ECtHR - Ahorugeze v Sweden, Application No. 37075/09

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Country of Applicant: 
Rwanda
Date of Decision: 
04-06-2012
Citation: 
Ahorugeze v. Sweden - 37075/09
Court Name: 
European Court of Human Rights - Fifth Section
Headnote: 

The case concerned an applicant who was to be extradited to Rwanda to stand trial on charges of genocide. He challenged the extradition on the grounds that it would violate Articles 3 and 6 of the Convention.

Facts: 

The applicant, a Rwandan of Hutu ethnicity, took up residence in Denmark in 2001, where he was granted refugee status. The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs received a request from the Rwandan authorities to have the applicant extradited to Rwanda to stand trial for a number of charges, including genocide and crimes against humanity. No decision had been taken by the Danish authorities on the request for extradition.

In July 2008, the applicant was arrested in Stockholm in compliance with an international alert and arrest warrant. In August 2008, the Rwandan prosecution service formally requested Mr Ahorugeze's extradition so that he could be prosecuted for genocide, murder, extermination and involvement with a criminal gang. They also presented assurances that he would be treated humanely and be given a fair trial, in accordance with internationally accepted standards. A Swedish court authorised Mr Ahorugeze's detention on suspicion of genocide. Following the prosecutor's opinion favouring extradition, the Supreme Court concluded that there was no general legal obstacle to sending Mr Ahorugeze to Rwanda to stand trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The Supreme Court added that it assumed the Swedish Government would consider further information before it took its final decision whether to extradite.

In July 2009, the Swedish Government decided to extradite Mr Ahorugeze to Rwanda to be tried for genocide and crimes against humanity. It noted that the death penalty and life imprisonment in isolation had been abolished in 2007 and 2008 respectively. The prison conditions were acceptable, and Rwanda did not practice torture or other forms of ill-treatment. The Rwandan judicial system had improved over the last couple of years, including its witness protection programme and the possibility to interview witnesses living abroad. On 15 July 2009, upon Mr Ahorugeze's request, the Court - applying the rule on interim measures of the Rules of Court - indicated to Sweden that his extradition should be suspended. Following the Court's request, the Swedish Government presented the assurances it had received from the Rwandan Minister of Justice confirming that Mr Ahorugeze would be tried fairly and treated correctly. The Swedish Supreme Court released Mr Ahorugeze from detention on 27 July 2011.

Relying on Article 3, Mr Ahorugeze complained that if extradited to Rwanda he would risk being tortured or otherwise ill-treated. He further argued that would not be able to get heart surgery in Rwanda and risked persecution because he was a Hutu. Under Article 6, he alleged that he would not get a fair trial in Rwanda.

Decision & Reasoning: 

While it appeared that Mr Ahorugeze had had heart surgery, there had been no medical certificates suggesting that he would need another operation in the future. In any event, the applicant’s condition was not so serious as to raise an issue on medical grounds under Article 3.

As to his claim that he risked persecution because he was a Hutu, there had been no information leading to the conclusion that Hutus generally were persecuted or ill-treated in Rwanda. Likewise, the applicant had not described any personal circumstances under which he risked persecution as a Hutu.

The conditions in the prison in which he would be detained and, if convicted, would serve his sentence, were satisfactory. Finally, there was nothing to suggest that he would be ill-treated in Rwanda. As of 2008, people transferred by other States to Rwanda to stand trial could not be sentenced to life imprisonment in isolation. Consequently, Sweden would not breach the prohibition of ill-treatment under Article 3 of the Convention if it extradited Mr Ahorugeze to Rwanda.

With regard to whether there would be a breach of Article 6 should the applicant be extradited, the Court found that Rwandan laws had been changed and legal practice had improved. The central question was whether Mr Ahorugeze would be able to call witnesses and have the Rwandan courts examine their testimony respecting the principle of equality of arms between defence and prosecution. Considering in detail the changes in legislation and practice, the Court concluded that the Rwandan courts were expected to act in a manner compatible with the Convention requirements for a fair trial. In addition, Mr Ahorugeze would be able to appoint a lawyer of his choice; he could also benefit from a lawyer paid by the State, and many Rwandan lawyers had accumulated professional experience longer than five years. Given the evidence collected by Dutch investigative teams and the Norwegian police during missions to Rwanda, the Court concluded that the Rwandan judiciary could not be considered to lack independence and impartiality.

The applicant had not shown that he would be tried unfairly because he had testified for the defence in genocide trials in the past. Extradited genocide suspects were tried by the Rwandan High Court and Supreme Court, and not by the community-based gacaca tribunals set up in 2002 to deal with the enormous amount of cases by bringing genocide participants to trial and promoting national unity.

Consequently, if extradited to stand trial in Rwanda, Mr Ahorugeze would not risk a flagrant denial of justice. There would, therefore, be no violation of Article 6 in that event.

Outcome: 

The Court found that the applicant’s extradition to Rwanda would not involve a violation of Article 3 or Article 6 of the Convention.

The Court continued to indicate to the Government under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court that it is desirable in the interests of the proper conduct of the proceedings not to extradite the applicant until such time as the present judgment becomes final.

Case Law Cited: 

UK - Vincent Brown aka Vincent Bajinja v Government of Rwanda and the Secretary of State for the Home Department [2009] EWHC 770 (Admin)

ECtHR - Mamatkulov Askarov v Turkey, Applications nos. 46827/99 and 46951/99

ECtHR - N v United Kingdom (Application no. 26565/05)
Other sources cited: 

Prosecutor v. Jean Uwinkindi (Decision on Prosecutor's Request for Referral to the Republic of Rwanda - Rule 11 bis of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence), Case No. ICTR-2001-75-R11bis, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), 28 June 2011

ICTR’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence

Authentic Language: 
English
State Party: 
Sweden
National / Other Legislative Provisions: 
Sweden - Lag om utlämning för brott (Criminal Offences - Extradition Act) 1957