause to bring the fugitives to justice,” Eliasson said while commending Rwanda for the steps taken in the unity and reconciliation. “This step is a good model to the world.”
So far Rwanda has issued about 300 Interpol Red Notices alerting the world about wanted fugitives.
Out of them, 17 were arrested and tried in host countries while about 75 others were tracked, arrested and extradited to Arusha during the mandate of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Other 13 fugitives were extradited from other countries to Rwanda.
The most recent extradition is of the notorious genocide mastermind suspect Dr. Leopald Munyakazi who was transferred to Rwanda in September.
He is currently under court detention as he waits to face hearing on his counts of genocide crimes.