Friday, January 6, 2012

Rwanda: why would Canada not try Mugesera on its soil?

By Jane Mugeni
Musabyimana’s Website
January 5, 2012

Also available in French

Léon Mugesera
In its issue of January 3, 2012, the Rwandan government daily mouthpiece The New Times reported the jubilation of the authorities in Kigali after the announcement of the imminent extradition of Leon Mugesera by Canada.

As a reminder, Mr. Leon Mugesera is a Rwandan scholar and former official of the MRND party which was dissolved by the RPF. He lives in Canada since 1992. Upon the RPF taking power in Rwanda, Mugesera was accused by the new government of Rwanda of inciting genocide, the crime of genocide and the crimes against humanity. To substantiate these charges, Kigali still brandishes the speech that Mugesera gave in 1992 shortly before leaving Rwanda, a speech that would directly incite people to commit Tutsi genocide.

Faced with such serious charges, his application for permanent resident status had no chance of success. Indeed, Mugesera was quickly declared “persona non grata” in Canada but he appealed the court ruling. Such an imminent extradition is apparently the result of a long process that lasted almost for two decades. The Government of Canada might finally hand over Mugesera to the Kigali regime. Rwanda’s prosecutor general, Martin Ngoga, talks about the January 12, 2012, the date on which he awaits the arrival of the precious parcel. The same prosecutor claims to have sent to Canada, several years ago, the charges against Mugesera requesting his extradition to Rwanda, something that may finally become effective during this month of January 2012. However, Canadian newspapers which reported on that matter only talked about the administrative refusal to stay in Canada and therefore a simple discharge of Mugesera at the Canadian border as this situation would happen to any illegal immigrant regardless whether he/she is accused of genocide.

Anyway, such a diplomatic and judicial hide and seek game raises some questions. Kigali is very well aware that Leon Mugesera who left Rwanda in 1992 was therefore not present during the genocide of April-June 1994. It also knows that no other government in the world or any international body would endorse its rhetoric which alleges that the genocide started in October 1990 or in 1959. How can the Rwandan prosecutor claim to have submitted to Canada the alleged accusation charges of genocide against Mugesera knowing full well that such charges would be surely rejected?

Canada has jurisdiction to try individuals accused of genocide within its territory. It has already tried a Rwandan yet less known than Mugesera. Why the Canadian justice system, which was quick to judge sidekicks like  Munyaneza, would not even consider judging “Professor Leon Mugesera”, a Rwandan scholar made in Canada, who has continuously lived there for 20 years and is accused of being one of the architects of the genocide? The answers to these questions would certainly help to understand the political game that is currently engaging Kigali and Ottawa. The charges against Leon Mugesera as formulated by Kigali cannot hold up before any Canadian judge. The RPF and the Canadian Government know it. Therefore, we must politically “apply some special techniques”: Mugesera might be extradited for administrative issues according to Ottawa, but in reality, he would be handed over to Kigali to be tortured and humiliated by his political enemies.

If Mugesera were handed over to Kigali, it would be on grounds of politically motivated reasons rather than legal means and much less administrative issues. Canada might therefore offer on a platter the head of its political enemy to Paul Kagame just like the Gospels story of John the Baptist’s head that Herod offered to Herodias.

But the fundamental question, to which we do not have any draft response, is to know why and in what interests a democratic country like Canada would want to hand over opponents whose only crime is to have publicly denounced the dictatorship, and knowing that they are sent to certain death, to a fierce dictator like Paul Kagame who is nevertheless denounced by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch? Only the conservative government of Stephen Harper has the answer.


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