Charles Munyaneza was born in 1958 in Rwanda. At the time of the alleged crimes, he was the mayor of the commune of Kinyamakara, in the Gikongoro prefecture, in southern Rwanda. Munyaneza was also known to be one of the closest allies of Aloys Simba, an officer in the Rwandan army who was sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in December 2005 for genocide and extermination as crimes against humanity.
According to a report published by the African Rights (association of human rights defenders based in London), Munyaneza allegedly coordinated a series of massacres on a grand scale, specifically to kill Tutsis, but also of having contributed to the organization of the massacre of Tutsis in the prefectures of Gikongoro and Butare.
According to a report issued by African Rights (a human rights association based in London), Munyaneza coordinated a series of large scale massacres, notably at the Isonga Centre for Experimental Research of the Rwandan College of Agricultural Sciences in Ruhashya, in Butare prefecture, as well as in the Cyanika catholic church located in Gikongoro province. Munyaneza also reportedly ordered placement of roadblocks in the Kinyamakara province to enable identity checks resulting in the arrest of Tutsis. In addition, he allegedly participated in some of the killings in person.
On 19 or 20 April 1994, Munyaneza and Aloys Simba, amongst others, were said to have organised and ordered the encirclement of and attack on the Murambi technical school, where 50’000 Tutsis had sought refuge from the ongoing massacres. Only about a dozen people survived the attack.
Towards the end of June 1994, facing the advance of the troops of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front, an opposition movement composed essentially of Tutsi refugees, led by Paul Kagame), Munyaneza fled Rwanda. He went into hiding first in South Africa. Subsequently, in 1999 he moved to Great Britain, where he lodged a request for asylum. In 2002, Munyaneza acquired a status of political refugee.
On 29 January 2006, the British newspaper “Sunday Times” revealed in a report that Munyaneza was living peacefully with his family in the town of Bedford, Great Britain, where he was employed as a cleaner and lived under a false identity under the name of “Charles Muneza”.
The prosecutor of the ICTR urged the British authorities to ensure that justice is served for the crimes that Munyaneza allegedly committed. In February 2006, Rwanda issued an international arrest warrant against Munyaneza for genocide and crimes against humanity.
On 28 December 2006, Munyanezaas well as three other Rwandans (Vincent Bajinya, Celestin Ugirashebuja et Emmanuel Nteziryayo) were arrested by the British police due to their alleged participation in the 1994 genocide.
The extradition hearing started on 24 September 2007 in London. On 6 June 2008, a court of first instance accepted the request for extradition of the four men to Rwanda. The High Court annulled this decision on appeal on 8 April 2009, declaring that the right to a fair trial of the defendants would not be respected (there was a substantial risk of denial of justice and intimidation of witnesses). The Court ordered their release.
On 30 May 2013, after a new request for extradition to Rwanda, and subsequently the British police arrested Emmanuel Nteziryayo, Charles Munyaneza, Vincent Bajinya, Celestin Ugirashebuja and Charles Mutabaruka again. On 21 December 2015, a British court refused a repeated request for extradition. It was stated in the decision that despite the progress in Rwandan legislation, the guarantees of fair trial were not sufficient so far.
The extradition hearing before the High court of Justice started on 28 November 2016 and resulted in yet another refusal of the request. In January 2018, Rwandan Prosecutor General Jean Bosco Mutangana and Prosecutor Jean Bosco Siboyintore, Head of the Genocide Suspects Tracking Unit, travelled to London to request the United Kingdom to open an investigation against the five individuals suspected of having participated in the 1994 genocide. They recalled the obligation of the United Kingdom to try or extradite such individuals. As a result, the War Crimes Unit reported that it was assessing the available evidence.
On 9 April 2019, British police announced that the allegations against Charles Munyaneza and other four individuals were being examined. Minister of State for Security and Economic Crime Ben Wallace announced that investigations concerning those five individuals might take up to five years. However, he also told members of the Parliament that the UK government would provide all the necessary resources at its disposal so that justice can be served. He announced that officers were sent to Rwanda to investigate on the ground.
The decision by the High Court of 8 April 2009 is thought to be the first time when an English court has ever blocked an extradition request from a foreign government on the ground that it would violate Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which safeguards the right to a fair trial. The European Court of Human Rights (27 October 2011, Ahorugeze v. Sweden) and the ICTR (16 December 2011, Jean Uwinkindi v. The Prosecutor) judged that Rwandan authorities provided sufficient guarantees concerning the right to a fair trial.
Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994, the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutus targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were largely outnumbered the genocidaires and the international community notoriously failed to respond otherwise at the relevant period.
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA (ICTR)
In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955. The Resolution established the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Tribunal’s function was to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in the territory of Rwanda, by Rwandan citizens and those committed in neighbouring states. During its existence, 93 persons have been indicted by the ICTR, the Tribunal was officially closed in 2015.
Some proceedings are however still ongoing before the so-called International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”). The Mechanism was established by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) and took over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism has been functioning since 1 July 2012 in parallel with the Tribunals and nowadays as an exclusive institution. It gradually took over the functions of the ICTR and ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the protection of witnesses.
THE GACACA COURTS
In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. Paul Kagame, about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.
These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before the national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.
According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.