Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Francois Bazaramba: Slammed with Life Imprisonment in Finland

On 11 June 2010, Finland recorded a victory for international criminal law! In line with the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, the Porvoo District Court slammed an African - Francois Bazaramba with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Francois Bazaramba, a Rwandan, sought asylum in Finland in 2003. According to Trial Watch, he lived in the city of Porvoo, prior to his arrest in 2007. He was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda - during the 1994 genocide - a crime that shocked humanity.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda left more than 800,000 people dead - predominantly people from the Tutsi ethnic minority group. Tutsis were brutally killed by Hutu militias, in what is known as "ethnic cleansing".

In June 2009, Finnish Prosecutor charged Francois Bezaramba, a Hutu, with genocide - for his participation in the 1994 carnage. At the time of the genocide, Francois was a Preacher in a local Baptist church. The Porvoo District Court held that he inspired deadly attacks against Tutsis, aimed at destroying the Tutsis "partly or totally".

The verdict of the Porvoo District Court is a victory for human rights and international criminal law. It sends a strong message to perpetrators of grave crimes against humanity, that justice awaits them - even if they seek refuge abroad.

Apparently, by seeking asylum in Finland, Francois Bazaramba mistakenly thought he had evaded justice for his role in the Rwandan genocide. Little did he know that international criminal law has ushered in a new era in the administration of justice. Thanks to the principle of universal jurisdiction - a principle which Finland religiously applies - states can prosecute crimes against humanity, irrespective of where they are committed.

It is worth mentioning that in 2009, Rwanda requested the extradition of Francois Bazaramba, but Finland rejected the request - in line with the international law principle of non-refoulement. Finland rejected the request because the authorities believed the then-accused - Francois Bazaramba would not be given a fair trial in Rwanda. After the extradition request, Finland launched an investigation into the allegations. Following a thorough investigation, Francois Bazaramba was charged with genocide.

More countries should enact the principle of universal jurisdiction. If this happens, perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity will have nowhere to hide.

Update: Here's a summary of the judgement.

*Photo: Helsinki Times

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