The United Nations war crimes tribunal set up to deal with the 1994 Rwandan genocide has announced that it has turned down a request to transfer to the small Great Lakes nation the case of a former businessman alleged to have supervised the massacre of some 2,000 Tutsi civilians taking shelter in a church.
Gaspard Kanyarukiga, who was arrested in South Africa in July 2004, has plead not guilty to charges of genocide, complicity in genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
The Tribunal’s trial chamber found that while Rwanda has made strides towards improving its judicial system, including having the proper laws criminalizing Mr. Kanyarukiga’s alleged crimes and the abolition of the death penalty, it was not satisfied that he would receive a fair trial if his case is transferred.
Firstly, it expressed concern that the defendant would not be able to sufficiently call witnesses living outside Rwanda. It also said the defence would have difficulty accessing witnesses residing within the country because they may be too frightened to testify. Lastly, the chamber said there is a chance that Mr. Kanyarukiga could face solitary confinement if sentenced to life imprisonment.
According to the indictment presented to the Arusha-based ICTR, in 1994 he transported police and members of the notorious Interahamwe militia to Nyange church in western Rwanda, where about 2,000 Tutsi civilians had taken refuge.
The police and militia poured fuel through the church’s roof, set it on fire and then used guns and grenades to kill the Tutsis. The defendant is alleged to have supervised these events and then ordered the corpses to be removed and the church destroyed.
The indictment further alleges that the businessman held several meetings with local political and religious leaders where they discussed how to kill Tutsis.
At least 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were murdered during the genocide.