Niger, due to “diplomatic reasons,” expelled eight former UN court detainees who last year were relocated to the country by a Tanzanian-based court, according to a document released Tuesday.
The former Rwandan detainees were convicted by the UN court for their role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group. Others were acquitted on similar charges.
They had been relocated to Niger’s capital of Niamey last December by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), which replaced the defunct International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), following the signing of a relocation agreement with Niger.
“On Dec. 27, 2021, after settling in Niger, the authorities issued an order requiring, for diplomatic reasons, that the relocated persons leave the territory of Niger within seven days of notification of the expulsion order,” according to court documents.
The government later granted an additional 30 days beginning Jan. 3 to the relocated persons to allow the Mechanism to find another relocation country, it said.
The eight men, including those who completed their sentences and others who were acquitted by the UN court, will return to Arusha, Tanzania, pending relocation to another country, said the document.
No date has been set for their return to Arusha.
Mechanism Judge Joseph E. Chiondo Masanche faulted Niger for a “violation” of the agreement and a possible violation of the rights of the eight men.
The former officers, during the genocide, were part of nine individuals who have been waiting for more than 15 years to find a place for exile.
For some, France, Belgium, Canada and Denmark, where part of their families are located, refused to welcome them.
Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, Protais Zigiranyirazo, Andre Ntagerura, Alphonse Nteziryayo, Prosper Mugiraneza, Anatole Nsengiyumva, Tharcisse Muvunyi, and Innocent Sagahutu cannot be returned to Rwanda without their consent.
The Mechanism has a duty to ensure the welfare of the acquitted or released persons pending their relocation and to enquire whether their life or liberty would be at risk upon relocation.
Normally, once an individual has been relocated, the Mechanism’s obligations and duty of care for that person would cease.
But in present circumstances, the relocated persons consented to their relocation to Niger based on an agreement which stipulates, among other things, that the Mechanism would continue to provide for their support for at least one year following relocation and be consulted and involved in decision making in relation to any potentially adverse action taken against them.
The genocide, in which nearly 1 million people were killed, targeted minority Tutsis by Hutu extremists after the death of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira in an April 6, 1994 plane crash.
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