The United States government is committed to working closely with Rwanda, Interpol and a UN tribunal in renewed effort to bring to book the nine key suspects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi who are wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), a top Washington diplomat has said.
Ambassador-at-Large Stephen J. Rapp of the Department of State’s Office of Global Criminal Justice, said the move seeks to galvanise international efforts to bring the fugitives to justice before the tribunal folds shop in December.
But he said that the quest for justice for Genocide victims would be sustained beyond the UN court’s lifespan.
He was addressing journalists in Kigali yesterday.
Top on the lists of the fugitives is Felicien Kabuga, the alleged chief financier of the Genocide; Protais Mpiranya, the former commandant of the notorious Presidential Guards, and former defence minister Augustin Bizimana.
The trio, dubbed ‘the big fish’, has eluded the ICTR for nearly two decades now.
Other suspects are Ladislas Ntaganzwa, Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Aloys Ndimbati, Charles Rwandikayo and Charles Sikubwabo.
“Twenty years have passed but we want to make it clear, we will search the globe to bring these remaining fugitives to justice for the sake of the victims, and the sake of the survivors. There is no expiration date on justice for these crimes,” Rapp told journalists at Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.
Speaking about the United States’ Reward for Justice Programme offer of up to US$5 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the fugitives, Rapp said it is a wanted-alive programme.
“The information provided must lead to the secure arrest and transfer of these men to a court of law where they will face justice for the crimes for which they’re charged. These men must answer for their actions,” he said.
Rapp said as long as those responsible for crimes of this magnitude continue to enjoy impunity those on the side of justice must strive to hold them accountable.
“Those who harbour fugitives obstruct justice and only delay the inevitable. Others will eventually come forward and provide crucial information that will lead to arrest and accountability.”
Reward for Justice
Since the Reward for Justice is not a bounty and is operated confidentially, measuring its impact may be a challenge. However, Rapp said, in the past seven years, nine Rwandans who featured on the War Crimes Rewards Program have been arrested and transferred to relevant courts and rewards were also given out.
“In my tenure as Ambassador at Large I’ve delivered 14 such rewards just in the last four years. In addition to advancing justice for the victims of atrocity crimes these rewards appropriately recognise individuals whose moral compass has led them to do the right thing, often at great personal risk,” Rapp said.
Among those arrested include Augustin Bizimungu,Yusuf John Munyakazi, Tharcisse Renzah, Idelphonse Hategekimana and Jean-Baptiste Gatete. Others are Jean Uwinkindi and Bernard Munyagishari who have since been transferred to Rwanda from ICTR and are currently standing trial.
The Chief Prosecutor of the ICTR and Mechanism for the International Criminal Tribunal (MICT), Hassan Jallow, said the international war crimes programme has provided incentives to people to provide information leading to the arrest of many of fugitives wanted by the ICTR.
“With the imminent closure of ICTR the MICT has taken over the responsibility of tracking and arresting the remaining fugitives…. All those who are at large should know that the Mechanism is committed to bringing them on trial as a matter of priority,” he said.
Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, the umbrella of associations of Genocide survivors, said the US government had played a key role in the quest for justice.
But he said more could be done to bring to book those still at large, including Genocide suspects who have been by Rwandan prosecutors.
However, the Rewards for Justice programme only targets fugitives wanted by international courts.
Justice minister Johnston Busingye said Rwanda had sent out 239 indictments to 30 countries requesting for the arrest of men and women responsible for the Genocide.
“We are recommitting that those who commit mass atrocities will be held to account…they cannot be allowed to hide or be hidden anywhere in some country any longer, no place in the world should be too far for the long arm of justice if we all work together ,” he said.
Stefano Carvelli, Head of Interpol’s Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit, applauded the move to re-engage the public in the search for the Genocide perpetrators who are still eluding arrest.
“We must never forget the horror that these criminals caused to the people of Rwanda and, by extension, to the world. Twenty years later, Interpol remains committed to working with the international criminal tribunals and national law enforcement authorities to find justice for the victims,” he said.
Businge expressed Rwanda’s gratitude to the United States government, saying, “we want to say thank you for the reward programme, for its sustainability and the results.”
He warned Genocide fugitives saying, “to the masterminds of the Genocide, we want to say, rewards or no rewards you will be brought to justice.”
More than a million people were killed during 100-day slaughter in 1994, with some of the architects of that genocide now among the leaders of the Congo-based FDLR terrorist organisation.