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KYLE COWAN | 25 MAY 2017 | BUSINESS DAY
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in Bloemfontein on Wednesday formalised an agreement setting aside the refugee status of former Rwandan army general Faustin Nyamwasa.
The parties to the agreement were the Consortium of Refugees and Migrants in SA (Cormsa) and several government respondents including the minister of international relations and co-operation.
Nyamwasa was granted asylum in 2010 after fleeing his home country due to a disagreement with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Nyamwasa and Kagame were founding members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which took power in 1994, ending the mass slaughter of more than 800‚000 Tutsi people.
Nyamwasa has been accused of being involved in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity between 1994 and 1998 and was granted asylum despite the allegations‚ sparking the consortium‚ the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) and the Wits Law Clinic to petition the courts.
The Supreme Court of Appeal was set to hear the appeal by the consortium against a High Court in Pretoria ruling that agreed with the state that Nyamwasa qualified because he was a “vulnerable person” likely to face persecution if deported‚ as stipulated in clause 3 of the Refugees Act. This clause outweighs clause 4 of the act, which states that no person is allowed asylum if he or she is believed to have been involved in war crimes or crimes against humanity.
The state has maintained that there is no concrete evidence Nyamwasa was involved in crimes in Rwanda‚ despite two investigations by the French and Spanish judiciary, which ended in warrants of arrest being issued.
He has through a deposition told French investigators that he heard Kagame say RPF forces were responsible for the assassination of former president Juvenual Habyarimana‚ whose French-crewed plane was shot down with a missile on 1994.
The state further maintained in court papers that according to the confidentiality of asylum applications‚ it is not forced to divulge any details of why it decided to grant him refugee status‚ details of which the consortium hoped would be made public through the courts.
Habyarimana’s death launched a campaign that targeted Rwanda’s Tutsi people‚ and over the next 100 days close to 800‚000 people were slaughtered in cold blood.
The first French investigation in 2006 resulted in arrest warrants being issued for several people close to Kagame, including Nyamwasa‚ who responded by cutting diplomatic ties with France.
The Consortium of Refugees and Migrants in SA has maintained in court papers that Nyamwasa’s refugee status should be declared invalid, arguing that the investigations by foreign authorities were competent and with merit‚ citing extradition requests by those governments that were flatly refused by SA on constitutional grounds.
SA’s Constitution states that no asylum seeker may be deported back to his or her home country if they are likely to face unfair persecution or harm.
The Spanish have since dropped their indictment‚ but vowed that if Nyamwasa was to set foot on its territory‚ he would be arrested and charged in connection with the killing of Spanish nuns.
No arguments were presented, SALC said in a statement on Thursday‚ revealing that the decision to grant Nyamwasa refugee status was reviewed and set aside.
“The order is suspended for a period of 180 days from the date of appeal to enable the Department of Home Affairs’ refugee authorities to reconsider and make a final decision on the refugee status of the respondent [Nyamwasa]‚” the statement read.
Nyamwasa would be permitted to make written and oral submissions to the authorities to argue his case.