Genocidairs in Holland?

Friday, october 4, 2013

This week, Jean Claude Iyamuremye living in Voorburg, a small city in Holland,  was arrested in a Dutch prison. Rwanda asked for his extradition.  Iyamuremye was in custody since july 9, 2013.  Although the Dutch press never gives the full name of a suspect, I do so, because every news item abroad uses his full name. Also by using his full name, there can be no mistake about identity. 

Iyamuremye is accused of massmurder at a school in Kigali. On april 11, 1994 2.000 Tutsi were killed, after the UN peace corps retreated from the zone, said spokesperson Wim de Bruin of the prosecutors office to AFP in july this year. According to De Bruin  Iyamuremye was a leader of the Interahamwe. He says information of Rwandan authorities and witness statements points to more massmurders and intimidation of Tutsi's. A Dutch judge determines october 8, if  Iyamuremye can be send to Rwanda; it would be a first for Holland.

Let me be very clear: I think genocidairs should be traced and punished. People who committed atrocities should do penance. I don't know  Iyamuremye, I don't know his background. But the Netherlands lately has become very compliant if it comes to questions from Rwanda concerning genocidairs.

The tracing and judging of possible genocidairs is tricky and time consuming. The prosecutors office is fully aware of that after two trials in which both accused were found guilty. For Iyamuremye, the prosecutor says, there is not enough evidence, and that's the reason they consider extradition to Rwanda. It saves them a lot of trouble, money and time. Iyamuremye is not the only one accused of genocide, there are approximately 15 to 20 other Rwandan who face extradition.

There is no extradition treaty with Rwanda. Holland finds the judicial system still too weak. That's remarkable, because Holland supported that system with millions. Judges and prosecutors were trained, a modern prison was built for example. Because there is no treaty, the prosecutor refers to the European Court (ruling october 2011). The court said that extradition of a genocide suspect is not in conflict with human rights, because the suspect can expect a fair trial in Rwanda. 

Big question is off course of Iyamuremye can expect a fair trial in Rwanda. According to Rwandan-Dutch suspects of genocide it are mostly opponents of president Paul Kagame who are accused. They all run the risk of extradition, the withdrawal of their Dutch passport or their residents permit. This is possible according to article 1F of the refugee treaty.

Because the accused claim to be opponents of the president, one have to question the chance of a fair trial. In rwanda most opponents are in prison. For example, leaders of opposition Victoire Ingabire, Bernard Ntaganda en Deo Mushayidi did not get a fair trial, according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

President Paul Kagame rules with an iron fist. Divisionism and genocide denial are in Rwanda often accusations used to silence his opponents. For opponents abroad he has found another instrument: he accuses them of genocide and his worst enemies are put on the Interpol-list. On rwanda's own list, the number of genocide suspects has grown expansively. In 1995, shortly after the genocide, there were 487 people on the list; in 2007 there were around 40.000 people on the list.

To prove someone has committed genocide is very tricky. During and after the genocide chaos ruled and documents were destroyed. Eyewitnesses are not easy to find and it's not unusual witnesses are pressured into going a certain declaration. The Gacaca seemed in the beginning an effective instrument to judge the 'small culprits'. For the big fish there was the criminal court in Arusha, Tanzania.

But the Gacaca became also an instrument to settle old accounts and to neutralize political opponents of the president. If Dutch researchers go to Rwanda they are dependent of witnesses, documents and information given through official channels. Perhaps they tell the truth, perhaps not.

The prosecutors office also looks at information coming from human rights organization African Rights. But this organization has strong ties with the rwandan regime and their reports are highly unreliable, according to Dutch judges.

The prosecutors office also uses public media, like The Rwandan Times. But everybody knows this daily speaks with the mouth of the president, and it's information is not neutral. Rwanda is master in creating pro-rwanda websites and fora. Tom Ndahiro, also connected as a prominent journalist with the New Times, is behind many of these sites. Sometimes he makes himself known, sometimes he doesn't. 

In short: The Netherlands should only extradite people if a fair trial is possible. Until that time they should be tried in The Netherlands. But to obtain proof is extremely difficult and time consuming.