I took a break from Brexit and rushed from Sutton Coldfield last weekend to Rwanda for the 25th anniversary of the terrible genocide that killed nearly a million Tutsi people in that country.
Over 90 days in 1994 about a tenth of the county’s population was massacred – a killing rate much faster than that achieved during the Holocaust. What is really unforgivable was the lack of international response to the slaughter. The world largely stood on the sidelines while men, women and children – often entire families were murdered – despite it being in their power to help prevent what unfolded. The United Nations already had peacekeepers deployed in the country, but the UN Security Council prevented its troops from getting involved. The Security Council later accepted failing their responsibility to prevent the genocide.
The many times I have visited this beautiful country I am always moved by the heartbreaking first hand accounts of those awful times. Last weekend I represented Parliament, along with the Minister for Africa, at ceremonies in Kigali, which were dignified and profoundly moving.
Many who were responsible for the atrocities fled Rwanda, seeking haven in countries around the world. In the years since some have voluntarily returned to Rwanda to face justice and have been sentenced in the Rwandan Gacaca Court system. Others have been extradited to Rwanda from the United States, Canada, France, Norway, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, and Sweden.
Britain is sadly the exception in this case. A point I highlighted on Tuesday in the House of Commons when I led an Urgent Question to ask the Home Secretary about the handling of the cases of the five alleged perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide who are currently living in the United Kingdom.
The British courts have accepted that there is a prima facie case of genocide but have refused to extradite the individuals. The British taxpayer has already forked out more than £3 million in legal costs, and four of the five are living on benefits. 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 available from earlier Court hearings, 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 genocide perpetrators to be on trial at the Old Bailey by the end of this year.
It will be a cause of great shame if the UK were to go down in history as the only country in Europe that knowingly shielded alleged Rwandan genocide perpetrators from justice.