You are here

Surrender of Rwanda genocide suspect to UN delayed in S.Africa

By AFP - Aug 30,2023 - Last updated at Aug 30,2023

CAPE TOWN — The process to have Rwandan genocide suspect Fulgence Kayishema tried by a UN court was delayed on Wednesday, after a judge in South Africa, where the suspect was arrested, postponed a transfer hearing.

Kayishema, who allegedly took part in one of the 1994 genocide’s bloodiest episodes and was detained in May in a wine farm outside Cape Town after more than 20 years on the run, was not in court.

In June, he applied for asylum in South Africa in a preventive bid to stall a possible request for him to stand trial abroad.

The United Nations International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) — the successor to the UN court that prosecuted scores of major suspects — eventually asked Kayishema be handed over to its branch in Arusha, Tanzania.

But the legal procedure, which is different from a typical extradition, was the cause of some confusion, leading to a postponement.

“There is nothing for me to hear!” Judge Robert Henney of Cape Town’s high court said angrily, after prosecutors failed to file an application to start the transfer process.

The judge did not immediately set a new date for the next hearing.

“This is not a criminal case nor a civil case. So, we are treading new terrain,” Eric Ntabazalila, a spokesman for South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), told journalists.

A former police chief, the 62-year-old is accused of overseeing the slaughter of more than 2,000 men, women and children who had sought shelter in a church at the height of the sectarian violence that engulfed Rwanda three decades ago.

Around 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were slaughtered over 100 days at the hands of Hutu extremists.

Kayishema, who used many aliases and false documents during 22 years on the run, is separately facing 54 fraud and immigration-related charges in South Africa.

Friends and family members who sat in the mostly empty courtroom on Wednesday, said they think he is innocent.

“We still believe strongly... that it is a [case of] mistaken identity,” family friend Joseph Habinshuti, 53, told AFP.

At a previous court appearance, Kayishema denied having anything to do with the massacre, telling a local journalist: “There was a civil war in that time and people were killing each other... I didn’t have any role.”


54 users have voted.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.