Pretoria: On Friday, 26 September 2014, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that Rwandan General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa is entitled to refugee status in South Africa, despite a challenge brought by the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) on the basis that his suspected involvement in the commission of war crimes renders him ineligible for asylum.
Nyamwasa has been accused of committing war crimes in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo while serving as a general in the Rwandan Patriotic Army, and is the subject of various extradition requests – including requests from France and Spain – in respect of these and other international crimes. While once a close ally of Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, Nyamwasa has recently been the target of alleged assassination attempts in South Africa by Rwandese agents.
The High Court ruled that South African authorities were aware of, and considered the serious allegations against Nyamwasa and also that CoRMSA had not shown sufficient reason to believe that Nyamwasa was involved in the alleged crimes.
“The judgment is extraordinary in maintaining that CoRMSA had not shown sufficient reason to believe Nyamwasa’s involvement in these crimes”, said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, a representative of CoRMSA. “South Africa has received two separate extradition requests – from France and Spain – for the surrender of Nyamwasa so that he might stand trial for the commission of these crimes.”
Nicole Fritz, director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which supported the case, agreed: “Not only are the findings surprising, but the court ordered costs against the applicants, which is essentially a punitive measure and stands against the well-established precedent that those acting in the public interest should not be burdened with punitive costs orders. It is hard to imagine litigation more inspired by the public interest than this – which seeks to preserve the integrity of the refugee system and ensure that South Africa is not a safe haven for international war criminals.”
For more information:
Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, CoRMSA representative: +27 11 339 1960; +27 84 514 8039; firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicole Fritz, SALC executive director: +27 10 596 8538; +27 82 600 1028; email@example.com