Fulgence Kayishema, suspected of having played a major role in the genocide in Rwanda and arrested this week in South Africa after a run for 22 years, was remanded in custody on Friday before an upcoming extradition.
Mr. Kayishema, 62, who was until his arrest on Wednesday one of the last four fugitives wanted for their role in the 1994 genocide of 800,000 mostly Tutsi Rwandans by Hutu extremists, appeared impassive in the dock , a prayer book in hand.
Questioned on entering the hearing by a journalist, he denied having participated in the genocide. "I played no part," he said, in what he called "a civil war at the time."
Stocky figure, bald, round eyes behind thin glasses, the sexagenarian, framed by armed officers equipped with bulletproof vests, admitted to being the man wanted by international justice. A master in the borrowing of false identities, according to investigators, he recently used the name of Donatien Nibashumba.
The vagueness still reigns over his run but according to the South African prosecution, he founded a family and applied for asylum in the year 2000 then refugee status in 2004, still under an assumed name and claiming to be Burundian .
Finally unmasked and spotted on a farm in Paarl, about sixty km from Cape Town, he was arrested with the help of Interpol, UN prosecutors announced on Thursday.
"A powerful message showing that those suspected of having committed such crimes cannot escape justice", for the spokesman of the UN Stéphane Dujarric.
Mr. Kayishema was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the International Mechanism (MICT) responsible since 2015 for completing the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) set up by the UN after the genocide.
He would have benefited, to cover his tracks, from a "network of loyal supporters", including members of his family but also the former Rwandan Armed Forces, according to the MICT.
The accused was remanded to a maximum security prison in Cape Town. The issue of his extradition was not discussed during his brief appearance.
According to the Ministry of Justice contacted by AFP, he should be extradited without delay to be tried by an international tribunal, in The Hague or Arusha in Tanzania.
Fulgence Kayishema was a judicial police inspector during the genocide in Rwanda and "one of the most wanted fugitives in the world for genocide", according to international justice.
He "directly participated in the planning and execution" of the massacre of more than 2,000 Tutsi refugees in the church of Nyange, in the commune of Kivumu (north-east), "in particular by procuring and distributing petrol to burn down the church with the refugees inside," according to UN prosecutors.
"When that failed, Mr. Kayishema and others used a bulldozer to collapse the church, burying and killing the refugees inside," the indictment said. He would then have participated in the supervision of the transfer of the corpses to mass graves.
The ex-fugitive is charged by international justice with genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity.
The ICTR convicted a total of 62 people. Others, like Augustin Bizimana, one of the main architects of the genocide, died without facing international justice.
The trial of alleged genocide financier Félicien Kabuga began in September 2022 but was adjourned in March while it was decided whether he was healthy enough to remain in the dock.
05/26/2023 18:43:04 - Le Cap (AFP) - © 2023 AFP