Africa

Rwandan genocide most wanted suspect arrested

Photo: REUTERS/Nic Bothma

Fulgence Kayishema had been on the run for more than 20 years under a false identity, investigators say

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A former Rwandan police chief labelled one of the most wanted fugitives from the 1994 genocide in his home country has been arrested in South Africa. Fulgence Kayishema, 62, who is said to have been on the run for more than two decades, was apprehended in Paarl on Wednesday in a joint operation by UN investigators and the South African authorities, according to RT News.

He was indicted by the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2001 for helping to orchestrate the murder of more than 2,000 Tutsi refugees – including women, children, and the elderly – on April 15, 1994, at the Nyange Catholic Church in Kivumu community.

According to the tribunal, Kayishema, a Hutu police inspector at the time, directly participated in the “planning and execution of this massacre.” He allegedly bought and distributed petrol to burn down the church while the refugees were inside, as well as using a bulldozer to collapse the structure, burying and killing the victims inside.

He had remained at large since his indictment, using many “aliases and false documents to conceal his identity and presence,” investigators stated.

Fulgence Kayishema was a fugitive for more than 20 years. His arrest ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes,” the chief prosecutor of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), Serge Brammertz, said in a statement.

The operation leading to the suspect’s arrest spanned multiple countries across Africa and other regions, the office of the IRMCT said. His capture leaves investigators with “three outstanding fugitives” to track down.

Kayishema’s arrest marks a further step forward in the OTP’s [Office of the Prosecutor] strategy to account for all remaining fugitives indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Since 2020, the OTP Fugitive Tracking Team has accounted for the whereabouts of five fugitives,” the IRMCT stated.

On May 10, a 66-year-old former military police officer from Rwanda, Philippe Hategekimana, was put on trial in France, accused of participating in the slaughter of 300 Tutsis on Nyamugari Hill and in an attack on Nyabubare Hill, where approximately 1,000 Tutsis were killed during the 100-day genocide.

Brammertz has vowed that the IRMCT will not relent in its efforts to secure justice for the victims and carry out its mandate to contribute to a “more just and peaceful future for the Rwandan people.” 

According to the UN, an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during the genocide, which occurred between April and July 1994.

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