Genocide suspect died years ago, DNA test shows

KIGALI (AP) – One of Rwanda’s most wanted fugitives in the country’s genocide died 20 years ago, the international tribunal overseeing justice efforts announced yesterday, less than a week after another high-profile fugitive was arrested in France.

Confirmation of the death of former Rwandan Defence Minister Augustin Bizimana came when a DNA test on remains in a grave in Pointe Noire, Republic of Congo, positively identified him, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals said. It is not yet known how he died.

Rwandan authorities said Bizimana was a key player in the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 Tutsi and Hutus who tried to protect them were killed.

The identification “is the result of an exhaustive investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor combining advanced technology with extensive field operations, and involved exceptional cooperation with partner authorities in Rwanda, Congo Brazzaville, the Netherlands and the United States (US)”, the United Nations (UN) mechanism said.

Some survivors found uncomfortable closure.

“I wish he lived to face justice in court for his inhuman crimes before his death,” said Denis Nsengiyumva, who comes from Bizimana’s village. “But even in his death, Bizimana will not rest in peace.”

News about the death came days after the arrest of Felicien Kabuga, another key genocide suspect who is accused of supplying machetes to killers and broadcasting propaganda urging mass slaughter.

Kabuga, a wealthy businessman, was arrested last Saturday outside Paris after 26 years in hiding. He appeared before a French court on Wednesday but a decision on his fate was delayed until next week. His lawyer said the 84-year-old said Kabuga wishes to be tried in France, citing health reasons, but did not give details.

The UN tribunal’s prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, said a request had been launched for Kabuga’s transfer into UN custody and he could initially be held at The Hague rather than in Africa because of coronavirus travel restrictions.

Bizimana, who came from the same region as Kabuga, was appointed defense minister in 1993, months before the genocide started. He is accused of ordering the killing of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian UN peacekeepers, and of supervising the killing of Tutsis in the provinces of Gisenyi, Ruhengeri, Butare, Kibuye and Cyangugu.