Kigali: The South African High Court on Monday next week opens hearing of the case in which two groups are challenging their government’s decision to grant refugee status to exiled ex-Rwanda army chief Lt Gen Kayumba Nyamwasa, RNA reports.
Back in early 2011, the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants Rights in South Africa (CoRMSA) and the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) asked their government to explain to the South African people how it granted asylum to Gen Kayumba, describing him as a “war criminal”.
“No meaningful response was received and no indication that Nyamwasa’s refugee claim was revisited was given,” say the two groups in a statement released Thursday.
Then in June the 2011, the organizations went to court to force the government to give a “substantive explanation” and calling for Kayumba’s refugee status to be revoked. The refusal to engage with the issues raised in the briefing paper necessitated the initiation of legal proceedings, according to the organizations.
Now the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has scheduled the hearing for Monday and Tuesday next week. Judge Mngqibisa-Thusi will be handling the case.
“In terms of South African and international law, people accused of international crimes are not eligible for refugee status,” said Nicole Fritz, Director of SALC. “This decision is not only unlawful but it is offensive to those in genuine need of South Africa’s protection and sends a signal to war criminals the world over that they will find a safe haven here – a haven where they might be actively protected as refugees.”
The South African organisations give a detailed account of the war crimes charges against Gen Kayumba. They say “credible reports implicate” him in the commission of “grave human rights violations” in this region that amount to “crimes against humanity and war crimes”.
In early 2010, when cases of corruption and embezzlement surfaced in Rwanda, Kayumba fled to South Africa. The Government of Rwanda has also pinned him on a spate of fatal grenade attacks around the country that killed several people around February 2010.
In January 2011, Rwanda’s Military Court sentenced Kayumba in absentia, along with his current colleagues in arms Patrick Karegeya, Dr Theogene Rudasingwa and Gerald Gahima.
The South African groups also name the 2008 indictments in which Spanish Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles wants the exiled General-turned politician to answer for various war crimes charges.
“The Spanish indictment maintains Nyamwasa was responsible for the massacre of 2500 refugees and the murder of four Spanish nationals, amongst other serious crimes,” say the organisations in their submission to court, in which 2006 contested indictments by French Judge Jean Louise Bruguiere, is named.