The UN refugee agency Saturday expressed deep concerns over Rwanda’s bid to get neighbouring Uganda to return seven refugees to Kigali, potentially against international law.
The case mirrors that of Joel Mutabazi, a former guard of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who was seized illegally in Uganda last year where he was a refugee and sent back to Kigali to be put on trial for rebellion.
“UNHCR is deeply concerned about recent reports that the Rwandan authorities have requested the extradition of seven Rwandan refugees from Uganda,” the agency said in a statement Saturday.
Neither UNHCR or Ugandan have given details on the names of the refugees, or why Kigali wants them back.
But UNHCR urged Uganda to “ensure that the principles of international refugee protection are respected”, reminding Kampala of the case of Mutabazi.
Kampala later said allowing Mutabazi to be taken back to Rwanda was an “error of judgement”.
Ugandan Minister for Refugees Musa Ecweru told AFP that Kigali’s new request was being considered.
“Rwanda recently made a request to us to enable them to extradite seven individuals, but the extradition has to go through an elaborate legal process in line with international standards,” Ecweru said.
In the case of Mutabazi, Human Rights Watch accused the Ugandan police of having “utterly failed” to protect a refugee “clearly at serious risk”.
Mutabazi, 37, initially pleaded not guilty to charges including terrorism, formation of an armed group and murder, but when his trial was moved behind closed doors in December, he accepted all offences except that of terrorism. He still awaits trial.
Rwandan police accused Mutabazi of grenade attacks in Rwanda, saying he is connected to groups opposed to Kagame’s rule.