A UK court has dismissed a case involving Rwanda's spy chief Karenzi Karake, who was arrested in London on war crimes charges. Karake, nicknamed KK, is a member of paramilitary organisation and now Rwanda's ruling party Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). He was arrested at Heathrow Airport on 20 June.
In 2008, Karake was indicted by a Spanish judge, who alleged the 54-year-old ordered political assassinations and massacres between 1994 – during the Rwanda genocide – and 1997. A report by Human Rights Watch also accused Unamid (African Union-UN Mission in Darfur) troops under the leadership of Karake of killing an estimated 760 civilians in the Congolese town Kisangani while fighting Ugandan soldiers in 2000.
Following his arrest, Karake was granted conditional bail by Westminster magistrates' court, which today (10 August) dismissed the case and rejected Karake's extradition to Spain. "Under the Extradition Act, cases can be dismissed if offences specified in the [arrest] warrant are not offences under the meaning of the [act]," a court official told AFP.
Rwanda slammed the arrest as politically motivated. In a tweet presumably referring to the dismissal, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame said: "Truth is really very stubborn... it just chooses it[s]moment!" Meanwhile, Rwanda's foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo said she was happy Karake was returning home.
The Rwandan High Commission in London also welcomed Karake's release. In a statement, it said: "This draws to a welcome close a period of over seven weeks in which Lt Gen. Karake has been detained in London, which began with his incarceration in one of the UK's highest security prisons.
"For Rwanda, this indictment is not a trial of one of its leaders, still less a quest for justice: it twists Rwanda's recent tragic history and is an affront to a whole nation, its people and government.
"Indeed, it is Rwanda's view that the indictment is a travesty of justice or, as others have said, it provides an 'unrecognisable version of some of the most painful episodes in Rwanda's history, distorting the established record, inventing mass killings, and placing the blame for Rwanda's misfortunes upon the government of Rwanda', which stopped the genocide, rather than on those that perpetrated it."
According to a report by the BBC, people protesting against the verdict threw eggs outside the Rwandan High Commission in London as Karake was leaving the building.
David Himbara, a human rights activist and former Kagame's principal private secretary, told IBTimes UK: "For Kagame, this is the case of winning a battle, but losing the war. The battle is the release of Karake. However, when the spy chief was arrested, Kagame abused the entire Western world, and called it 'rubbish' and so the world had a better sense of who he is.
"Kagame has also realised that he is no longer taking for granted what he calls 'his friends'. When the UK arrested his senior official, he realised friendship is one thing, but the rule of law is another. There is limit to friendship, which is not beyond the law.
"I would also like to say to peace activists: This man was arrested on a warrant by Spain and then he was brought to court in the UK and the judge made the decision to free him. This does not necessarily mean that Karenzi never participated in any atrocities."