US wants Rwanda genocide fugitives only alive, not “dead or alive”

  • 240 indictments sent to 30 countries around the world
  • US$5m reward for any information leading to or arrest
  • Some suspect have already been given citizenship

The United States says it has renewed support for a global manhunt for hundreds of fugitives involved in the execution of the genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda, and fleeing the country.

AmbassadorStephen Rapp of theUSOffice of Global Criminal Justice with the Department of Statepresented US’s commitment on visit to Kigali for high level meeting with Rwandan authorities. Rapp was in Rwanda July 24.

“We want these individual arrested and brought to trial to face the accusers, the survivors,” he said. “And if they are found guilty, be punished.”

Nine notorious fugitives have eluded justice over the last 20 years, despite a US$5m rewardfor any information leading to or arrest of the suspected murderers.

Felicien Kabuga, the alleged chief financier of the genocide, tops the list, followed by Protais Mpiranya, who commanded the notorious Presidential Guards, and Augustin Bizimana who was Defence Minister.

According to Justice Minister Jonson Busingye, these are arguably highest level suspected perpetrators of an atrocity that saw over a million people merged into a killing spree.

“They are still freemen 20 years after they were first suspected, while the survivors have endured the agony of not seeing justice done,” Busingye said. He is disappointed that, “The world still looks on as they continue to elude justice.”

Rwanda believes the fugitives are hiding on the African continent.

However, several suspects have been arrested in different countries and transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha, Tanzania.

Jean Bosco Uwinkindi was arrested in Uganda’s capital Kampala in 2008.

A pastor with the Pentecostal Church in Bugesera South of Kigali, Uwinkindi is said to have unleashed killers, including members of his church, to slaughter thousands of Tutsi who had sought refuge in his church during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

On April 19, 2012, the ICTR transferred him to Rwanda to face final trail in the face of survivors.

Victoria Nuland, Spokesperson of the US Department of State, who was with Ambassador Rapp in Rwanda, requested countries to redouble their cooperation with the ICTR so that fugitives can be arrested.

Nuland warned those who harbour fugitives obstruct justice and stand on the wrong side of history.

In April 2014, Rwanda commemorated for the 20th time, the loss of more than a million Tutsis who were massacred by Hutu militias.

Ambassador Rapp, like many other foreign dignitaries from various countries, attended the commemoration in support of the genocide victims and survivors.

“But that’s not the end of our effort,” Rapp said. The US still maintains its financial prize for any lead on the suspects, but Rapp said, “It’s not a ‘wanted dead or alive’ bounty, but a ‘wanted alive’ bounty.”

Meanwhile Rwandan authorities say has been a challenging task to convince countries to respect their duty by either extraditing or prosecuting the suspects.

Rwanda’s Prosecutor General, Richard Muhumuza saidit has not been easy to secure extradition permission from different countries.

“Some suspect have already been given citizenship,” he said. This, according to Muhumuza, complicates the whole situation.

It means those countries cannot allow extradition of their citizens.

But Rwanda says it is determined to ensure every person who committed genocide in the country is located, arrested and tried.

The President of IBUKA, an Umbrella of associations of genocide survivors, Prof Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, said there has been commendable effort.

He said he is aware tens of suspects have been apprehended and prosecuted, but remains bitter that many countries have fallen short. “Hundreds of suspects have escaped trail and still live abroad.”

“Justice needs to be provided to the victims,” he said.

The US says it is in support of Rwanda’s pursuit of this effort. “When it comes to mass atrocities, there is no escaping responsibility in this life,” Rapp said. “There is no date when we will forget these crimes.”

Rwanda has experienced challenges of putting itself back together in all spheres of life over the list 20 years. The justice sector has been one of the challenging areas.

First, it had to deal with an insurmountable thousands of genocide suspects living in Rwanda.

Every suspect has been able to go through a legal process and many are either serving a sentence, finished serving a sentence or have been acquitted.

In 2007, the Public Prosecution Authority, through its genocide suspect tracking unit, embarked on investigating and tracking fugitives in their respective hosts.

The nine notorious suspects are not the only out there, Minister Busingye said. The Prosecutor’s office has sent about 240 indictments to 30 countries around the world.

“All we are asking for,” the minister said, “is for those countries to do the most honorable thing they ought to do, help us bring these suspects to face justice.”

He said the wounds inflicted on the hearts of the survivors are still fresh, and it is therefore “unacceptable that more than 200 perpetrators are freely roaming out there.”

For the US, it means doubling efforts with its rewards for the information and working with other law enforcement agencies [including Interpol] to bring in these last fugitives and be tried in Kigali.

By Magnus Mazimpaka