Dutch appeals court approves third extradition genocide suspect to Rwanda

The extradition of a Rwandan man has become more likely now that the Appeals Court of The Hague has denied his request to forbid it. The man, Vénant R., born in 1949, has resided for years in the Netherlands, where he first applied for asylum in October 2000. He is suspected by the Rwandan authorities of genocide and crimes against humanity. As a regional director of an agricultural institute outside the southern city of Butare in Rwanda, Vénant R. is alleged to have given his subordinates and other (Hutu) civilians instructions and tools to kill Tutsi civilians, and assisted in rounding up a group of Tutsi civilians who were subsequently killed.

Information from the verdicts in this case show that his initial asylum request was denied based on Article 1F Refugee Convention in 2001. He was declared persona non grata in 2011, but was never deported because of concerns that adequate health care would not be available to him in Rwanda. Appeals against his ban and repeated asylum requests were all denied. The Rwandan authorities had requested his extradition in 2010, and again in 2018. After the Rwandan government had given guarantees that the man would receive a fair trial and adequate health care, the second request was approved on 23 May 2019, which was confirmed by the Supreme Court on 28 January 2020. The Dutch government ordered his extradition, which the man tried to prevent in court. The The Hague Appeals Court has now confirmed the earlier District Court’s decision that the extradition is admissible.

If the man is indeed extradited, this is the third extradition of a Rwandan asylum seeker to be tried in the Rwandan domestic justice system. On 12 November 2016, Jean-Claude I. and Jean Baptiste M. were extradited to Rwanda. Their trials have been ongoing for over four years, but are expected to be finalised in the coming period. As part of the guarantees provided in those cases, the Kenya branch of the International Commission of Jurists monitors these trials for the Dutch government (monitoring reports can be found here).

In its verdict, the Appeals Court concludes that the man’s age and medical state are not reasons to deny extradition. The guarantees provided by the Rwandan government are sufficient to assume he will receive adequate health care and have access to medication. This, the Court argues, is supported by the monitoring reports from the earlier two cases. In relation to fair trial concerns, the Court concludes that some of the issues that have come up in the cases against the two men extradited earlier by the Netherlands – such as that the trials take too long, that the suspects have not been able to receive any visitors for more than a year (allegedly due to the pandemic), and that a witness has claimed to have been tortured – are not a reason to expect a ‘flagrant denial of justice’ (Article 6 European Convention on Human Rights) in this case.

Particularly interesting about this case is that the Vénant R.’s medical situation previously prevented deportation, while in the context of the extradition case, guarantees have now been provided by the Rwandan authorities that he will have access to adequate medical care. This raises the question why such guarantees could not have been given to secure his deportation earlier on, outside an extradition procedure (in the form of ‘diplomatic assurances’). The answer may be that the Rwandan authorities had no interest in providing the man with adequate healthcare until the idea to request for his extradition arose (possibly because they did not have information on his possible involvement in crimes). Extradition procedures require the requesting state to meet certain conditions posed by extradition law and human rights law. As the Rwandan authorities had an interest in prosecuting him, they were willing to provide guarantees that those conditions are met. For the Dutch state, the extradition would mean there would be one less undesirable but unremovable migrant on Dutch soil.