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Rwanda: Lawmakers Seek Increased Judicial Cooperation to End Impunity

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Lawmakers have urged cooperation between countries in regard to extraditing and bringing criminal suspects, including genocide fugitives, to justice.

They made the suggestion on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 as the plenary sitting of the Chamber of Deputies adopted two laws on judicial cooperation between Rwanda and the Kingdom of Morocco.

The first one is the law approving the ratification of the agreement on mutual judicial assistance in criminal matters between Rwanda and the Kingdom of Morocco, done in Rabat, on 19 March 2019.

The other is the law approving the ratification of the extradition treaty between the two countries, which was signed in the same place, on the same date.

Solina Nyirahabimana, Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice said that the agreement between Rwanda and Morocco on extradition of criminal suspects intends to combat the culture of impunity.

The agreement concerns international and cross-border crimes including genocide, terrorism, human trafficking, cybercrimes, and financial crimes against national economy.

Substantiating the relevance of the cooperation, Nyirahabimana told lawmakers that current technology development facilitated new emerging and sophisticated crimes which are transnational, thus the need to fight them requires international cooperation.

The Government of Rwanda, she said, aims at fighting against impunity by bringing criminals to justice from wherever they are hiding.

“It is in this regard, the cooperation between the Republic of Rwanda and the Kingdom of Morocco will facilitate prosecution of such criminal suspects,” she noted.

As the agreement was being approved, MP Deogratias Bizimana Minani wanted to know whether there are any [Moroccan] fugitives that Morocco thinks are in Rwanda, or [Rwandan] fugitives who might be in Morocco.

Minister Nyirahabimana observed that there are no fugitives in Morocco or in Rwanda thus far.

However, she said that there are many genocide fugitives in various countries in the world, especially in Africa.

More than 1,140 genocide fugitives are hiding in 33 different countries around the world among which more than 950 are in 18 African countries and they tend to change location frequently, according to estimates from the Ministry of Justice.

“Such fugitives change locations so that they evade justice. It is possible that they might soon move to Morocco. So, it can be easy to prosecute them when we have such an agreement which Morocco should base on to extradite them to Rwanda.” Nyirahabimana said.

MP Pierre Claver Rwaka said he appreciates the cooperation in extraditing criminals between Rwanda and Morocco as it can help deal with possible future cases, but called for partnership with other countries.

“There are genocide fugitives living in many African countries. What can be done to expand such extradition cooperation to other countries, especially Southern African and Central Africa, where many suspects are residing in order to comprehensively arrest and punish them for the crimes they committed,” he wondered, adding that some change names.

Minister Nyirahabimana said that Rwanda is doing its best to partner with more countries to extradite criminal suspects through judicial diplomacy.

She said that countries such as Canada, Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway, as well as Germany, showed interest in judicial diplomacy as they send genocide fugitives to Rwanda even though the country had not yet signed extradition treaties with them.

“The Government of Rwanda is active in tackling this problem,” she said pointing out that it issued extradition treaty requests to many countries including in Southern Africa but negotiations are still ongoing so as to reach agreements.

Agreement on mutual judicial assistance in criminal matters

Nyirahabimana said that this agreement consists of exchange of relevant information, gathering evidence, investigation of crimes and establishing the whereabouts of criminal suspects, and summoning and hearing witnesses.

Moreover, she said, it covers the searching [of houses, premises or people to look for evidence in criminal activities] and confiscating properties in question, providing support in banking and tax secrets about suspects, as well as other assistance that might be needed between the two countries with aim combat crimes.

“It will ease investigation, and prosecution of suspected criminals on both the Rwandan and Moroccan territory,” she said.

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