Peter Dutton national security

The two Rwandan men allowed into Australia by the Morrison government — in exchange for the United States fixing the Turnbull government’s offshore-processing problem — commanded soldiers in the 1999 raid that led to the murder of eight Western tourists and the rape of several of them.

Yesterday, Politico reported that Australia had agreed to resettle the two men so that the US would accept 1200 refugees not permitted to resettle in Australia because they had arrived by boat. Leonidas Bimenyimana and Gregoire Nyaminani were both resettled in Australia in November, after spending years in limbo in the United States after a US District Court dismissed the prosecution of the men for the murder of eight tourists, including two New Zealanders, on the basis that their confessions had been extracted under duress.

The 1999 raid that kidnapped a tourist group in Uganda was conducted by the Liberation Army of Rwanda or ALIR, which had a formal goal of targeting “supporters of the government of Rwanda”, including Western countries. During the raid, a number of tourists were abducted and several raped and murdered, before the remainder were forced to move with the ALIR soldiers to another location, from where some were eventually released.

In a lengthy judgment exploring the circumstances of the raid, the subsequent capture of ALIR soldiers and their interrogation by Rwandan authorities and the FBI, the DC District Court found that Bimenyimana and Nyaminani, who both confessed to involvement in the murder of some of the tourists and, in the case of Nyaminani, the rape of one of the female tourists, had been subjected to torture after being captured by the Rwandan Army and that their confessions — which in some cases contradicted the confessions of other participants about who had carried out some of the murders — could not be relied upon.

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However, the judgment also reveals a number of facts about Bimenyimana and Nyaminani that raise serious questions about how they could possibly have been allowed into Australia by Peter Dutton. 

Both men were members of the ALIR, and knew of its goal of targeting Westerners perceived as supporting the Rwandan government. Nyaminani reached the rank of “first sergeant”. Bimenyimana, also known as “Zappy Gadi”, was a platoon commander in the ALIR’s “Irondelle Company”. The US court makes clear that both men were involved in the 1999 kidnapping raid.

[I]t is clear that the ALIR unit responsible for the attack that day was Irondelle Company, under the command of Ntabwoba. Irondelle Company consisted of three platoons, one of which was headed by Bimenyimana. Nyaminani was one of four section leaders within Bimenyimana’s platoon.

Nyaminani initially claimed he was only peripherally involved in the raid, but later confessed to FBI investigators, initially, that he had been ordered to take three female tourists away and kill them, found his men raping the women and ordered them to stop and kill them, though at least one of the women was still alive when they left hurriedly because of fear Ugandan military forces were coming. 

Nyaminani later changed his confession to claim he also raped one of the women. The changes to Nyaminani’s story happened while he was held in brutal conditions and subjected to physical abuse by Rwandan soldiers; moreover, another soldier had already confessed to killing the women. Bimenyimana never disputed that he had led a platoon in the raid, but claimed that he had never killed any of the tourists and in fact knew nothing about the killings, only to change his story while being tortured by Rwandan troops, claiming he had watched the killing of an American tourist.

What remains undisputed is that both men led troops during the kidnapping raid; in Bimenyimana’s case as platoon leader.

New Zealanders are rightly outraged that Australia has given a sanctuary to two of the raid participants as part of a grubby deal to solve the Turnbull government’s embarrassment over refugees it refused to resettle here. What’s even more extraordinary is that while Scott Morrison earlier this year was spending over $100 million in a hysterical scare campaign over the “medevac” legislation demonising Labor (remember how it was going to be Morrison’s “Tampa moment”?) and warning that rapists and murderers would be allowed to come to Australia, it had secretly allowed two former soldiers who had participated in a murderous raid to settle here.

Alerted by questions from Politico, the government knew the story was coming yesterday. It had its response ready to go the moment outlets began following up. Within minutes of Crikey sending questions to the Coalition campaign, it responded “Australia does not and has not taken anyone who has failed character or security screening by our agencies under our refugee and humanitarian programme.” Of course, Bimenyimana and Nyaminani may not have been settled under humanitarian visas. In any event, the goal is to stonewall on the issue until the election is over.

They may be successful on that, but the cynicism and hypocrisy is extraordinary even by the grubby standards of contemporary politics.

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