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Danish Rwandan extradited to Kigali over genocide

A Danish man of Rwandan origin has been extradited to Kigali over his alleged role in the 1994 genocide, a Rwandan official said on Wednesday.

Danish Rwandan extradited to Kigali over genocide
A file photo of Copenhagen City Court. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Wenceslas Twagirayezu, who works in IT, was flown back to Rwanda on Tuesday evening after losing an appeal against extradition earlier this year. 

During the 1994 genocide, some 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis, were slaughtered by the military and by Hutu militias.

At the time, Twagirayezu was a teacher at a primary school in northern Rwanda but was also the local representative of the CDR (Coalition for the Defence of the Republic), an extremist Hutu movement, Kigali prosecutors say.

Twagirayezu, who was born in 1967, fled Rwanda in 1997 and arrived in Denmark in 2001. He was granted residency in 2002 and became a Danish citizen in 2004.

“Twagirayezu is accused of genocide, extermination and murder as crimes against humanity,” the Rwandan prosecutor's office said, referring to his alleged role in attacks against Tutsis in the areas around Gisenyi, a city on the northern tip of Lake Kivu.

“He participated in the mass killing and extermination of Tutsi.”

According to the indictment, one of the attacks which Twagirayezu was involved in targeted a parish church in Bususamana where at least a third of the 3,000 Tutsis who were taking refugee there were killed.

The prosecution said Twagirayezu would face a “fair trial” and called on other countries where “Rwandan genocide fugitives are still moving freely” to take the appropriate action to bring them to justice.

His extradition came as prosecutors in Belgium said they would put five Rwandans on trial over their role in the 1994 genocide.

Twagirayezu is the second suspect to be extradited from Denmark on suspicion of involvement in genocide after Emmanuel Mbarushimana was handed over to the Rwandan authorities in 2014.

READ ALSO: Danish Rwandan can be extradited for genocide: court 

IMMIGRATION

Danish government tables bill for offshore asylum centres as ministers return from Rwanda

A bill tabled by the Danish government and visit to Rwanda by Danish ministers has fuelled speculation Copenhagen plans to open an offshore asylum centre in the African country.

Danish government tables bill for offshore asylum centres as ministers return from Rwanda
Sjælsmark, a Danish 'departure centre' for rejected asylum seekers, photographed in August 2020. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Immigration minister Mattias Tesfaye and international development minister Flemming Møller Mortensen this week travelled to Rwanda where they signed an agreement with the Rwandan government. 

The trip was surrounded by an element of secrecy, with the ministers initially refusing to speak to Danish media and only the Rwandan foreign ministry officially publicising it.

READ ALSO: Danish ministers visit Rwanda but stay quiet on agreement

The two ministers landed back in Copenhagen on Thursday afternoon, the same day the government tabled a new bill sub-titled “Introduction of the option to transfer asylum seekers for processing and possible subsequent protection in third countries”.

Commenting on the Rwandan trip for the first time, Tesfaye declined to confirm the talks included discussion of an asylum centre. The government wants “discussions to take place in confidentiality”, he told broadcaster DR. He also rejected a connection to the bill, tabled by his ministry on Thursday, DR writes.

“It’s correct that it’s the government’s wish to establish a new asylum system where processing of asylum claims is moved out of Denmark. We are in dialogue with a number of countries about that,” the minister also said.

The agreement signed in Rwanda is “a framework on future partnerships” related to “environment and climate”, he said, adding “on the Danish side, we wish to manage migration in a better and fairer way. We have agreed to pursue this.”

Denmark’s Social Democratic government has a long-standing desire to establish a reception centre for refugees in a third country.

Rwanda in 2019 built a centre for asylum seekers stranded in Libya, but that centre has received a limited number of asylum seekers so far, DR reports based on UN data.

The Danish foreign ministry earlier confirmed that the two countries have agreed to work more closely on asylum and migration.

“This is not a case of a binding agreement, but a mutual framework for future partnership. The two governments will spend the coming period discussing concrete areas where the partnership can be strengthened,” the ministry wrote to DR.

The Danish Refugee Council criticised the bill, tweeting that “transfer of asylum seekers to a third country, as (proposed) in (parliament) today is irresponsible, lacks solidarity and should be condemned”.

“Over 80 million people have been driven from their homes while Denmark has a historically low number of asylum seekers. In that light it’s shameful that the government is trying to buy its way out of the responsibility for protecting refugees… it sets a dangerous example,” the NGO added.

The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has also responded to the law proposed by the government on Thursday.

The implementation of such a law would “rely on an agreement with a third country”, the UNHCR noted.

The agency wrote that it “strongly urges Denmark to refrain from establishing laws and practices that would externalize its asylum obligations” under UN conventions.

READ ALSO: Denmark registered record low number of asylum seekers in 2020

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