UK's decision on Rwanda genocide extradition means further questions

By staff writers
April 16, 2009

Following the decision taken by the High Court not to extradite four Rwandan men suspected of genocide and other crimes under international law, human rights activists have called for a third-party location for a trial.

They say it also poses further questions about the need for the UK to amend its present legislation to enable it to try genocide suspects.

Tim Hancock, campaigns director of Amnesty International UK, said last week: "We welcome [the] decision taken by the High Court, but the UK needs to take immediate steps to ensure that the charges against these four men are heard either here, or in another country which would be willing to submit the case for prosecution in a fair trial."

Amnesty International has called on Rwanda to reform its criminal justice system. Until it does so, genocide suspects should not be extradited to Rwanda and countries such as the UK should initiate investigations and prosecutions against people suspected of having committed acts of genocide.

Although nothing in the UK International Criminal Court Act 2001 (2001 ICC Act) for England and Wales expressly prohibits retrospective application of its provisions giving UK courts universal jurisdiction over genocide and war crimes, the UK government has taken the position that it is not retrospective to cover such crimes committed before 2001.

The UK has not yet changed its legislation to enable it to try genocide suspects. Amnesty International has called on the British government to amend urgently the 2001 ICC Act to permit its courts to exercise universal jurisdiction over crimes such as genocide.

"In addition, it should initiate criminal investigations against people against whom there is a reasonable suspicion that they committed acts of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture," says the group.

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