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By 15 June 2016January 21st, 2023International Justice, International Justice War Crimes3 min read

Johannesburg- On 14 June 2016, the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) filed its papers before the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) challenging the state’s granting 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 an extradition request from France in respect of these 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 in June 2010, detailing the legal implications of granting Nyamwasa refugee status.

After no meaningful response was received from the authorities, legal proceedings were initiated challenging the granting 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 the 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.

In 2015 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.

Determined to protect the integrity of the refugee system CoRMSA with SALC’s assistance, has directly petitioned the SCA.

“This case is of grave importance as the sanctity of the refugee system is at stake” said Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, SALC’s executive director, “yet again South Africa is being treated as a safe haven for suspected criminals. This cannot continue.”

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 refugee system is designed to protect the persecuted not those who are suspected of being persecutors,” said Roshan Dadoo, director of CoRMSA. Dadoo added, “in addition, this case represents the importance of ensuring transparency and proper decision making when handling refugee applications.”

The SCA will determine when the matter is heard.

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