The remains of Augustin Bizimana, former Rwandan defence minister and one of the top suspects wanted over the country’s 1994 genocide, have been identified in a grave in the Republic of Congo, a United Nations war crimes prosecutor has said.
Serge Brammertz said Bizimana, who was indicted on 13 charges, including genocide, murder and rape, is believed to have died in Pointe Noire, in Congo, in 2000.
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His remains were identified by DNA testing.
“Bizimana was alleged to be responsible for the murders of former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian United Nations peacekeepers, and for the murder of Tutsi civilians” in five Rwandan regions, Brammertz said in a statement on Friday.
He is believed to have died around August 2000, “based on the conclusive identification of Bizimana’s remains in a gravesite in Pointe Noire, the Republic of the Congo,” the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) said in a statement.
The announcement of Bizimana’s death follows the arrest in Paris last week of 84-year-old Felicien Kabuga, another of a handful of prominent suspects from the Rwandan genocide who had been on the run for more than 20 years.
On Wednesday, in his first appearance in public in more than two decades, Kabuga was brought into a French courtroom in a wheelchair, dressed in jeans and a blue jumper and wearing a face mask.
The court’s three judges, who are due to decide whether to transfer Kabuga to the UN tribunal – adjourned the hearing to May 27. Kabuga’s lawyers said he wanted a trial in France and accused the country’s chief public prosecutor of trying to rush the legal process.
But Brammertz said a request had already been launched for Kabuga’s transfer into UN custody and that he could initially be held in The Hague rather than Africa because of coronavirus travel restrictions.
Kabuga has been indicted by UN prosecutors for genocide and incitement to commit genocide, among other charges. He is accused of bankrolling and arming the ethnic Hutu militias which killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda conducted 50 trials before closing its doors in 2015.
Brammertz is the prosecutor of a successor UN court with dual offices in Arusha, Tanzania and The Hague, Netherlands, that continues to function for remaining suspects and appeals.
Brammertz said his office continues to pursue Protais Mpiranya, the former commander of the Presidential Guard of the Rwandan Armed Forces, and five other Rwandan suspects.