Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nkunda’s case not easy, says Rwanda

Gen Nkunda. Photo/ REUTERS

Gen Nkunda. Photo/ REUTERS  

By KEZIO-MUSOKE DAVID, NATION Correspondent

Tharcisse Karugarama, Rwanda’s Minister of Justice has said the case involving the arrest and detaining of former Congolese warlord Laurent Nkunda has dragged because of its political, legal and diplomatic complexities.

Mr Nkunda has been under house arrest since January 22, 2009 after entering Rwanda from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where his CNDP rebel force had repeatedly routed the government forces.

After two wars between the Great Lakes neighbours and years trading accusations of backing the other’s rebels, Rwanda and Congo mended relations in a deal that analysts said hinged on Nkunda’s arrest and Rwandan help ending the rebellion.

President Paul Kagame, during his first press conference, addressed on Tuesday, since winning the August 2010 presidential elections said that while the former warlord’s arrest was to solve the problems in neighbouring DRC, it has since created another problem for Rwanda with a number of complexities.

“Holding Nkunda is a problem we (Rwanda) shouldn’t have had in the first place. It is an issue which is complex itself. Nkunda was arrested in order to solve one problem. After solving that problem another problem has been created. However I would wish for a speedy trial in order to solve this problem,” Mr Kagame said.

“One thing that should be clear is that even though it is complex, the case itself can’t cause a diplomatic nightmare between us and the DRC.

The fact that our ministry of justice and the one of Congo are working together on this issue it means it can’t cause any problem, he added.

Mr Nkunda has appeared in a number of Rwandan civil courts and his case has since then been referred to the military court. However he is yet to be charged.

Rwanda has also in the past acknowledged receipt of the extradition request by the DRC Nkunda’s “war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in DRC.

Karugarama, Rwanda’s Minister of Justice said on Wednesday in a separate interview that the fact that Nkunda is a Congolese general arrested on Rwanda soil with a big rebel force, operating from another nation is enough to create legal, diplomatic and political complications.

“We risk finding ourselves in a situation were legally there is a ‘conflict of laws’ if we don’t handle this situation well. Nkunda is not ordinary man. He is a general of an outfit operating in Congo while he is being held in another country. That alone has legal implications,” Karugarama said.

“Rwanda and DRC which are two separate states, have separate laws. At the same time we are bound by international laws that regulate fugitives and people like Nkunda. We are currently engaged with DRC and others and in reasonable time this issue will be sorted out,” he added said.

Both Rwanda and DRC have in the past adopted one important position on Nkunda’s case. The first is that Nkunda is Congolese and has to be dealt with by the DRC judiciary for the crimes allegedly committed in the DRC but since he is on Rwandan territory then it was necessary to also apply Rwandan law.

Karugarama and his DRC counterpart have also in the past recommended an instituted team of experts from both countries that should convene to work on legalities that would consider the legal obstacles with regard to the transfer of Nkunda.

The legal obstacles include the possible impact of the amnesty law on DRC’s extradition request, the legal impediments embedded in the Rwandan law regarding extradition and the death penalty, as well as implications of the national, regional and international law on the extradition request.

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