Rwandan Leader Says 100,000 Should Be Tried for War Crimes
KIGALI, RWANDA — A LEADER of the rebels who now control Rwanda wants to put on trial more than 100,000 people whom he accuses of having organized and led the genocide that began last April.
``They are responsible for 1 million deaths,'' says Patrick Mazimhaka, vice president of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which now rules the country.
An even greater number participated in the killings but did not lead them, including not only men but ``women and kids who cut up their neighbors,'' Mr. Mazimhaka charged in a Monitor interview here. These people must also be tried, but may be pardoned on the basis of being ``temporarily insane,'' he says.
The Tutsi-led government is encouraging Hutus to return to Rwanda. [Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Rwanda's capital, Kigali, on Sunday and said a quick deployment of United Nations troop reinforcements could encourage millions of refugees to come home. The UN yesterday urged France to delay its troop withdrawal from the humanitarian safety zone in southwestern Rwanda to avoid a mass exodus of another 1 million Rwandans.]
This appears to be the first time the new government has estimated the number of suspected killers. Maj. Gen. Paul Kagame, who heads the RPF and is now Rwanda's vice president and minister of defense, has never been so precise. He has insisted the killers must be brought to justice.
But the issue of how many should be tried is likely to be debated within the RPF government, and Mazimhaka's word may not be final. A number of non-RPF ministers in the new government feel that, in the interest of reconciliation, a smaller number of high-level organizers are the only ones that should be tried.
A United Nations report earlier this year estimated that 200,000 to 500,000 Rwandans - and possibly as many as 1 million - were slaughtered in Rwanda this year. Most of the killings were carried out by the majority Hutus against the minority Tutsis, but Hutu moderates opposed to the previous Hutu government were also killed, the report said.
UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali says the UN is investigating whether war-crime trials should be held. Mazimhaka says such trials must be held, and preferably in Rwanda.
Those responsible for killings
Mazimhaka's estimate of more than 100,000 suspected organizers of genocide is based on the following: 20,000 in the defeated Rwandan Army; 30,000 in the Hutu militias; and more than 50,000 organizers at the regional and local level, including many in neighborhood units called ``cells.''
He gave no estimate for those who were led by others to join in the killing, but he says neighbors at the grass-roots level know who they are and can accuse them.
Those who have fled to other countries should be arrested by the governments of those countries and either sent back to Rwanda or tried in the arresting country, Mazimhaka says.
Many are thought to be in refugee camps in Zaire among remnants of the Army, and among the civilian leadership now reported to be in Kinshasa, Zaire.
But the Zairean government so far has given no public indication of its willingness to extradite or try the suspected killers. In the past, Zaire has supported the now-defeated government.
Asked how reconciliation in Rwanda could be carried out if so many people were targeted, Mazimhaka says that even 100,000 people amounted to only a fraction of Rwanda's prewar population of about 7.5 million.
All others are free to come home, he says. Vice President Kagame also says those who did not take part in the killings are welcome to return.
Some army generals return
Some Hutus already have returned to Kigali, saying they did not take part in the killings. Others, like Alfonse Bisengimano, managed to lay low during the heavy fighting here and never fled.
``For the moment, we're at peace,'' he says while walking down an unpaved side road leading to his home. ``The ones who are afraid are the ones who took part in the massacres.'' The killers ``are known'' by their neighbors, he says, especially in villages where everyone knew everyone else.
Six officers, including a general of the defeated Rwandan Army, also have returned to Kigali. One greeted Mazimhaka during the Monitor interview in a hotel restaurant here. Asked if he was afraid to be back, the former general says he ``had no remorse'' because he did not participate in the killings.
Mazimhaka says the officers are welcome. But, he adds, if someone accuses them of something, they also must defend themselves in court.
Asked if he was thinking of public war- crime trials such as those held in Cuba after Fidel Castro Ruz led rebels there to victory, he nods in agreement.
Rwandan lawyer Alphonse Mbonyemekera, who is not a member of the RPF, says those who were ``pushed'' into the killing by Hutu militants should be set free or given some small, ``symbolic'' penalty. The organizers, including political leaders behind the genocide, ``should be punished,'' he adds.