Emmanuel Karenzi Karake

09.05.2016 ( Last modified: 08.07.2020 )
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Emanuel Karenzi Karake was born on 23 December 1960 in Rwanda. Karake attended Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce. Karake later received a Masters of Arts in International Studies from the University of Nairobi in Kenya. He received an MBA from the University of London.

Karake then joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR from its French acronym) and fought in the Rwandan Civil War 1990-1994. He was named commanding officer of the Directory Military Intelligence (DMI) in 1994, position he kept until 1997.

In August 2007, Karake was appointed Deputy Commander of the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, Sudan. In January 2008, he was promoted to Deputy of the UN mission in Darfur.

As commanding officer of the DMI between 1994 and 1997, Karake is accused of organizing various massacres, the murder of three Spanish nationals in 1997 as well as the killing of Hutu civilians in Rwanda and refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The charges against him includes:

1)    He allegedly ordered the killing of three Spanish aid workers, working for Medicos del Mundo in 1997 in Ruhengeri. On 16 January 1997, they were distributing medicines in the village Kabere, when they witnessed a massacre in which 50 Hutus lost their lives. After this event, they were brought to a mass grave were more than 100 persons were buried, killed in a previous massacre. On 18 January 1997, the military wing of the FPR attaqued three humanitarian organizations, including Médecin du Monde, where the three aid workers were residing. Four soldiers entered their residence and shot them dead. A witness testified before the Spanish judge that this operation could not have been carried out  without Karake’s consent;

2)    He is allegedly responsible of crimes in Kigali  and elsewhere in Rwanda committed by the DMI during his mandate, from 1994 to 1997, such as the political murders of Emmanuelle Gapyisi and Félicien Gsatabazi;

3)    He is accused of being responsible for massacres committed in Nyakinama and Mukingo;

4)    He allegedly ordered military operations with heavy weapons against civilian populations, such as bombing;

5)    He allegedly approuved and ordered massacres of civil population from 1994 to 1997 in Ruhengeri, Gisenyi and Cyangugu (including the killing of 4 observers from the United Nations on 11 January 1997 in Giciye, or the killing of 5 agents from the Observer mission of the High commissioner for Human rights on 4 February 1997, in Karengera/Cyangugu);

6)   He is accused of being responsible of forced disappearances of prisoners committed in the Kami Military center, and their killings in 2002.

On 6 February 2008, he was indicted along with 39 others members of the Rwanda military by judge Fernando Andreu on charges of genocide and terrorism, committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Legal procedure

On 6 February 2008, Karake was indicted along with 39 others members of the Rwanda military by judge Fernando Andreu on charge of genocide and terrorism, committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Consequently, an European arrest warrant was issued against Karake for the crimes committed between 1994 and 1997, when he was the commanding officer of the DMI.

Following this arrest warrant, Karake was arrested at London Heathrow airport on 20 June 2015 by the London Metropolitan police. Following a hearing on 25 June 2015, he was granted conditional bail of £1 million and a date for a full extradition hearing was set for October 2015.

However, on 10 August 2015, the Westminster Magistrates Court dismissed the Spanish extradition request and ordered his release. The Crown Prosecution Service later indicated that it had discharged the arrest warrant as they did not believe that an extradition offence was established under British law.

On 11 August 2015, Karake was released and returned to Rwanda. The arrest warrant against him is still in force.


Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people 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 outnumbered.


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, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR.  Some proceedings are however still ongoing.

The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.

Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the 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 care and protection of witnesses.


In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda 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 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 Kagameannounced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.


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