Australia resettled two Rwandans accused of murder in secret deal with US – reports

From The Guardian World:


Government accepted two men who could not be tried in the US, at the same time as protesting medevac bill would leave Australia powerless to prevent ‘murderers’ arriving from offshore detention

Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison on a visit to Christmas Island in March. Morrison said the detention centre there would need to be reopened as a result of the medical evacuation bill. The government had reportedly accepted two accused murderers the previous year under a secret deal with the US.
Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

The Australian government has reportedly resettled as humanitarian migrants two Rwandan men who had been charged with murder, on request from the US government.

Under the secret deal, reported by US outlet Politico on Thursday, Australia accepted Leonidas Bimenyimana and Gregoire Nyaminani, essentially as refugees, in November. It’s understood they were resettled into the Australian community.

At the same time the Australian government was arguing against proposed legislation for evacuating sick refugees and asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia, claiming it would strip the government of the power to prevent murderers and other criminals coming into Australia.

According to the Politico report, the two men had confessed to their involvement in the 1999 murder of eight tourists – four Britons, two Americans and two New Zealanders – on a gorilla-watching trip in the Ugandan rainforests.

They were brought to the US for trial over the murder of the two US victims in 2003, alongside a third Rwandan man, but after a protracted legal wrangle a US judge ruled the men had been tortured in Rwanda and the case was dropped. The men then claimed they could not be returned to Rwanda because they would be persecuted. Diplomatic cables published by Wikileaks reveal the US sought Rwandan assurances the men would be safe, but human rights groups argued it ran against the US’s international obligations, including non-refoulement.

All three remained incarcerated in the US detention system until the Australian deal was sealed.

Some people who were at the gorilla park on the day of the murder questioned whether the Rwandan men had “legitimately” confessed, and expressed doubt that the FBI had actually found the three men responsible, Politico reported.

The two men are former members of the Hutu rebel group Army for the Liberation of Rwanda, an offshoot of Rwandan armed forces and paramilitary groups largely responsible for the 1994 genocide.

A spokesperson for the Coalition’s campaign headquarters told some Australian media: “Australia does not and has not taken anyone who has failed character or security screening by our agencies under our refugee and humanitarian programme.”

At the same time as the men were reportedly resettled in Australia, parliament was beginning a rancorous debate over proposed legislation for medically evacuating sick refugees and asylum seekers from Manus Island and Nauru to Australia.

The government insisted passing the bill would mean criminals, including murderers, could be brought to Australia.

“It doesn’t provide for the usual arrangements which would enable us to reject someone coming to Australia because they have a criminal history,” Scott Morrison said in February.

“They may be a paedophile, they may be a rapist, they may be a murderer and this bill would mean that we would just have to take them.”

The report has also renewed questions around the deal struck between Australia and the Obama administration for the US to resettle up to 1,250 refugees from Australia’s offshore processing centres.

One of the architects of that deal, Anne Richard, the former US assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, told Guardian Australia the offer came from a sense in the US that the situation on Nauru and Manus Island was “bad” and they expected Australia to “do more” to help other refugees in return, including central Americans in Costa Rican refugee camps.

There was speculation that it included a formal “people swap”, with the US, a claim that was dismissed by both sides. However a transcript of a phone call between the then Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and newly elected US president Donal Trump was leaked in August 2017.

In apparently seeking to reassure Trump, who labelled the arrangement the “worst deal ever”, Turnbull said Australia would be taking people the Obama administration “were very keen on getting out of the United States”.

“We will take more. We will take anyone that you want us to take,” Turnbull said.

Australian and US government authorities have been contacted for comment.



The original content can be found here: Australia resettled two Rwandans accused of murder in secret deal with US - reports

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