A body found in a canal in Brussels, Belgium, a week ago has been identified as that that of former Rwandan Commerce Minister Juvénal Uwilingiyimana, who was indicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and was cooperating with its investigation into the 1994 genocide.
After a warrant was issued for his arrest in mid-August on charges related to the killing of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, ICTR investigators were informed that he wished to cooperate. He gave information to investigators in several sessions up to 18 November, but expressed concern about dangers to himself and his family from powerful people in the Rwandan exile community, the Tribunal said in a release.
He failed to appear for a session with investigators on 21 November and his wife reported to Belgian police the next day that he was missing, it said.
The Office of ICTR Prosecutor Hassan Babacar Jallow took extraordinary measures to ensure that Mr. Uwilingiyimana could meet with the investigators in circumstances that would not reveal his cooperation, ICTR said.
“If it is determined that he was the victim of a homicide, it will be clear that the protective measures were inadequate,” it said.
“If the cause of death is determined to be homicide, the Office of the Prosecutor expresses the fervent hope that the Belgian authorities will be able to arrest and try those responsible for a crime that obstructs justice for the victims of the Rwanda genocide,” it added.
The UN gave the Tribunal the mandate to bring to justice those bearing the greatest responsibility for the genocide and the other violations of international humanitarian law that were committed in Rwanda, the ICTR noted.
“Many powerful individuals exercised control over the actual killers from behind the scenes. They were not present at the massacre sites where tens of thousands of men, women and children were murdered,” it said, adding that in many cases, the documentary record of their involvement was taken as they escaped into exile.
Mr. Uwilingiyimana signed a document saying that he was testifying voluntarily. On 28 November a letter dated 5 November appeared on the Internet saying he had terminated his cooperation with the ICTR because of pressure to implicate high-level individuals. The letter was never delivered and Mr. Uwilingiyimana continued until 18 November to meet the very investigators he was supposed to have denounced, the Tribunal said.