Michiel Pestman and Göran Sluiter, Dutch Human Rights lawyers at Prakken d’Oliveira, have lodged a complaint against President Kagame for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, forced disappearance and torture committed between 1996 and 1997.
Their charge has been addressed to both the Dutch and the Rwandan Public Prosecutors on behalf of the attorney’s client, Jean-Claude Iyamurenye, who is now in custody in The Netherlands. In referring to international criminal law, Pestman and Sluiter claim that Kagame and other high-ranking Rwandan military and political leaders have committed atrocities on Rwandan and Congolese territory.
In an interview with Jambonews, the lawyers have called Kagame ‘’the biggest war criminal still in power today.’’
Jambonews: You have lodged a complaint against Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, and you chose the Rwandan court to do so. What do you reproach him and on what basis did you lodge the complaint?
Sluiter: You can read the complaint on our website [www.prakkendoliveira.nl]. Kagame is arguably the biggest war criminal still in power today. Certainly in Africa. He has committed crimes in Rwanda and Congo which must be qualified as genocide or crimes against humanity. Our client is a victim of these crimes, both in Congo and Kigali (where his father and brother disappeared). Kagame and the other senior Rwandan leaders must be held responsible.
Jambonews: What are the chances that your complaint is declared admissible? Is he not protected by functional immunity? Is your complaint not rather a defense strategy to prevent your client from being extradited to Rwanda?
Sluiter: It is unclear whether Kagame has any immunity. If so, however, it is purely functional. And genocide or crimes against humanity are not part of his job description. In a proper democracy, with an independent Prosecutor, the complaint should be taken seriously. We will wait and see whether the Rule of Law applies in Rwanda only in name or in practice as well.
Jambonews: How likely is it that your client will still be extradited after this complaint?
Sluiter: He should not be extradited, because he will not get a fair trial, like Victoire.
In their charge, the lawyers state that after the ruling party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), took power in 1994, Kagame ‘’used all his power to persecute Hutus systematically’’. Iyamuremye’s father, Francois Biziyaremye, and his brother, Gerard Karangwa, are said to have forcefully disappeared in 1996 and 1997 in Rwanda under Kagame’s regime. Both men were seen with RPF soldiers shortly before their disappearance.
The head of state is also accused of brutally destroying Hutu refugee camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in the period between September 1996 to May 1997. James Kabarebe, Rwandan Minister of Defense, Jackson Nkurunziza and former director of the Rwanda Directorate of Military Intelligence, together with other former military leaders in the RPA are also held accountable for the crimes committed in the DRC. In particular, the attack on Port Onatra [Office National des Transports] in Mbandaka by the Rwandan Patriotic Army is described as a ‘’massive blood bath’’ that led to 1 300 deaths and almost cost Iyamurenye his life.
Today, Iyamurenye himself is accused of genocide crimes by the Rwandan government. According to Sluiter, the charges against his client are merely a trick to keep him quiet about the RPF’s crimes.
Jambonews: Your client Jean-Claude has been in detention since July 2013 and the Dutch district court granted his extradition to Rwanda. Why do you think the Rwandan government is persecuting your client?
Sluiter: The Rwandan government is interested in JC for several reasons. First, he is an important witness of atrocities committed by Kagame and the RPF in the Congo in 1996 and 1997. JC was heard by among others the UN. Second, he is a vocal member of the opposition and closely related to Victoire I.ngabire and her party. He knows her and her family well. They live near his house Thirdly, JC’s family refused to cooperate with the RPF and Kagame in 1994, to fight the then government; Kagame carries a grudge against the family. JC’s father and brother disappeared in 1996 and 1997, when at home in Kigali. JC believes this disappearance is related to the refusal to join the RPF in 1994.
The lawyer added that they have appealed the grant of extradition by the Hague court at the High Court. Meanwhile, Iyamurenye has been refused to speak to a Dutch journalist. When asked about this, his lawyer said the Dutch are following Rwanda blindly. ‘’ Jean-Claude was not allowed to speak to the journalist because the Rwandan authorities said no. This is the only reason why he is denied his freedom of expression now. This episode shows that the Dutch government does and believes everything Rwanda says, in blind faith. The Dutch are naïve’’ affirmed the counsel.