Karangwa: Major accused of ordering deaths of hundreds avoids extradition

Jean-Pierre Karangwa, a former member of the Rwandan armed forces and long accused of playing a leading role in the slaughter of Tutsis in the western Kibuye region during the 1994 genocide, has escaped extradition. The Dutch Supreme Court upheld, on 6 June, an earlier lower court judgement that he would not face a fair trial if he was returned to face justice in his homeland.

This marks a shift by Dutch justice, which has formerly sent two accused genocidaire back to face trial where their crimes were committed. The court’s judicial reasoning is undoubtedly swayed by the political controversy over the recent case of Paul Rusesabagina, with many western states deciding that the arrest and later trial of the ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero showed that the Rwandan justice system was bias and unable to resist political pressure. The fact Rusesabagina funded and arranged terrorist attacks that killed Rwandan citizens was, it seems, not enough of a reason to jail him.

Jean-Pierre Karangwa – background

 The 67-year old Karangwa is the son of Paulin Ntawemvura and Nyirabujogori Genereuse, and comes from former Kigese Cellule, Kiyonza Sector in Mugina, former Gitarama prefecture in the centre of the country. He worked in military intelligence and in Autumn 1993 was a liaison officer with the UN peacekeeping mission UNAMIR. The Major was transferred to the gendarmerie in 1994 and witnesses allege he was complicit in the horrific massacres that took place in Mukinga at the end of April 1994.

According to the Rwandan Commission charged with genocide crimes (CNLG – now disbanded) on April 24, 1994, an attack in Mugina killed Tutsi who had taken refuge there.  Some who fled into the church managed to survive until killers ordered them outside where they were immediately killed. Women and children were spared and it was decided to take them to Kabgayi, near Gitarama. When they arrived in an area called Bibungo, they met Karangwa, the then head of the National Gendarmerie Investigation Service. He asked the Interahamwe where they were taking them.

“The killers told him that they were taking them to Kabgayi. Major Karangwa prohibited them from doing so and ordered the Tutsi to be killed on the spot. They took them into nearby house of a Tutsi called Moko and others were thrown in the pit latrine alive,” reads the CNLG report of events on April 24, 1994. “Major Karangwa gave them petrol to burn those in the house as well as those in the pit latrine who were all burnt alive”. He is also accused of the murder of Callixte Ndagijimana, the bourgmeister (mayor) of Muginawho was trying to protect the Tutsi.

After the genocide Karangwa fled eventually to the Netherlands in 1998, where he was granted asylum in 1999 and dual Dutch-Rwandan citizenship in 2002.  This was revoked in 2013 after repeated attempts by Rwandan authorities to get him extradited. Karangwa lived with his wife and three children in the northern town of Ermelo. He worked as the school caretaker at Landstede Harderwijk a few kilometres away.

Once his loss of Dutch citizenship was made final, after a failed appeal in 2022, Karangwa was arrested on 11 May 2022 after a request by Rwandan authorities genocide tracking unit.