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Top Suspect in Rwanda’s Genocide to Face Justice

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Top Suspect in Rwanda’s Genocide to Face Justice

Posted by Laura Heaton on October 7, 2009

Top Suspect in Rwanda’s Genocide to Face Justice

Fifteen years after allegedly orchestrating the murder of Tutsis during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, Idelphonse Nizeyimana, infamously known as the Butcher of Butare, was arrested in neighboring Uganda this week and transferred to Rwanda’s international criminal tribunal.

A top government intelligence official in 1994, Nizeyimana is accused of being one of the architects of the 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. In 2000, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda charged Nizeyimana with genocide and crimes against humanity. Court documents eerily describe Nizeyimana’s crime:

From late 1990 until July 1994, military personnel, members of the government, political leaders, civil servants and other personalities conspired among themselves and with others to work out a plan with the intent to exterminate the civilian Tutsi population and eliminate members of the opposition, so that they could remain in power. The components of this plan consisted of, among other things, recourse to hatred and ethnic violence, the training of and distribution of weapons to militamen aw well as the preparation of lists of people to be eliminated. In executing the plan, they organized, ordered and participated in the massacres perpetrated against the Tutsi population and moderate Hutus. [Line redacted] IDELPHONSE NIZEYIMANA elaborated, adhered to and executed this plan.

Nizeyimana eluded capture by heading to eastern Congo, where reports suggest that he was a commander of the FDLR, the brutal rebel force responsible for much of the violence currently destabilizing the region.

Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper provided details about the investigation and events leading up to his arrest in a hotel in Kampala, where the BBC reported he was staying en route to Kenya from Congo.

News of Nizeyimana’s arrest was met with triumphant remarks, such as this editorial in today’s Daily Monitor and a piece in the Rwanda’s New Times highlighting the justice minister’s reaction.

Although it has taken more than 15 years to bring Nizeyimana to court, his case, like that of Radovan Karadzic, is a significant reminder that with coordinated international efforts and political will, the most egregious criminals can be forced to answer for their atrocities. Meanwhile, Bosco Ntaganda, wanted for war crimes in eastern Congo, has risen from being an indicted rebel leader to a commander in the Congolese army. What will it take to land Bosco in his rightful place in court?

With Idelphonse Nizeyimana’s arrest, 11 key suspects in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide are still at-large.

Photo: Idelphonse Nizeyimana