UN tribunal to act on genocide fugitive in Zim


A United Nations court set up to prosecute suspects in the 1994 Rwandan genocide will next month start examining evidence against two of the tribunal’s most wanted men, one of them believed to be holed up in Zimbabwe.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha, Tanzania, will examine evidence against Protais Mpiranya, a former commander of the presidential guard during the genocide which claimed close to a million lives, mostly from the minority Tutsi.

Mpiranya is widely believed to be staying in Zimbabwe although authorities in Harare have constantly denied such reports.

Police chief spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday said they were not aware of the presence of Mpiranya on Zimbabwean soil.

“We are not aware of his presence here in Zimbabwe,” Bvudzijena told NewsDay.

The ICTR will also examine evidence against Felicien Kabuga, a wealthy businessman, who is the most wanted person in connection with the genocide.

Both Mpiranya and Kabuga carry a $5 million bounty on their heads.

Mpiranya, also one of the tribunal’s most wanted persons, was indicted in 2002 and stands accused of “participating in the planning, preparation and execution of a plan to exterminate the Tutsi population of Rwanda”.

The move by the ICTR follows a motion by the prosecution requesting the tribunal to start hearing charges and assess evidence and cross-examine witnesses, pinning Mpiranya and Kabuga, so that the evidence is preserved and archived for future use.

Prosecution also seeks to safeguard evidence against Augustin Bizimana, a former Minister of Defence of the Hutu-led government that is accused of masterminding and executing the genocide.

The Rwandan government welcomed the news saying it was a “practical way of solving issues” which would ensure that justice would, at some point, prevail.

“It can take one, 10 or 20 years to arrest them, but this evidence will remain fresh awaiting them. We are aware that as years go by, witnesses age or die, evidence wears away and soon the ICTR will close shop. This is a good and timely move,” said Rwanda’s Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama.

Judge Vagn Joensen, who will preside over the proceedings, said in the scheduling order that the session would continue until the depositions of all the prosecution witnesses were recorded.

Reports, quoting sources at the ICTR, say Kabuga is carrying out his commercial activities in Kenya, while Mpiranya is allegedly being protected by senior officials in Zimbabwe.