Rwanda mulls genocide law change

Rwanda plans to strike off capital punishment for genocide suspects from its statute books to encourage European and North American countries to extradite suspected masterminds of the 1994 genocide.

More than half a million people were killed during the conflict

The country has repeatedly demanded that Western nations extradite any genocide suspects they may know are living in their countries, but some nations have expressed reservations because Rwanda has the death penalty.

On Friday, Martin Ngoga, the attorney-general, said: “I have just submitted a draft law on the waivers to the minister of justice.”

Last month, Rwanda released a list of 93 genocide suspects thought to be living in Western Europe and North America. Many on that list are former political leaders and businesspersons.

“We know that capital punishment is a sensitive subject in Rwanda but we would rather compromise a little and get the suspects here for trial than allow them to roam the world freely,” said Ngoga.

Rwandan genocide survivors’ organisations have denounced moves to remove capital punishment for any genocide suspects, especially those outside the country, who they consider to be planners of the genocide.

Only execution

The first and only execution of genocide convicts was carried out in 1998 at a football field in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

In spite of pressure from Western governments, 22 convicts were executed by firing squad.

About 600 convicts are on death row in Rwanda’s crowded prisons.

Only the United States has extradited a genocide suspect to Rwanda.

Last year, Enos Kagaba was deported from Minnesota after he was judged to have entered the US illegally.

Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland have been pursuing genocide suspects through their own courts.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that sits in the northwestern Tanzania town of Arusha tries suspected masterminds of the 1994 genocide during which more than half a million members of the Tutsi ethnic minority and moderates from the Hutu majority were slaughtered.