The Rwandan spy chief arrested in London on suspicion of orchestrating massacres after the country’s genocide in 1994 has been dramatically freed, after an attempt to have him extradited to Spain was quashed.
General Karenzi Karake will be allowed to fly back to Rwanda within 48 hours after a judge sitting at a court in London discharged a European Arrest Warrant seeking his extradition for alleged war crimes, ruling that to do so would be incompatible with British law.
General Karake, who is the head of Rwanda’s intelligence services, was arrested during an official visit to London in June. His defence team was led by Cherie Booth, whose husband Tony Blair has been a vocal supporter of Rwanda and its autocratic president Paul Kagame.
The ruling by Senior District Judge Riddle, sitting at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, led to angry scenes outside the Rwandan Embassy in London. A group of protesters hurled eggs at the building and had to be held back by a line of police officers.
Under the Extradition Act 2003, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had to demonstrate that General Karake could be tried in the UK for his alleged crimes in order for his extradition to be allowed. It is understood that this was not possible, as he is not a British national and the alleged massacres did not take place on British soil.
A spokesperson for the CPS said: “This was a complex case and we have worked swiftly to consider the UK law against the conduct alleged by the Spanish authorities in the European Arrest Warrant.
“After careful consideration we do not believe an extradition offence can be established under UK law. The main reason is that the relevant laws on the conduct alleged in this case do not cover the acts of non-UK nationals or residents abroad.
“We felt it important to bring our findings to the attention of the District Judge as soon as possible in order to allow him to make a decision ahead of the full hearing scheduled for September.”
General Karake had been accused by Spanish investigative judge Andreu Merelles of killing Hutu civilians in both Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, along with 39 other current or former high-ranking Rwandan military officials. His arrest strained diplomatic relations between the UK and Rwanda.
Following the judge’s ruling, Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, said she was “delighted” that General Karake would be “coming home”. She described the attempts to extradite him as “an unnecessary and abusive process”.
In a statement, the Government of Rwanda said the extradition process “should never have been initiated” and personally thanked the legal team led by Ms Booth for their “unwavering solidarity and support”.
It continued: “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.”
After his arrest, General Karake was held in the Category A Belmarsh Prison in south east London and appeared at a bail hearing in June wearing a yellow and green jumpsuit. As he was escorted away from the protesters outside the Rwandan Embassy protected by police, he wore a suit and tie.