Niamey – Lawyers appealed on Friday to Niger to reconsider its expulsion of eight Rwandans linked to the East African country’s 1994 genocide, just a month after they were officially welcomed in the capital Niamey.
An informal appeal was lodged with the government requesting “the Nigerien State revisit its decision” to expel and urging it to abide by an agreement signed with the United Nations on November 15 that saw the group brought to Niger.
The government announced the expulsions on December 27 saying they were for “diplomatic reasons” and would take place within seven days.
Lawyer Kadidiatou Amadou told reporters the expulsion order was “in fragrant violation” of the agreement with the UN and offered no “serious reason” to deport the group, whose members are aged between 60 and 85.
She said Niger had committed in the accord not to extradite the eight to Rwanda or any other state, with them having already answered before the international criminal tribunal for their roles in the genocide.
The order was published after a report by the Jeune Afrique news magazine said Niger’s government made the U-turn after Rwanda expressed displeasure about their arrival in Niamey.
Of the eight people listed, four were convicted of crimes during the genocide by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). All four have served their sentences.
The other four were acquitted by the ICTR, including Protais Zigiranyirazo, who is the brother of former Rwandan first lady Agathe Habyarimana and was considered to be a prominent figure in the Hutu regime.
Niger signed the November agreement with the UN to host nine Rwandans – the eight expelled as well as former Rwandan foreign minister Jerome Clement Bicamumpaka, who was also acquitted by the ICTR.
Ibuka, a Rwandan umbrella group of genocide survivor organisations, had said it welcomed the expulsions.
“This decision by Niger will set an example to other genocidaires that they will always face justice,” Ibuka executive secretary Naphtali Ahishakiye told AFP.
Around 800,000 people died between April and July 1994 in Rwanda as the extremist Hutu regime tried to wipe out the Tutsi minority, causing one of the 20th century’s biggest massacres.
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