The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the UN General Assembly on this day seventy years ago.
However, despite the success of a campaign led by the Aegis Trust nine years ago to close legal loopholes on genocide suspects living in the UK, there has yet to be a single prosecution in the UK for genocide.
Urumuri, the UK-based association of survivors of Rwanda’s 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, has today written to UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid protesting this continued impunity gap.
“There have been calls for more than a decade for the UK government to create a stand-alone war crimes and genocide investigation unit,” the letter states. “Each time this has been mooted the government has blocked its implementation. Where such a unit does exist – for example in Scandanavian countries and France, Rwandans accused of participation in the genocide have stood trial where extradition has not been possible.”
Since a ruling in 2017 against their extradition to Rwanda, five genocide suspects have been living freely in the UK despite recognition of a prima facie case against them. Urumuri suggests that there are “at least two dozen other Rwandan suspects living in the UK.”
Responsibility for investigating genocide suspects in the UK currently rests with SO15, the Counter Terrorism Command within London’s Metropolitan Police. Lack of capacity at SO15 “cannot be an excuse if it means those responsible for genocide and war crimes are granted impunity as a result,” Urumuri protests.
The Aegis Trust shares Urumuri’s concern and is calling upon the British Government to live up to its responsibility to prosecute suspects of serious international crimes, saying that when extradition is not possible suspects should face justice in the UK.
“There’s a cost and it is difficult to investigate crimes which took place in another country a long time ago,” says Aegis Chief Executive Dr James Smith. “But if we don’t pursue those prosecutions, the UK could become known as a retirement home for war criminals.”
FULL TEXT OF URUMURI ASSOCIATION LETTER FOLLOWS
9 December 2018
From: URUMURI, Rwandan survivors of genocide.
Dear Mr. Javid
We write to you as survivors of one of the most heinous crimes ever committed, asking for your support in a matter of grave concern to us and to the whole country.
Today, 9 December, 70 years ago, the Genocide Convention came into being in Paris. In January 1970 the UK acceded to this treaty. It was a landmark occasion as Her Majesty’s government agreed, on behalf of its people, actively to take steps where possible to ‘prevent and punish’ this most horrific of crimes known to humankind. With more than 140 other countries, the UK committed itself to take seriously the mantra ‘never again.’
However, we write to you today on behalf of the genocide survivors group Urumuri to express our dismay that the UK government has, and continues to, ignore its obligations under the Convention and in so doing diminishes both the crime and the consequent suffering of thousands of survivors of genocide and war crimes.
In April 1994 the UK government led the way in diplomatic efforts to cut the UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda as the genocide against the Tutsi got underway. Instead of ‘preventing’ genocide, the UK government used all its energy to downsize the UNAMIR force in the country from 2500 to 250. The genocidal leaders were given free rein in their planned effort to wipe out the Tutsi minority as a result. That summer more than one million innocent people were slaughtered as the world looked on.
After the genocide, many prominent genocidaire fled to the west to start new lives, often under false names. These are individuals who organised and/or took part in the butchering of hundreds and thousands of men, women and children.
Successive UK governments have, since 1994, turned a blind eye these killers living here. Only one individual, Major Tharcisse Mavunyi, has faced justice. But even he was uncovered not by immigration officials or the police but by the media; and UK authorities sent him to the UN International Tribunal in Arusha for trial, where he was later sentenced for genocide. Five other men*, suspected of organising the mass murder of hundreds of fellow Rwandans, were also uncovered living in the UK – again by the media not the authorities here. Their extradition was blocked on the grounds they would not receive a fair trial in Rwanda – in two cases that took 11 long years and cost millions of pounds. Two weeks after the final UK court ruling in 2017 blocked extradition, Germany extradited a genocide suspect back to Kigali. Several other European countries, as well as the USA, Canada and the UN continue to extradite suspects back deeming the Rwandan judicial system fit for purpose.
Since this block on extradition the five men have continued to live freely, despite the UK judges noting there was prima facie evidence that all had cases to answer for involvement in genocide. There are at least two dozen other Rwandann suspects living in the UK. In 2009 the law was changed to allow such individuals to be tried here for genocide or war crimes. However it has become clear that this change of law, like the Genocide Convention, is regarded as little more than a piece of paper by the UK government. Ten years after it came onto the statute book it has yet to be used on a single occasion.
This is despite evidence from the Home Office that each year around 40 applications for citizenship are turned down due to ‘their alleged involvement in war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide or torture.’ Between 2010-2016, 817 people were subject to adverse recommendations by immigration due to suspicions they are war criminals or had committed genocide. Less than 20 have been investigated.
Why has the UK government turned a blind eye to genocide?
There have been calls for more than a decade for the UK government to create a stand-alone war crimes and genocide investigation unit. Each time this has been mooted the government has blocked its implimentation. Where such a unit does exist – for example in Scandanavian countries and France, Rwandans accused of participation in the genocide have stood trial where extradition has not been possible.
It is clear UK police