Andrew Mitchell secures an Urgent Question on five alleged perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in the United Kingdom.
(Urgent Question): To ask the Home Secretary if he will make a statement on the handling of the cases of the five alleged perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide in the United Kingdom.
None of us can forget the horrendous scenes of the Rwandan genocide 25 years ago. My colleague the Minister for Africa visited Rwanda only this week to share in the international recognition and remembrance of those horrific events.
I can confirm that the Metropolitan police’s war crimes unit, within the counter-terrorism command, received a referral from the Rwandan authorities in January 2018 relating to five individuals in the UK and allegations of genocide offences in Rwanda dating back from around 1994. Relevant documentation was assessed by the war crimes unit and officers were deployed to Rwanda as part of our initial work to scope out the allegations. We subsequently commenced an investigation, which will initially involve a review of all the documentation transferred from Rwanda. Given the complexities involved, it is expected to be a protracted and lengthy process. Inquiries continue.
As the Minister said, Sunday was the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. The hon. Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern) and I represented this House, along with the Minister for Africa, at ceremonies in Kigali, which were dignified and profoundly moving.
The House will recall that nearly a million Rwandans were murdered in frenzied killing over a 90-day period while the international community effectively did nothing to stop it. Once the killing was ended, those leaders who were responsible for the genocide fled. Over the intervening years, many have returned voluntarily to Rwanda to be processed through the Gacaca court system. Others have been extradited to Rwanda from the United States, Canada, France, Norway, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden. Britain, sadly, is a glaring exception.
Proceedings started here in the UK more than a decade ago in respect of five alleged genocide perpetrators, but in spite of ruling that there was a prima facie case of genocide made out against all five, the British courts declined to extradite. The British taxpayer has already forked out more than £3 million in legal costs, and four of the five are living on benefits, including housing benefit. The Rwandan authorities, having failed to secure extradition in Britain in the lower courts, have declined to proceed to the Supreme Court and have asked that the UK undertake the trial here. In spite of all the evidence already being available here in the United Kingdom, the Metropolitan police have indicated that it could take a further 10 years to process these cases.
The souls of those who were murdered in the genocide cry out for justice, but from Britain justice has at least been delayed and at worst denied. The Nuremberg trials commenced a mere seven months after the end of the war and were concluded within 10 months. In the interests of those facing these dreadful allegations, as well as of the reputation of British justice, we should surely expect these five alleged génocidaires to be on trial at the Old Bailey by the end of this year. I end with the words spoken last weekend by the distinguished Rwandan Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr Johnston Busingye, who, when he came here to Britain, our Director of Public Prosecutions could not even find the time to see. He said this:
“Anyone who cares about British values and justice should be ashamed.”
The UK will go down in history as the only country in Europe that knowingly shielded alleged Rwandan génocidaires from justice.
My right hon. Friend is a strong supporter of Rwanda and knows the country incredibly well. I respect many of his views on the country and on the need for action, but I have to say that I fundamentally disagree with his last point. The United Kingdom has not shielded these people. He will know that on 28 July 2017 the High Court ruled that they could not be extradited, for fear of not facing a fair trial. He will know and respect the difference between the Government, the police and the judiciary. He will know that we have to follow the rule of law and that ruling.
This Government, and previous Governments, have been committed to bringing people to trial, which is why he has raised this issue. We have spent £3 million trying to get the right outcome, but when the Court ruled that these individuals could not be extradited, the United Kingdom, under its genocide convention obligations and after requests from the Rwandan Government, took on the investigation itself. We went out to meet officials in Rwanda and to gather evidence there, and there is a live police investigation into a number of individuals in relation to potential war crimes. My right hon. Friend will also understand that, as this is a live police investigation, there is no more I can say on this matter, for fear of prejudicing a fair trial here or anywhere else, and that is where we have to leave it. Those are the facts we find before us.
The Government are not shielding any war criminals, and nor should we. We would not do that. We are doing our best. I have raised the issue with the counter-terrorism police, and they say that the timescale for these investigations is not 10 years but more like between three and five years. I can assure my right hon. Friend that if the police require more resource or if they come up against an obstacle relating to international relations, the Government are standing by to help, to expedite and to ensure that those suspected of war crimes face full justice, but there is absolutely no case that this Government or any previous Government have shielded them from any war crimes trials that they might face.