Malawi has finally extradited 1994 Rwandan genocide suspect Vincent Murekezi to face the law over the offence he allegedly committed in his country.
Malawi extradited Murekezi on Sunday after a one-year court battle in which he challenged the government through his lawyer Wapona Kita not to send him back home because the two countries do not have an extradition treaty.
Kita has since cried foul over the development, accusing the Malawi Government of acting unconstitutionally and denying Murekezi his right to be heard.
Information sourced from Rwandese government agencies show that Murekezi arrived at Kigali International Airport yesterday where Malawi Prison Service (MPS) officials handed him over to the Rwanda Correctional Service under a prisoners’ exchange programme which the continent’s correctional services are implementing.
Before his extradition, Murekezi, who owned several businesses in Lilongwe, was serving a five-year jail term after being convicted on fraud-related charges.
While Rwanda has openly disclosed information on the extradition, Malawi has remained silent.
Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala did not respond to a questionnaire from The Nation and his phone went unanswered.
But Rwanda’s National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) yesterday said in a statement it will ensure that all necessary processes are taken into consideration so that Murekezi is held accountable for the crime he is being accused of.
Tweeted the NPPA: “The National Public Prosecution Authority welcomes the decision by the Malawian authorities to have Murekezi Vincent, a Rwandan genocide suspect, transferred to Rwanda to serve the remainder of his prison sentence after conviction by Malawian courts.”
In his tweet, prosecutor general Jean Bosco Mutangana hailed Malawi for deporting Murekezi under the guidelines of the extradition treaty which Malawi and Rwanda signed in February 2017.
He said: “I would like to thank authorities in Malawi, Justice, Prisons Services and the DPP’s [Directorate of Public Prosecutions] office for the cooperation extended to have Murekezi Vincent sent to Rwanda to serve his sentence.”
In his reaction, Kita said the action is illegal because Murekezi was not given the chance to be heard before getting extradited and that there is a standing court injunction which his client obtained to restrain government from deporting him.
He said: “This is a mockery to the justice system. Government has thrown the Constitution to the dogs. The Constitution calls for administrative justice which requires to give every person the right to be heard.”
Kita said there is a valid injunction restraining the extradition process.
But the lawyer said he could not act since his client was no longer accessible to direct him on the next course of action.
Murekezi was arrested in December 2016 following an international arrest warrant issued by Rwandan prosecution authorities to their Malawian counterparts.
While he could not be extradited at the time, the Anti-Corruption Bureau took advantage to prosecute him on a corruption charge which he had allegedly been evading for years, resulting in the five-year sentence.
Rwandan media reports indicate that Murekezi’s arrest on December 2016 was “preceded by an uproar from members of the civil society in the southern African country”.
In 2017, Malawi and Rwanda signed the Joint Permanent Commission for Cooperation agreements and Memorandums of Understanding which, among others, reviewed its extradition laws to include Rwanda in line with Commonwealth treaties. n