Rwandan genocide fugitive Fulgence Kayishema arrested in S Africa

Kayishema, indicted by a UN tribunal on Rwanda in 2001, is alleged to have orchestrated the killing of approximately 2,000 Tutsi at a church.

Fulgence Kayishema
Fulgence Kayishema was wanted for more than 20 years [File: US Department of State]

Rwandan genocide suspect Fulgence Kayishema has been arrested in South Africa, the United Nations tribunal for war crimes committed in Rwanda said on Thursday.

He was arrested on Wednesday after being on the run since 2001.

Kayishema is alleged to have orchestrated the killing of approximately 2,000 Tutsi at the Nyange Catholic Church during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) said.

“Fulgence Kayishema was a fugitive for more than 20 years. His arrest ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes,” IRMCT prosecutor Serge Brammertz said.

Kigali-based attorney and political analyst Gatete Ruhumuliza said Kayishema was an “important” figure in perpetrating the genocide.

“What Kayishema did … is he broke the first taboo – which was killing people seeking shelter in a church. That was unheard of,” Ruhumuliza added.

“Subsequent killings followed that pattern … because many Tutsis who were killed took shelter [in a church] thinking no one would dare cross that barrier.”

Kayishema was indicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2001, which charged him with genocide and crimes against humanity for killings and other crimes committed in the Kibuye prefecture.

Brammertz said the investigation that led to his arrest spanned multiple countries in Africa and beyond, and was made possible through the support and cooperation of South African authorities.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, who has reported extensively on Rwanda, said many people in the country wanted accountability done for those who perished in 1994.

“They want justice for their loved ones, and the people who survived,” she noted, adding that alleged perpetrators like Kayishema could face trial either in Rwanda itself or the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The Tanzania-based Rwanda tribunal wound up its cases in 2008, after which the IRMCT was established to complete its remaining work.

The tribunal referred Kayishema’s case to Rwanda in 2007, after the country had scrapped the death penalty.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies