On 28 July 2017, the High Court (Irwin LJ and Foskett J) dismissed an appeal by the Government of Rwanda against the Senior District Judge’s decision to refuse the extradition of five men to Rwanda. Their extradition was sought in order that they be tried for mass crimes arising out of the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Iain Edwards was instructed as junior counsel for the third Respondent.
This is the latest decision in a case going back to 2007 when a hearing on a first request for extradition resulted in the government of Rwanda’s request being granted. That decision was successfully appealed to the Divisional Court in 2009 where it was found that there would be a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice if the men were extradited to Rwanda.
A second extradition request was made by the government of Rwanda in April 2013. The hearing before the SDJ lasted for 66 days and there were over 23,000 pages of evidence. In its judgment, the Divisional Court described the case as a “truly formidable undertaking.” The SDJ declined to order extradition despite the government of Rwanda’s submissions that the system of justice in Rwanda had undergone a ‘sea-change’ and that no national or international court had refused to extradite, transfer or deport to Rwanda since 2009. The Respondents cross-appealed on a number of additional matters.
The Divisional Court found that “the evidence suggests that Rwanda has, if anything, become more of an illiberal and authoritarian state than was the case in 2008/2009” and that “there is sufficient material to show a real risk of political pressure and political interference in the justice system in Rwanda.” The Court concluded: “In respect of all Respondents, we consider the Senior District Judge was correct in her conclusion that, if extradited, they would be at risk of a flagrant denial of fair trial. We conclude as of the date of this judgment that remains the case”.
The government of Rwanda has, exceptionally, been given a final opportunity to persuade the Court that conditions will be put in place sufficient to overcome the bar to extradition.