NEWS

Mugesera's deportation delay 'stinging insult' to genocide survivors: prosecutor

01/13/2012 01:17 EST | Updated 03/14/2012 05:12 EDT
MONTREAL - Rwanda's chief prosecutor is calling a Quebec court decision to stay the deportation of a man accused of helping incite genocide a "stinging insult" to survivors.

A Quebec Superior Court justice ordered a one-week delay in the removal of Leon Mugesera on Thursday — the day he was due to be deported from Canada.

Rwandan Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga said in a statement Friday the Canadian government should proceed with Mugesera's deportation despite the 11th-hour court order.

"The Mugesera team is obviously scrambling to find any remaining sympathetic ear for their client,'' Ngoga said in a statement posted on the Rwandan government's website.

''It is disappointing they seem to have found one.

"We applaud Canada's commitment to facilitate justice in the Mugesera case, and trust they will reject this latest stunt."

Mugesera, a university professor and one-time Rwandan political operative, faces criminal charges related to an anti-Tutsi speech he delivered in 1992 that allegedly helped incite the Rwandan genocide.

In 1994, Hutu-backed militias led the 100-day massacre of between 800,000 and one million Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

Mugesera's lawyers went to court after expressing fears the Quebec City resident could face torture if he's deported to the African country.

The Quebec court decision aims to give Mugesera's legal team more time to argue that Ottawa must allow the United Nations Committee Against Torture to investigate the risk of torture in Rwanda before he's deported.

The committee requested Canada give it time to examine the case, a process that could take a couple of months.

But Ngoga argued the torture argument is "cynical and baseless" because the UN has already recognized that his country's human-rights record has vastly improved.

He noted that Rwanda abolished the death penalty in 2007, ratified an international convention against torture and has already been permitted by the UN to house war criminals from Sierra Leone.

The United States, Ngoga added, has deported two Rwandans back to the country, where they were convicted of genocide-related crimes and are now serving prison sentences.

"None of these things would be possible if Rwanda was suspected of engaging in torture of any kind," he said in the statement titled, 'The Mugesera Deportation: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.'

"The Rwandan people have no interest in torture or retribution, only justice."

Following Thursday's court decision in Quebec, the Canadian government said it was "extremely disappointed" with the ruling and was examining its legal options.

On Friday, a spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency said, "We are committed to (Mugesera's) removal in accordance with Canadian law."

Mugesera's case also took a sudden twist earlier this week.

He was hospitalized Wednesday for an unspecified health condition shortly after the Federal Court ruled against what was believed to be his final attempt to stay in Canada, where he has lived for the last 19 years.

His family said in a statement Thursday he was in "critical condition," but did not provide further details.

The family pleaded with Ottawa to respect its international obligations and allow him to stay until the UN investigation is complete.

One of the lawyers who filed the Quebec Superior Court motion on Mugesera's behalf said the challenge had little to do with the specifics of his case — he wanted to send a message to the federal government.

Philippe Larochelle accused the Canadian government of ignoring its international commitments by proceeding with Mugesera's deportation before the UN committee could examine his case.

In his decision, Justice William Fraiberg ordered a stay of deportation until Jan. 20, when Mugesera's lawyers are due back in court.

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