Pretoria - Former Rwandan general, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who stands accused of war crimes in his country, and his family, are safe in South Africa - for now.
This after an attempt by the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (Cormsa) for leave to appeal against his refugee status.
The NGO, with the support of the South-African Litigation Centre (SALC), on Tuesday turned to the high court in Pretoria for leave to appeal against an earlier order in which Judge Nomonde Mngqibisa-Thusi confirmed Nyamwasa’s refugee status. Cormsa asked the court to overturn the decision by the Crown Mines refugee centre to grant Nyamwasa and his family refugee status.
It was argued at the time that the South African authorities exceeded their public powers by granting refugee status to Nyamwasa, as he was accused of war crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Rwandan military court for alleged grenade attacks in Kigali, the capital, in 2010.
He is also the subject of three separate extradition requests from Rwanda, France and Spain.
Nyamwasa and his family fled to South Africa early in 2010 after he fell out of favour with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
An attempt to assassinate him was made in Joburg, after which he and his family were granted refugee status. Cormsa objected to this, stating that he did not qualify for refugee status. It was also said that the South African government failed to comply with the country’s international obligations in terms of UN conventions and protocol.
The court was told that in granting him refugee status, it would open the floodgates to others in the same position.
Judge Mngqibisa-Thusi at the time refused to overturn his refugee status and couldn’t find any error on the part of the government.
Gilbert Marcus SC, appearing for Cormsa, asked for leave to appeal and said the judge erred in confirming his refugee status. He argued that in international and domestic refugee law, suspected perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity weren’t entitled to refugee status.