New court bid against Rwandan army general's refugee status in SA

2015-09-15 19:08
A prominent Rwandan exile who was shot in Johannesburg alleges his president was behind a plot to kill him, and that the leader has tried to kill other dissidents around the world. (File, AFP)

A prominent Rwandan exile who was shot in Johannesburg alleges his president was behind a plot to kill him, and that the leader has tried to kill other dissidents around the world. (File, AFP)

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Pretoria - The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) is considering a petition to the Appeal Court over a court ruling that a former Rwandan general and alleged war criminal can retain his refugee status in South Africa.

SALC assisted the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CoRMSA) in an application for leave to appeal against a ruling by Judge Nomonde Ngqibisa-Thusi in the High Court in Pretoria last year.

The judge dismissed CoRMSA's application to set aside the government's 2010 decision to grant refugee status to Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, saying he fell within the category of vulnerable groups in need of protection.

This was because he faced persecution in his home country for his political beliefs.

On Tuesday, she refused CoRMSA leave to appeal against her ruling, saying there was no prospect of success on appeal or any compelling reason why another court should deal with the matter.

The Constitutional Court earlier dismissed CoRMSA's direct application for leave to appeal, saying it would not be in the interest of justice to hear it at this stage.

SALC director Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh said they had been hopeful of a positive outcome, but would now seriously consider taking the matter further and petition the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Nyamwasa is a former lieutenant general who was the chief of staff of the Rwandan Army. He was also the head of Rwandan Intelligence and served as his country's ambassador to India.

He fled to South Africa in 2010, after surviving an assassination attempt in the same year.

He has been accused of of committing war crimes in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo while serving as a general in the Rwandan Patriotic Army and is the subject of extradition requests by Spain, France and Rwanda.

CoRMSA challenged the ruling, arguing that Nyamwasa should not have been granted refugee status because suspected perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity were ineligible in accordance with domestic and international refugee law.

It maintained the case raised the issue of South Africa's obligation to ensure that it did not become a safe haven for perpetrators of international crime.

Counsel for CoRMSA, Gilbert Marcus SC, argued that there was reason to believe that Nyamwasa had committed war crimes, but Marumo Moerane SC, for the government, argued there was no proof of this.

Marcus insisted that the government had failed to supply any information about the process that was followed before they made the decision, except to say there were conflicting reports which did not amount to concrete evidence against Nyamwasa.

Moerane argued that an order withdrawing Nyamwasa's refugee status would render him an illegal immigrant due for deportation, but could have no practical effect because South Africa was compelled not to return him to a country where he would be subject to persecution.

Marcus said they were merely asking the court to set aside an unconstitutional decision.

Nyamwasa's lawyer, Herman Alberts, argued that the African Union had discredited the French and Spanish indictments and that there was no proof of any wrongdoing against his client and no formal extradition requests.

Read more on:    salc  |  faustin kayumba nyamwasa  |  rwanda

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