On 13 December 2011, the Rwandan judicial authorities issued an international arrest warrant against Claude Muhayimana for his active participation in the Rwandan genocide. In addition, the Rwandan authorities have made an official request to France for his extradition.
Following this arrest warrant, he was brought in for questioning then placed under provisional custody. Subsequently he was released and put under pre-trial supervision.
According to the Rwandan Public Prosecutor, criminal proceedings were being brought against Muhayimana for genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Subsequently, the preparatory inquiry Chamber of the Rouen Court of Appeal issued a favorable opinion concerning the extradition request.
The above mentioned Court judged “that the legal requirements for extradition are fulfilled, that the charges have no political connotation and are of a criminal nature, that prescription is not applicable and that the Rwandan judicial authorities are competent to ensure the fundamental guarantees of proper procedure and those of the rights of the defense in conformity with the French conception of international public policy” It was further considered that even though Muhayimana had obtained French nationality, this did not preclude his extradition according to French law, given that he was a Rwandan citizen in 1994 at which date the crimes were committed.
Immediately after the decision was made known, Muhayimana decided to appeal by denying any involvement in the crimes with which he was accused, adding that he did not have the guarantee of a fair trial in Rwanda, and indicating his preference to be judged by a French court or the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The high Court of Appeal was to give its decision 40 days after the appeal was lodged. The appeal meanwhile put a stop to the extradition proceedings. Even if the high Court of Appeal confirmed the first judgment, finally, it would then be up to the French government to decide to go ahead with extraditing Muhayimana to Rwanda.
To this date, the French judicial authorities have rejected several extradition requests from Rwanda, concluding that the rights of the defendant could not be guaranteed in that country. However, it is not the first time that an extradition request has been lodged against a person suspected of having participated in the Rwandan genocide who has thrived in France, since in April 2008 the Chambery Appeals Court handed down a favorable opinion concerning the extradition of Claver KAMANA. This decision was however, annulled subsequently by the Paris Court of Appeal on 9 July 2008, and the case sent back to the Lyon Court of Appeal which confirmed the decision to refuse extradition.
Nevertheless the decision taken by the Rouen Court of Appeal seems to point to an evolution in case law. It is consistent with others handed down on the 27 October and 16 December respectively by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In fact both the ECHR and the ICTR have issued favorable opinions concerning extradition from Sweden to Rwanda of Sylvère Ahorugeze an ex-director of civil aviation in one case, and in another of Pastor Jean Uwinkindi to Kigali.
Finally, on 11 July 2012, the French High Court of Appeal, rendered its decision on the appeal and annulled the favorable opinion handed down by the Rouen Court of Appeal. The high Appeal Court judged that the decision lacked a “legal basis” and that the Rouen Court had not verified if “the person to be extradited would indeed benefit from the fundamental guaranties of proper procedure and protection of the rights of the defendant”
The extradition request was thus sent back to the Paris Appeals Court for further judicial review.
On 13 November 2013 the Paris Appeals Court approved the extradition of Muhayimana. The Court was convinced that Muyhayimana will be granted a fair trial in Rwanda. However, the verdict is not definitive. The defense for Muhayimana announced that it would appeal the decision before the French High Court of Appeals. This instance's verdict will be final. In case the preceding opinion is confirmed, the French government will still have to sign an extradition decree for Muhayimana to be handed over to Kigali.
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.