Genocide suspect fails in release bid

A RWANDAN man who had been living in Essex and is facing genocide charges in his home country has failed in a bid to be released from prison.Celestin Ugirashebuja was arrested at his home in Walton-on-the-Naze late last year after he was accused of playing a key role in 1994 Rwanda genocide.

A RWANDAN man who had been living in Essex and is facing genocide charges in his home country has failed in a bid to be released from prison.

Celestin Ugirashebuja was arrested at his home in Walton-on-the-Naze late last year after he was accused of playing a key role in 1994 Rwanda genocide.

The 53-year-old churchgoer - who denies any wrongdoing - has been in prison ever since and his lawyers have been fighting against the extradition proceedings which were only possible because of a special agreement between the British Government and their Rwandan counterparts.

But judges at the High Court yesterday dismissed arguments that Home Secretary John Reid exceeded his powers under the 2003 Extradition Act by extending the time within which Rwanda was required to file detailed extradition requests from 45 days to 95 days after the date of arrest.


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Ugirashebuja and three fellow Rwandans are accused in a provisional extradition warrant of killing, or conspiring with or aiding and abetting others to kill, members of the Tutsi ethnic group “with the intent to destroy in whole, or in part, that group”.

The four men had been arrested at locations across the UK in December under a memorandum of understanding in which Rwanda waived the death penalty and became a temporary special extradition partner with the UK.

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Defence lawyers sought orders of “habeas corpus'” freeing the men from custody on the basis that the statutory 45 days expired on February 11 with no detailed documents received from Rwanda.

Lord Justice Latham and Mr Justice Lloyd Jones refused them permission to appeal to the House of Lords against the ruling, but said this did not prevent them from applying direct to the Law Lords for permission.

During the court's judgment, Mr Justice Jones said the result was “remarkable” in that the Home Secretary had been given power to “modify primary legislation” without the safeguards which applied elsewhere in the Extradition Act.

“Nevertheless, I have come to the clear conclusion that that is the intention of Parliament,” he said.

Now solicitors for Ugirashebuja are looking to the next hearing on April 2 which is the deadline for extradition papers to arrive from Rwanda outlining the details of the case against the men.

Colin Nott, senior partner at Hallinan, Blackburn, Gittings and Nott solicitors in London, said the extradition process could take months.

An appeal against Ugirashebuja being refused asylum status in the UK is also yet to be heard.

Ugirashebuja had been living in Walton with his wife and children and was a much-liked member of the Frinton Parish Church which has held special prayer meetings.

Mabel Jones, who lives in Frinton and has known Ugirashebuja since the 1970s when she was working in Rwanda, said yesterday: “Celestin is fine in himself - he phones regularly and his daughters have been over and able to speak to him on the phone.”

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