Rwanda: German sentences first genocide suspect

Onesphore Rwabukombe in a Franfurt court

Onesphore Rwabukombe (L) in a Franfurt court

Rwandan genocide suspect, Onesphore Rwabukombe has become the first Rwandan genocide fugitive to be sentenced by the German judicial systems. 

During an appeal case this Tuesday, a Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt sentenced Rwabukombe, to life in prison overturning the earlier sentence of 14 years for genocide charges which the suspect has been facing since his arrest in 2008. 

The suspect, a former Mayor of Muvumba commune, eastern province, was charged for his role in the death of more than 3, 730 people at Kiziguro church. 

German had earlier on refused to extradite the suspect on grounds of fears that Rwanda would not offer fair justice to the suspect, even when Rwanda sent an extradition request in November 2008 after his arrest. 

Rwabukombe was arrested in reaction to an Interpol red notice following an International Arrest Warrant issued by the Rwandan government. 

The Rwandan government has welcomed Rwabukombe’s sentencing, “we are happy mostly because the court considered the gravity of the crimes committed by the man. This is a man, who, from 1992 to 1993 was personally involved in selecting and training militia that would eventually be armed and deployed to kill innocent Tutsi civilians,” Jean Damascene Bizimana, the head of the Anti-Genocide Ideology Commission was quoted as saying.

The Rwanda Office of the Prosecutor, through the Fugitives Tracking Unit, has issued arrest warrants for close to 100 fugitives; most of them believed to be in Europe and North America. 

Though some, like Dr. Leon Mugesera (Canada) have been extradited and are facing trial in Rwanda, the Kigali government is still battling with many Western countries to have the fugitives handed over to face justice. 

Recently the government said that it will push for an appeal against a decision by a UK court to block the extradition of five Genocide suspects, to face charges against them before Rwandan courts. 

Rwanda will have to find another way of having the cases of UK based suspect-Vincent Bajinya, a medical doctor; Celestin Mutabaruka, a Pentecostal pastor, as well as Celestin Ugirashebuja, Charles Munyaneza and Emmanuel Nteziryayo all former mayors, transferred to Kigali. 

Prosecutor-General Richard Muhumuza expressed frustration over UK court ruling saying the government will continue pushing to ensure the suspects are tried in Rwanda. 

“We are very disappointed by the decision but we will continue to fight for their extradition by pursuing appeals in higher courts,” Muhumuza said.

In a related development, Zambian authorities over the weekend deported two refugees suspected to have participated in the genocide.