The special deposition hearings in the case of Rwandan genocide suspect Protais Mpiranya, believed to be hiding in Zimbabwe, began on Wednesday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, amid suggestions the suspect could be long dead.
According to reports from a Francophone publishing company, Editions Sources du Nil, Mpiranya died on October 5, 2006.
His memoirs, Rwanda, the lost paradise: Last secrets of former commander of J Habyarimana’s Presidential Guard, were released “posthumously” in October 2010, the publisher claims.
But ICTR prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow believes Mpiranya is alive and hiding in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean authorities have denied Mpiranya is here and have invited anybody with information on his whereabouts to come forward. Addressing the United Nations Security Council in June, the ICTR prosecutor said he was facing “difficulties” in the tracking of the top-level fugitive and urged further co-operation and assistance from the government of Zimbabwe in such regard.
Mpiranya is accused of participating in the planning, preparation and execution of the 1994 genocide which claimed the lives of close to a million Rwandans mainly from the minority Tutsi ethnic group.
Forces under his command are alleged to have been responsible for the murder of Agathe Uwilingiyimana, former Rwandan Prime Minister, as well as 10 Belgian soldiers, who were on a UN peacekeeping mission.
The prosecution is expected to call to the stand around 30 witnesses. All hearings will be held in camera. A defence lawyer has been assigned to the case and will be entitled to cross-examine witnesses and lead his own investigations.
The Tribunal has already started conducting similar proceedings for the most wanted genocide fugitive Felicien Kabuga.
Special depositions should also start soon in the case of former Defence minister Augustin Bizimana, allegedly hiding in the Democratic Republic of Congo.