Australia

Two Rwandans once accused of tourist murders reportedly resettled in Australia

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Australia reportedly accepted two Rwandan men who spent 15 years in US detention after a murder case against them collapsed.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says all refugees transferred to Australia have passed character checks after US media reported two Rwandan men accused of brutally murdering eight tourists were secretly resettled in the country last year.  

US political media outlet Politico reports that Australia accepted two Rwandan men suspected of the 1999 tourist murders in Uganda, under a 2016 refugee swap deal struck by the Coalition government and the US.

Politico reports the men were resettled in Australia in November after spending 15 years in US custody. 

Rob Haubner and Susan Miller on their wedding day three years before they were murdered by Rwandan guerrillas.
Rob Haubner and Susan Miller on their wedding day in 1996, three years before they were murdered by Rwandan rebels.

The transfer occurred as the Coalition government ramped up its border security rhetoric, arguing against proposed legislation to bring sick asylum seekers to Australia for medical treatment because it would open the door to murderers and other criminals. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison did not confirm or deny the report about the transfer of the Rwandan suspected murderers. 

"Allegations, I know, have been made out there in the public forum," he told the National Press Club on Thursday.

"But what I can assure Australians of is this - our government will always ensure that those character and national security considerations are undertaken for anyone who seeks to enter this country."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the National Press Club in Canberra, Thursday, May 16, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the National Press Club in Canberra on Thursday.
AAP

The arrangements for the two Rwandan men were reportedly part of the 2016 deal struck by two former leaders, Malcolm Turnbull and Barack Obama, but was never made public. 

They were among three Rwandans who were brought to the US to face justice for the murders, but the case collapsed in 2003 when a judge ruled their confessions were obtained under torture. 

That left the men in limbo, with US officials unwilling to release them and the men refusing to return to their home country fearing persecution. 

'No justice'

The parents of Michelle Strathern, one of the victims of the 1999 murder, said they were bitterly disappointed about the decision to transfer the men to Australia. 

Jean and Peter Strathern of Christchurch told TVNZ they had not been officially advised of the development. 

"We've had no justice at all," Mr Strathern said.

"We haven't been told anything, why were we not told?" Mrs Strathern told TVNZ. 

"What is our Foreign Affairs doing about this, absolutely bloody nothing," she said.

Under the terms of the deal that were released, the US agreed to take up to 1,250 refugees held in Australian-run offshore detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island. 

Scott Morrison tours the North West Point Detention Center on Christmas Island
Scott Morrison tours the North West Point Detention Center on Christmas Island.
AAP

In return, Australia agreed to resettle a smaller number of Central American refugees.

Earlier this year, the Coalition strongly opposed legislation to make it easier for asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru to come to the mainland for medical treatment.

Mr Morrison ordered the reopening of Christmas Island detention centre in response, arguing it was necessary to stop criminals getting into the country. 

"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,” Mr Morrison said in February. 

In a testy phone call in 2017, Malcolm Turnbull convinced new US President Donald Trump to honour the people swap deal struck by his predecessor. 

"We are taking people from the previous administration that they were very keen on getting out of the United States," Mr Turnbull told Mr Trump according to a leaked transcript of the telephone call.  

As of the start of last year, the Home Affairs Department confirmed 30 individuals from Costa Rica had been resettled in the ACT under the deal. 

Asked to confirm the transfer on Thursday, a government spokesperson issued a statement that did not dispute the report. 

"Australia works with a number of nations, including the United States, on refugee and humanitarian cases," the spokesperson said.

"Australia does not and has not taken anyone who has failed character or security screening by our agencies under our refugee and humanitarian programme." 

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