General Karenzi Karake Update: UK Free Spy Chief

20th Aug 2015


On 10 August 2015, Senior District Judge Riddle dismissed the case against General Karenzi Karake, whose extradition from the United Kingdom was sought by Spain, for war crimes committed against Spanish nationals in Rwanda in the 1990s. A report is here. A previous blog is here.

CPS Statement

Following a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, a spokesperson for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) stated: “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.”

Reported Legal Analysis

No judgment is available, and the legal arguments advanced by the CPS, and General Karake’s defence team, are not entirely clear.

As General Karake was arrested under a European Arrest Warrant, there are 32 offences for which dual criminality would not have to be demonstrated. However, war crimes are not included in this list.

It appears that the District Judge Riddle concluded that General Karake could not be charged for war crimes committed in another country, under UK law, unlike in Spain, where the principle of universal jurisdiction operates.

Under Article 23.4 of the Judicial Power Organization Act No 6/1985 of 1 July (Judicial Power Organization Act), Spanish courts may indict those it believes have committed crimes, including genocide, terrorism, and war crimes, in another country.

The UK does, in fact, prosecute certain offences under the principle of universal jurisdiction, largely through the Geneva Conventions Act 1957, Criminal Justice Act 1988 and the International Criminal Court Act 2001. However, it rarely exercises this power, and consent of the Attorney General is required for such prosecution to be brought.

General Karake was permitted to fly back to Rwanda, within 48 hours of the judgment being issued.

Relevant Legislation

Article 23.4 of the Judicial Power Organization Act states (original formulation) states:

“4. Spanish jurisdiction shall also apply to acts committed by Spaniards or foreigners outside the national territory when those acts are classified as one of the following offences under Spanish criminal law:

  • Genocide
  • Terrorism

(g) Any other crime which should be prosecuted in Spain pursuant to international treaties or conventions.”

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Jasvinder Nakhwal
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Nick Vamos
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