Rwandan ex-politician handed life jail term for genocide role

KIGALI (Reuters) – A Rwandan court on Thursday handed a life sentence to a former politician found guilty of orchestrating the killing of tens of thousands of people during the 1994 genocide, a court spokesman said.

Ladislas Ntaganzwa, head of the commune of Nyakizu in southern Rwanda, was indicted in 1996 by the Arusha, Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on charges of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, murder and rape.

The tribunal closed five years ago and was replaced by a successor body, International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, with offices in Arusha and the Hague, Netherlands.

About 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were killed during the genocide.

The tribunal’s indictment accused Ntaganzwa of plotting to exterminate Rwanda’s Tutsi population and personally ordering the massacre of more than 200,000 Tutsi civilians in one parish in April 1994. It passed the case to a Rwandan government court.

“Ladislas Ntaganzwa was today sentenced to life imprisonment over genocide crimes committed during the genocide against Tutsi in 1994,” the court spokesman, Harrison Mutabazi, said.

Alexis Musonera, Ntaganzwa’s lawyer, said he planned to appeal the ruling.

“We plan to appeal because evidence in the hearing was based on witnesses’ testimony but that was not enough as some witnesses were contradicting themselves. We are not happy about this lengthy life jail term,” Musonera told Reuters.

The judgement was announced by video conference while Musonera used Skype to follow it with Ntaganzwa at Mpanga prison in the southern province.

Ntaganzwa was arrested in December 2015 in Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda took him into custody in March 2016.

The United States had offered up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.

Félicien Kabuga, the top-most fugitive from the genocide, was arrested in France last week.

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals said it concluded that former defence minister Augustin Bizimana, another key suspect, had died.

Source: Read Full Article

Remains of Rwanda war crimes suspect found in Congo

Ex-defence minister Augustin Bizimana, believed to have died in 2000, was indicted on genocide, murder and rape charges.

The remains of Augustin Bizimana, former Rwandan defence minister and one of the top suspects wanted over the country’s 1994 genocide, have been identified in a grave in the Republic of Congo, a United Nations war crimes prosecutor has said.

Serge Brammertz said Bizimana, who was indicted on 13 charges, including genocide, murder and rape, is believed to have died in Pointe Noire, in Congo, in 2000.

More: 

  • Rwanda genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga arrested in France

  • Rwanda strives to stop Ebola from spreading from DR Congo

  • Rwanda’s front line health supporters

His remains were identified by DNA testing.

“Bizimana was alleged to be responsible for the murders of former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian United Nations peacekeepers, and for the murder of Tutsi civilians” in five Rwandan regions, Brammertz said in a statement on Friday.

He is believed to have died around August 2000, “based on the conclusive identification of Bizimana’s remains in a gravesite in Pointe Noire, the Republic of the Congo,” the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) said in a statement.

The announcement of Bizimana’s death follows the arrest in Paris last week of 84-year-old Felicien Kabuga, another of a handful of prominent suspects from the Rwandan genocide who had been on the run for more than 20 years.

On Wednesday, in his first appearance in public in more than two decades, Kabuga was brought into a French courtroom in a wheelchair, dressed in jeans and a blue jumper and wearing a face mask.

The court’s three judges, who are due to decide whether to transfer Kabuga to the UN tribunal – adjourned the hearing to May 27. Kabuga’s lawyers said he wanted a trial in France and accused the country’s chief public prosecutor of trying to rush the legal process.

But Brammertz said a request had already been launched for Kabuga’s transfer into UN custody and that he could initially be held in The Hague rather than Africa because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Kabuga has been indicted by UN prosecutors for genocide and incitement to commit genocide, among other charges. He is accused of bankrolling and arming the ethnic Hutu militias which killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda conducted 50 trials before closing its doors in 2015.

Brammertz is the prosecutor of a successor UN court with dual offices in Arusha, Tanzania and The Hague, Netherlands, that continues to function for remaining suspects and appeals.

Brammertz said his office continues to pursue Protais Mpiranya, the former commander of the Presidential Guard of the Rwandan Armed Forces, and five other Rwandan suspects.

Source: Read Full Article

Children of Rwandan genocide fugitive Kabuga led police to Paris-area hideout

PARIS (Reuters) – French intelligence agents spied on the children of Rwanda’s most-wanted genocide fugitive to track him down to an apartment in a Paris suburb and end a 26-year-long manhunt, the head of the police unit who arrested Felicien Kabuga said.

The inquiry gathered pace in March after an intelligence sharing meeting between investigators from France, Britain, and Belgium, home to some of Kabuga’s children, as well as Europe’s Europol law enforcement agency and a team from a U.N. tribunal.

The coronavirus lockdown paralysing most of Europe meant many investigations were put on hold, allowing a focus on Kabuga’s file, said Eric Emeraux, head of the Gendarmerie’s Central Office for Combating Crimes Against Humanity.

The dragnet subsequently closed in on one of the alleged chief financiers of the Rwandan genocide, suspected of bankrolling and arming the militias that slaughtered 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

“We realised … that trail from the children protecting their father converged on Asnieres-sur-Seine,” Emeraux told Reuters, referring to a Paris suburb. “We also discovered one of his children was renting an apartment there.”

Wiretaps were installed and the property placed under surveillance. Intelligence indicated there was good reason to believe that someone other than one of his offspring was residing in the apartment.

“We decided to open the door, without being entirely sure of who we would find inside,” Emeraux said. “I didn’t sleep the night before.”

The 84-year-old fugitive had been living in a third-floor flat on the Rue du Reverend Pere Christian Gilbert in Asnieres-sur-Seine, a well-off neighbourhood on the northern fringe of Paris.

Neighbours described a frail, elderly man who said little and before the lockdown would often stroll outside of his apartment. One resident in the same block said Kabuga might have lived there for four or five years.

GBAGBO’S LAWYER

Reuters has not been able to find any public comment made by Kabuga over the years about the charges. French lawyer Emmanuel Altit said he will be part of the defense team. He did not respond to a subsequent request seeking comment from Kabuga.

Altit was a senior lawyer on the team which successfully secured former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo’s acquittal on charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in January 2019.

On Saturday, a squad of 16 elite officers, dressed in black and dubbed ‘Ninjas’ by Emeraux, forced Kabuga’s front door at 6 a.m.

“Kabuga didn’t put up any resistance,” Emeraux said. He was formally identified in a DNA test, matching against a sample taken when he was hospitalised in Germany in 2007, Emeraux added.

Kabuga’s arrest marked the end of a more than two-decade-long hunt that spanned Africa and Europe. Kabuga had 28 known aliases and was using a passport from an African country, Emeraux said.

Altit said Kabuga would be arraigned before a Paris court on Tuesday.

The court will set out the legal process before passing the case to investigative judges within eight days. The judges will decide whether to hand Kabuga to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals. If Kabuga appeals against their ruling, the matter will go France’s Court of Cassation, which hears whether rulings conform with the law.

Kabuga’s ability to hide to evade an international manhunt for more than 20 years has raised questions over whether he had accomplices outside of his family.

“It is difficult to imagine he could have escaped into French territory without the help of accomplices,” said Patrick Baudoin of the International Federation for Human Rights. The federation has supported survivors in the prosecution of other Rwandan genocide suspects living in France.

Source: Read Full Article

'He wouldn't say a word' – Rwanda genocide fugitive lived incognito in Paris

PARIS (Reuters) – Rwandan genocide fugitive Felicien Kabuga, whose arrest on Saturday ended 26 years on the run, was a frail, elderly man who said little to neighbours and who would take a stroll most days outside of his apartment in a well-off suburb of Paris.

Kabuga, 84, Rwanda’s most wanted man with a $5 million bounty on his head, had been living under a false name in a five-storey apartment block in Asnieres-sur-Seine with the help of his children, according to France’s justice ministry.

Police detained him early on Saturday.

“I would see this man going out, maybe once a day, alone or with someone,” said Jean-Yves Breneol, 72, a resident in the same block where Kabuga lived. “He wouldn’t say a word, nothing.”

Breneol said he thought Kabuga might have lived in the building for four or five years.

“We didn’t know his name, nothing,” he continued.

It is not known how or when Kabuga entered France.

But neighbours said they were stunned to learn that a man wanted by a United Nations tribunal on seven criminal charges including genocide and incitement to commit genocide, all in relation to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, had been living among them.

“What’s happened is shocking,” said a second resident in the building who identified himself only as Jean-Guillaume, who added that Kabuga appeared weak.

“He was an old man, very old. He was sick.”

Reuters could not find any public comment made by Kabuga over the years about the charges. It was not immediately known if he has a lawyer in France.

Kabuga is now being held in La Sante prison in central Paris.

At the foot of an imposing outer wall made of stone and bristling with security cameras, a coat of arms in the tricolor of the French national flag hangs beside a reception kiosk.

CASH, MACHETES

Kabuga’s arrest marked the end of a more than two-decade long hunt that spanned Africa and Europe.

A Hutu businessman, he is accused of creating and making contributions to a fund that raised finances to pay the youth militias that would slaughter some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, as well as importing huge numbers of machetes, according to the UN tribunal’s indictment.

Kabuga had been an associate of president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death in a plane shot down over the Rwandan capital Kigali in 1994 ignited the deep-rooted ethnic tensions between the Hutus and Tutsis. Two of his daughters married into Habyarimana’s family, according to an amended indictment dated 2004.

One of Rwanda’s richest men before the genocide, Kabuga controlled many of the central African nation’s coffee and tea plantations and factories. He also co-owned Radio Television Milles Collines, whose radio station broadcast anti-Tutsi messages that fanned the ethnic hatred.

The scars of the genocide remain deeply etched in the Rwandan psyche.

“This is really good news that someone who planned and financed the genocide and has been hiding for a long time and now arrested. It is good news for everyone especially survivors,” said Valerie Mukabayire, leader of AVEGA, a group of women survivors of the genocide.

Mukabayire, 64, said she lost family members including her husband. Her survivors’ group has slightly over 19,000 members.

“We were worried that his (Kabuga’s) elderly age would impede justice but now we are happy that he is arrested,” she told Reuters by phone.

Kabuga’s arrest paves the way for him to come before the Paris Appeal Court and later be transferred to the custody of the international court, which is based in the Hague, Netherlands and Arusha, Tanzania.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established by the U.N. Security Council and closed in 2015. The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals is now mandated to perform some functions carried out by the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

The ICTR was at the centre of efforts to set new standards in international justice, though Rwandan President Paul Kagame said it was too slow and too inefficient. Some critics said it was too focused on prosecuting Hutus.

“For international justice, Kabuga’s arrest demonstrates that we can succeed when we have the international community’s support,” Mechanism Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in a statement.

Source: Read Full Article

Rwanda will start to ease coronavirus lockdown from Monday

KIGALI (Reuters) – The Rwandan government will allow limited movement of people and allow restricted openings of businesses including restaurants and hotels from next Monday as it starts to ease its coronavirus lockdown.

Movement between provinces in the central African country will still not be allowed, while schools will also remain shut until September, according to a government statement released late on Thursday.

“All resumed services must adhere to health guidelines … mask wearing and social distancing,” it said.

Rwanda alongside neighbouring Uganda implemented some of the strictest lockdown measures in Africa to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, including shuttering all but the most essential businesses.

As of Thursday Rwanda had 243 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.

Under the loosened lockdown restaurants will be allowed to open up to 7 p.m. Hotels will also be allowed to open, but only guests will be allowed on the premises in the evenings. Bars, and churches will remained shuttered.

Tourism is a major source of income for Rwanda, with visitors especially drawn to see its mountain gorillas.

Source: Read Full Article

Rwanda uses drones to help catch lockdown transgressors

KIGALI (Reuters) – Tech-savvy Rwanda is using drones to keep residents of the capital Kigali informed of coronavirus lockdown measures – and help catch those who abuse them.

While police stop cars and pedestrians on streets to ask why they are out, two drones buzz above them, one loudly broadcasting instructions and the other monitoring movements.

“Drones are flying in areas where checkpoints are not mounted and where patrols could not be there,” said police spokesman John Bosco Kabera.

Among culprits have been a pastor who pretended to be on her way to give a radio interview when in fact she was heading to church despite the ban on public gatherings.

She was arrested and held for several days.

In another case, a man with permission to supply food was found transporting liquor instead, Kabera said.

“Just stay at home. That’s what we are enforcing.”

Like many African nations, Rwanda has relatively few coronavirus cases so far – just 138 confirmed, with no deaths – but there are fears the pandemic could do far worse damage in the world’s poorest continent in coming months.

Rwanda has long aspired to be a regional technology hub, but its use of drones to combat the coronavirus is not unique.

From Indian slums to English countryside, a host of nations are deploying drones to publicize rules, check movements and even spray disinfectant.

Rehema Kanyana, a 50-year old Rwandan mother-of-four, said she had only left home once since the lockdown came into effect on March 21, to withdraw cash to take one of her children to hospital, but was struck by the strict enforcement.

“On the way to hospital, police stopped us like four or five times,” she said. Staying at home was tough for many, who were short of food, she added, though state handouts were helping.

Source: Read Full Article