Forty Rwandan officials facing war crime charges in Spanish courts have now been left off the hook after the Supreme Court of Spain dismissed the genocide cases against them.
The accused, mostly top military rulers were accused of revenge killings in the 1994 genocide where over 800,000 people were killed within the 100-day ethnic cleansing that devastated mainly ethnic Tutsis at the hands of their Hutu neighbours.
The Supreme Court ruling overrules any existing arrest warrants already issued against the accused, but then 29 of them still face prosecution if they ever set foot in Spanish territory.
“We have always said that such a case requires proper and credible investigation,” said Johnston Busingye, Rwanda’s justice minister. “This particular investigation started by listing almost the entire leadership of the Rwanda Defence Forces on a charge sheet and then worked backwards to find offences with which to charge them.”
The Spanish government launched the case against the officers in 2008, and a court judge issued international arrest warrants against the officials, accusing them of crimes against humanity, terrorism, and genocide.
A rebel army led by Paul Kagame, now the Rwandan president, brought the killings to an end.
Two of the accused persons are Jacques Nziza, whom people say is the strongest man in Rwanda after President Paul Kagame; and General Karenzi Karake, who was arrested earlier this year in London but the UK government failed to concede to his extradition.
Spain upholds a principle of universal jurisdiction which argues that certain crimes are so heavy they transcend national sovereignty.
Courts in Spain have brought cases against the US over torture allegations at Guantanamo Bay, against China for alleged human rights violations in Tibet, and forced the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London.