Pretoria– On 14 September 2015, the North Gauteng High Court denied the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) leave to appeal in the case challenging the grant of refugee status to alleged war criminal General Kayumba Nyamwasa.
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. General Nyamwasa was granted refugee status by the South African authorities despite the fact that the South African Refugees Act renders suspected perpetrators of war crimes ineligible for refugee status.
Seeking to protect the integrity of the refugee system and to ensure that South Africa is not a safe haven for criminals, CoRMSA with the support of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), submitted a legal briefing paper to the authorities detailing the legal implications of granting Nyamwasa refugee status.
After no meaningful response was received from the authorities, legal proceedings were initiated challenging the grant of refugee status. In their submissions, CoRMSA made it clear that in accordance with the Refugees Act, and due to credible evidence implicating Nyamwasa in the commission of egregious international crimes, he is ineligible for refugee status.
On 26 September 2014, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that Nyamwasa is entitled to refugee status in South Africa. 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.
CoRMSA sought leave to appeal this judgment and Judge Mngqibisa-Thusi dismissed the application indicating that it is unlikely that another court would rule differently on the matter.
“We are extremely disappointed in the dismissal of the appeal” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, executive director of SALC, “the asylum system is designed to protect vulnerable persons from persecution not to shield suspected perpetrators.”
This case raises a number of issues, including the proper interpretation and administration of South Africa’s Refugees Act in accordance with international law and South Africa’s constitutional mandate to ensure accountable, transparent and rational decision making.
“The matter is far from over. CoRMSA will continue to fight to protect the integrity of the refugee system,” said Roshan Dadoo, director of CoRMSA. Dadoo added, “ CoRMSA, will petition the Supreme Court of Appeal directly and seek to have the matter ventilated at this level”.
For further information:
Angela Mudukuti, International Criminal Justice Lawyer, SALC; firstname.lastname@example.org; +27 10 596 8538
Roshan Dadoo, Director, CoRMSA; email@example.com; +27 11 403 7560