Uganda touts capture of top Rwanda genocide suspect

Idelphonse Nizeyimana, the 'Butcher of Butare,' was handed over to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on Tuesday, one day after being arrested in Uganda.

U.S. Department of State/AP
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Department of State shows Idelphonse Nizeyimana. Interpol agents have arrested Nizeyimana, one of the most wanted suspects in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, a former top intelligence official accused of sending soldiers to execute the Rwandan queen, officials said Tuesday.
Rich Clabaugh/Staff

One of the four most wanted men accused of directing Rwanda's 1994 genocide was handed over to officials from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday, one day after being arrested in neighboring Uganda.

Ugandan police on Tuesday celebrated what they said was a "coup" for international police work after acting on a tip from Interpol and nabbing Idelphonse Nizeyimana when they raided a run-down guesthouse in Uganda's capital, Kampala, on Monday. The former Rwandan Army intelligence officer had been on the run from international justice for the past nine years.

"This was a coordinated operation and its success has brought a very important person to face justice," said Judith Nabakooba, spokeswoman for Uganda's national police, after explaining that Mr. Nizeyimana used fake papers to cross from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo at a remote Ugandan border post on Saturday.

Filip Reyntjens, Rwanda specialist and professor of African Law and Politics at Antwerp University in the Netherlands, agreed that the rare arrest should be celebrated.

"These remaining guys should all have Interpol red notices on their names, so lights should start flashing if they cross international borders," he said. "But in this case, if he used a fake name, then clearly there has been some strong police work which has been brought to bear to find him and arrest him. It is not easy to trap these men if they are not moving onto the radar of Interpol."

Who is 'the Butcher of Butare'?

Nizeyimana is believed to have ordered the execution of Rosalie Gicanda, the revered Tutsi Queen of Rwanda. Nizeyimana became known as the Butcher of Butare, a town in the country's south, for his alleged role in the deaths of tens of thousands of people there.

ICTR prosecutors issued a 23-page indictment for Nizeyimana in 2000, accusing him of five counts of genocide, complicity in and incitement to genocide, and crimes against humanity.

"He is one of the four top accused earmarked for prosecution who was, until now, still at large," said Roland Amoussouga, spokesman for the Tribunal, which sits in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha.

More than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in just over three months in early 1994 under an organized Hutu extremist policy to eradicate them from Rwanda.

Of the 12 indictees still at large, only three – Augustin Bizimana, the former minister of defense, Felicien Kabuga, said to have bankrolled the genocide, and Protais Mpiranya, head of the presidential guard – were seen as bigger fish.

The indictment

Nizeyimana's indictment accuses him of organizing transport and grenades for soldiers who went on to kill Tutsis at roadblocks.

He allegedly drew up lists of Tutsi intellectuals who were to be "eliminated," and failed to stop his soldiers from raping women they arrested.

He is understood to have been hiding with Hutu rebels camped in the forests of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, although Prof. Reyntjens said he was unlikely to have taken a senior role with them for fear of being found.

The ICTR has arrested more than 70 people and convicted 30 since it was formed in 1994. Most lower-level suspects have been tried in village courts in Rwanda.

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