By Edwin Ashimwe
Genocide suspect Venant Rutunga, who was extradited from The Netherlands, arrives at Kigali International Airport on Monday, July 26. / Photo: Courtesy.
The arrest and extradition to Rwanda, of Genocide fugitive Venant Rutunga by Dutch judicial authorities, has been welcomed by Genocide survivors in the former Butare Prefecture, currently Huye District, where masterminded the Genocide against the Tutsi.
After living in the European country for over a decade, Rutunga was on Monday evening received by Rwandan officials at the Kigali International Airport.
“Obviously, this is good news for all Rwandans, especially those who survived from ISAR Rubona,” said Marie Claire Mukamusonera, one of the survivors from the area.
Personally, she pointed, “I heard never made contact with him, but I heard a lot about his acts together with his former boss Charles Ndereyehe. Other times I would hear that they are in town where they mostly chaired their meetings from.”
It is also a sigh of relief to see that our government considers the survivor’s pain, as they seek to bring to book all the fugitives who remain on the run, she asserted.
Rutunga, alongside Charles Ndereyehe, the former ISAR director, were at the forefront of the mass killings that took place in Rubona village, current Ruhashya sector in Huye district.
Ndereyehe is still on the run and he is also said to be living in The Netherlands.
According to witness accounts, at the beginning of the massacres in Butare, over 1,000 Tutsis sought refuge at ISAR Rubona hoping they would get protection.
However, instead of offering them protection, Rutunga instead alerted soldiers and interahamwe militia who killed them instantly.
According to prosecution, Rutunga is charged with three crimes including; his role in the genocide, complicity in killing and crimes against humanity.
Blow to genocide deniers
Rutunga is the third fugitive to be extradited by the Dutch and according to Mukamusonera, having the fugitives tried where the crime was committed not only benefits survivors by seeing justice being done, but also deals a blow to those denying the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Many of these elements, she said, are the same people who mislead the world on the Genocide by either deny its existence or trivializing it.
“If they are tried in the country, it is easier because there are many witnesses in the case,” she added, “That is our only hope as survivors. If justice is delayed by some international laws, at least they will serve as true witnesses to the genocide deniers.”
Besides extraditing to Rwanda, the Dutch government has domestically tried others who were convicted and condemned to varying sentences.
The Dutch police arrested Rutunga in March 2019 on an indictment issued by the Rwandan prosecution’s Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit.
‘Little to no excuse’
Speaking to The New Times in an interview on Tuesday, Jean Damascene Bizimana, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), said that Rutunga’s extradition serves as an example for those who feign poor health to delay justice.
“Like Rutunga, most of the fugitives confuse authorities especially when they run out of all options,” he added, “He feigned sickness saying that our medical institutions had no capacity to cater for him, but in the end, he was extradited.”
This practice is something we have noticed, and the fugitives should rest assured that the country’s development is eliminating all these petty excuses, Bizimana reiterated.
Consequently, he noted that Rutunga’s extradition was yet another vote of confidence to the credibility of Rwanda’s judicial systems.
“Extraditing a genocide suspect is not by accident. It engages different authorities to ensure that the suspect’s rights are not violated throughout their trial and after.”
Bizimana echoed Mukamusonera’s sentiments, citing that the move is good news to Rubona residents who will witness his trial on ground.
Prosecution speaks out
The New Times reached out to the National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA), for a comment on the way forward, and Faustin Nkusi, the spokesperson said, “As the law stipulates, he has been handed to Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) where his file will compiled for five days until it’s returned back to prosecution.”
Nkusi added that the latter will then have five days within which they can decide whether to file to court for pre-trial detention.
He said that so far, a total of 27 fugitives have been extradited to Rwanda for domestic trial while several others have been tried in their different host countries.
In total, prosecution issued 1,145 indictments against Genocide fugitives scattered in at least 33 across the world.
Much as it is far from the total indictments, Nkusi said that it was a good sign mainly for the survivors who get justice on their end.
“It is good progress, but you can see that there is need for stronger co-operation in matters of mutual legal assistance and contribution to the global effort to fight impunity and genocide denial.”