Four men accused of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide were ordered to be set free on Wednesday after a British court ruled they would be at risk of a miscarriage of justice if they faced trial in Rwanda.
The high court judgment was the first time an English court had blocked an extradition request from a foreign government on the grounds that it would violate Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards the right to a fair trial.
Vincent Bajinya from north London, now known as Vincent Brown, Charles Munyaneza from Bedford, Celestin Ugirashebuja from Essex and Emmanuel Nteziryayo from Manchester were accused of killing, or conspiring with or aiding and abetting others, to kill members of the Tutsi ethnic group “with the intent to destroy in whole, or in part, that group.”
The men, all Hutus, denied participating in the genocide, in which 800,000 people died.
Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Sullivan expressed concern over the “impartiality and independence” of the Rwandan judiciary after hearing that defense witnesses were afraid to give evidence for fear of being accused of “genocide minimization.”
They also ruled there was a real risk of “executive interference with the judiciary” in Rwanda.
The judges quashed extradition orders issued by the British home secretary in August last year against the men, who were arrested in December 2006.
“When one adds all the particular evidence we have described touching the [Rwandan] justice system, we are driven to conclude that if these appellants were returned there would be a real risk that they would suffer a flagrant denial of justice,” the judges concluded.