“A few dozen war criminals in the Netherlands”
Dutch Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin visited Rwanda this summer. He says there are possibly a few dozen Rwandan war criminals living in the Netherlands.
He was in the Rwandan capital Kigali in June, and signed a declaration of intent to work towards the extradition of war criminals to Rwanda.
The Netherlands still supports President Paul Kagame’s government in Rwanda despite growing international criticism of his regime. Hirsch Ballin hopes an extradition treaty will soon be in place, allowing genocide suspects who came to the Netherlands as refugees to face trial in Rwanda. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reporter Sophie van Leeuwen talked to the Dutch minister in The Hague.
You were holding talks in Rwanda on an extradition treaty and suddenly a Rwandan genocide suspect was arrested in the south of the Netherlands. Was that just a coincidence?
That arrest was not the result of my visit to Kigali. Our policy has been in place since 2008. We want people who come to the Netherlands with the intention of staying here – and who are suspected of crimes against humanity or against international law – to be brought to trial here, before an international tribunal or in the country where the crimes were allegedly committed.
Brussels : Dutch Justice minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin (R) speaks with EU Vice president Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Viviane Reding (R) prior to a Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting
How many genocide suspects are at large in the Netherlands?
We should be thinking in terms of a few dozen.
The figure 16 was mentioned earlier. Should that be more?
Possibly, only time will tell.
What’s it like in Rwanda now? What did you see there?
The rule of law had to be built up after the 1994 genocide. We’ve been giving the prosecution service and judges support since that time. Impressive work has been done. There were an enormous number of suspects and we’ve not got there yet. A few of them, for the most part people in senior positions, have yet to be brought to justice.
What are your conditions for an extradition treaty?
The judicial process has to be guaranteed. We are also concerned about the protection of witnesses. That’s also part of our justice support programme. I’m confident there’ll be swift progress. It’s looking positive: that’s why I signed the declaration of intent together with my Rwandan colleague.
International criticism of Rwanda is growing, especially after presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire and her lawyer were arrested. President Kagame is being accused of trying to interfere with free elections scheduled for August. What is your position on this?
Firstly, I’d like to say that the Rwandan government was democratically chosen and is legitimate. I will not make statements about individual judicial cases taking place in Rwanda. We anticipate no problems with the country’s democratic process.
Kigali : Rwanda's President Paul Kagame speaks at the launch of his re-election campaign on 20 July 2010 at a rally in the capital Kigali
So, you will continue to support the Rwandan government? You will extradite future suspects despite the case of Victoire Ingabire?
The case you’re referring to has nothing to do with extradition. It concerns someone who travelled to Rwanda herself. It’s not my place to comment on the case. We intend to carry on working towards a treaty because of the exceptional co-operation in the field of justice between our two countries.
You don’t find Paul Kagame’s government controversial, as some contend it is? You think it’s a credible regime?
There’s going to be a presidential election soon. Naturally, we’ll continue to work with the democratically elected government.
Radio Netherlands World