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One of Rwanda’s most wanted genocide suspects arrested

Cape Town, South Africa –

One of the most wanted suspects in the Rwandan genocide, a policeman suspected of orchestrating the murder of more than 2,000 people in a church nearly three decades ago, has been arrested in South Africa after 22 years on the run , a special tribunal set up by the UN to find the perpetrators announced on Thursday.

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) said Fulgence Kayishema was arrested on Wednesday at a vineyard in Paarl, a small town in wine country about 30 miles east of Cape Town.

Kayishema, believed to be in his early 60s, had assumed a false identity and was called Donatien Nibashumba, South African police said.

He was captured in a joint operation by the court’s fugitive search team and South African authorities, the court said, following an investigation that had tracked him to several African countries, including Mozambique and Eswatini, since his indictment in 2001.

The United States had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Kayishema’s arrest under its Rewards for Justice program.

More than 800,000 people were killed in the Rwandan genocide, which took place over three months in 1994 when members of the Hutu ethnic group turned on the minority Tutsi, massacring them and the moderate Hutus who tried to protect them .

“His arrest gives survivors hope that other fugitives still at large will also be arrested,” said Naphtal Ahishakiye, executive secretary of the Rwandan organization of genocide survivors Ibuka. “A crime of genocide is too serious to go unpunished.”

Kayishema was indicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity for murder and other crimes. He had been at large since 2001, the court said.

The court said he allegedly organized the killing of more than 2,000 Tutsi refugees – men, women and children – in a Catholic church on April 15, 1994, during the early days of the genocide.

The indictment alleges that Kayishema, who held the rank of police inspector at the time, directly participated in the planning and execution of the massacre by acquiring gasoline to burn down the church with the people trapped inside. When that failed, Kayishema and others used a bulldozer to tear down the church, burying and killing the refugees, who included young children but also many elderly men and women. Kayishema and others then moved the bodies from the church grounds to mass graves for two days, according to the indictment.

South African police said he would appear in a Cape Town court on Friday before he is likely to be extradited to Rwanda.

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals was established in 2010 to continue to investigate atrocities and track down Rwandan genocide suspects and war crimes suspects in the former Yugoslavia during its ethnic conflicts in the 1980s. 1990s and early 2000s.

“Fulgence Kayishema was a fugitive for more than 20 years. His arrest ensures that he will finally be brought to justice for his alleged crimes,” IRMCT chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in a statement. “Genocide is the most serious crime known to humanity. The international community is committed to ensuring that its perpetrators are prosecuted and punished. This arrest is a tangible demonstration that this commitment is unwavering and that justice will be served, no matter how long it takes.”

The court said it has now found five suspects wanted in the Rwandan genocide since 2020. It is still looking for three more fugitives, it said.

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