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Rwanda genocide: 5 to stand trial, Danish man extradited

Thursday December 13 2018

Genocide memorial in Nyamata

A visitor looks a large picture of child victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide on April 4, 2014, at the Genocide memorial in Nyamata, Rwanda. PHOTO | SIMON MAINA | AFP 

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Five Rwandans will go on trial in Belgium over their alleged role in war crimes and genocide in Rwanda in 1994, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

"This is the first time that a Belgian (criminal court) will have to deal with facts qualified as genocide crimes," the prosecutor's office said.

RULING

Four trials linked to the events in Rwanda were held in Belgium between 2001 and 2009, but the defendants faced only charges of war crimes.

But the criminal court in Brussels will "also have to rule on the crime of genocide" in the new cases.

"The five accused still benefit from the presumption of innocence," the prosecutor's office said in a statement.

It said pre-trial authorities last week ruled that the five appear in the criminal court "for acts committed in 1994 in Rwanda in connection with the genocide of Tutsis and the massacre of moderate Hutus."

The five were divided into two cases.

In the first, one defendant is referred to the court for murders and rapes; another for murders, attempted murders and rape; and a third for murders and attempted murders.

In the second case, one individual is referred for murders, and another for murders and attempted murders.

EXTRADITION

Meanwhile, a Danish man of Rwandan origin has been extradited to Kigali over his alleged role in the 1994 genocide, a Rwandan official said on Wednesday.

Wenceslas Twagirayezu, who works in IT, was flown back to Rwanda on Tuesday evening after losing an appeal against extradition earlier this year.

During the 1994 genocide, some 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis, were slaughtered by the military and by Hutu militias.

At the time, Mr Twagirayezu was a teacher at a primary school in northern Rwanda but was also the local representative of the CDR (Coalition for the Defence of the Republic), an extremist Hutu movement, Kigali prosecutors say.

Mr Twagirayezu, who was born in 1967, fled Rwanda in 1997 and arrived in Denmark in 2001. He was granted residency in 2002 and became a Danish citizen in 2004.

"Twagirayezu is accused of genocide, extermination and murder as crimes against humanity," the Rwandan prosecutor's office said, referring to his alleged role in attacks against Tutsis in the areas around Gisenyi, a city on the northern tip of Lake Kivu.

"He participated in the mass killing and extermination of Tutsi."

"FAIR TRIAL"

According to the indictment, one of the attacks which Mr Twagirayezu was involved in targeted a parish church in Bususamana where at least a third of the 3,000 Tutsis who were taking refugee there were killed.

The prosecution said he would face a "fair trial" and called on other countries where "Rwandan genocide fugitives are still moving freely" to take the appropriate action to bring them to justice.

His extradition came as prosecutors in Belgium said they would put five Rwandans on trial over their role in the 1994 genocide.

Twagirayezu is the second suspect to be extradited from Denmark on suspicion of involvement in genocide after Emmanuel Mbarushimana was handed over to the Rwandan authorities in 2014.