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Vincent Brown aka Vincent Bajinja, Charles Munyaneza, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Celestin Ugirashebuja v. The Government of Rwanda and The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Court High Court of Justice, Divisional Court, Great Britain (UK)
Case number CO/6247/2008
Decision title Judgment (Appeal against extradition)
Decision date 8 April 2009
  • Vincent Brown aka Vincent Bajinja
  • Charles Munyaneza
  • Emmanuel Nteziryayo
  • Celestin Ugirashebuja
  • The Government of Rwanda
  • The Secretary of State for the Home Department
Categories War crimes
Keywords judicial cooperation, war crimes
Other countries involved
  • Rwanda
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Vincent Brown aka Vincent Bajinya and three other men claimed asylum in the United Kingdom after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. In 2006, Rwanda requested extradition of the four men for their alleged involvement in the genocide. On 28 December 2006, the four suspects were arrested in the United Kingdom.

The men appealed their extradition before the High Court. The judges determined that there is a real risk that the four men would not be granted a fair trial in Rwanda, and determined that the suspects could not be extradited to Rwanda. 

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Procedural history

The four suspects were arrested in the United Kingdom on 28 December 2006. On 13 March 2007, three suspects – Ugirashebuja, Nteziryayo and Bajinya – challenged the extradition. On 6 June 2008, a Magistrate’s court decided that the suspects could be extradited to Rwanda. On 1 August 2008, the Secretary of State signed orders to the effect that the four accused persons be extradited to Rwanda to face trial for crimes of genocide.

The suspects appealed this decision and the High Court decided that the accused could not be extradited to Rwanda, due to a real risk that they would suffer ‘a flagrant denial of justice’ (Paragraph 139 Judgment). 

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Legally relevant facts

Three of the appellants were so-called bourgmestres, a ‘mayor’ in one of the Rwandan communities with a significant level of de facto power and authority. The forth, Vincent Brown, was not a bourgemestre, but was considered to be member of the Akazu and a close associate of President Habyarimana. All of the appellants were allegedly involved in the massacre of Tutsi civilians during the genocide of 1994 (challenge extradition proceedings p. 1). After the conflict, they fled to the UK and applied for asylum. Because there was no extradition treaty between the United Kingdom and Rwanda the two countries entered into a series of memoranda of understanding relating to the extradition of the applicants. The applicants were arrested and remanded in custody.

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Core legal questions

  • The question for the High Court is whether, if the suspects are returned to Rwanda for trial before the High Court, the appellants would suffer a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice (para. 24).

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Sections 81, 87, 93(4), 194(1)(a) and (b) of the Extradition Act 2003. 
  • Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Civil Liberties.
  • Article 14 of the International Covenant on Cultural and Political Rights. 
  • Articles 1, 2, 3, 13 and 14 of Organic Law “Concerning Transfer of Cases to the Republic of Rwanda from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and from Other States".

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Court's holding and analysis

The High Court concluded that if the accused were extradited to face trial in the High Court of Rwanda, the appellants would suffer a real risk of a flagrant denial of justice by reason of their likely inability to adduce the evidence of supporting witnesses (para. 66).

The ‘Organic Law’ is limited as to make provision only for witnesses in cases transferred from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. There is no evidence how these provisions work in practice (para. 64). The government of Rwanda and the judge have placed much reliance on the Organic Law, but we have virtually no evidence of its application in real cases.

‘When one adds all the particular evidence we have described touching the justice system, we are driven to conclude that if these appellants were returned there would be a real risk that they would suffer a flagrant denial of justice (Para. 121). Thus, the Court held that the accused could not be extradited. 

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials