Rwanda genocide: suspected sponsor died 20 years ago

This is news that, for the victims of the genocide in Rwanda, will leave the bitter taste of justice that could not be done. Less than a week after the arrest of another major suspect, a UN tribunal announced on Friday that one of the main fugitives prosecuted by international justice for the genocide in Rwanda, Augustin Bizimana, died there is almost 20 years old. The latter, a former defense minister, was accused of being one of the high sponsors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda, which claimed the lives of 800,000 people.

His death, which is estimated to be August 2000, "could be confirmed after formal identification of the remains of his body found" in a cemetery in Pointe-Noire, Congo, said the Mechanism of international criminal courts (MTPI). A series of genetic analyzes carried out in recent months "have ruled out the possibility that these remains are those of another person," said the MTPI.

Causes of death not made public

The MPTI, a structure based in The Hague, is responsible in particular for completing the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), created by the UN Security Council in November 1994, a few months after the genocide. "Other evidence relating to the circumstances of the death of Augustin Bizimana was also verified," said the Mechanism, without specifying the causes of his death.

The Minister of Communication of Congo-Brazzaville, Thierry Moungala, said he was "puzzled" about the news, referring to a "mysterious affair". He claims not to know whether the MTPI had asked the Congolese authorities to carry out analyzes on the body. Born in 1954, Augustin Bizimana had been indicted in 1998 by the ICTR on 13 counts, including genocide, extermination, murder and other inhuman acts. He was notably responsible for the 1994 murder of the moderate Hutu Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, as well as ten Belgian peacekeepers and several Tutsi civilians.

The MTPI's announcement comes less than a week after the arrest in France on May 16 of another of the main defendants, Félicien Kabuga, alleged financier of the Rwandan genocide, on the run for 25 years. According to the indictment of the ICTR, he presided over the infamous Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which broadcast calls for the murder of Tutsis and the National Defense Fund (FDN) which collected money intended for finance the logistics and weapons of the Interahamwe Hutu militiamen,

A "great disappointment" for the survivors

The death of Augustin Bizimana constitutes a "great disappointment" for the survivors of the genocide, reacted on Friday Alain Gauthier, the head of an association of victims in France. “The greatest wish of the survivors is that the killers be tried. It is only justice that can bring them a little comfort, and when a person responsible for the genocide is tried, their honor is returned, ”he explained.

"We regret that he died before giving more information on what he knows about the crimes he has committed and on what others like him have committed," added Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president. Ibuka, a victim support association. The latter denounced the “weakness of the international legal system”, affirming that learning only now the death almost 20 years ago of one of the most wanted fugitives “does not make sense”.

Five suspects still on the run

"We suspect they knew from the start. How else do you explain the strange coincidence that they announce his death a few days after Kabuga's arrest? "He asked himself. "With the arrest of Félicien Kabuga last Saturday and the confirmation today of the death of Augustin Bizimana, the Office of the Prosecutor thus found two of the three main fugitives indicted by the ICTR," said the Mechanism. .

On Wednesday, the MTPI prosecutor, Serge Brammertz, asked for the temporary transfer to The Hague of Fabien Kabuga, 84, because of the travel difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The current arrest warrant of the MTPI, which has a branch in Tanzania and another in The Hague, provides for his transfer to Arusha (Tanzania). The accused himself said Wednesday, during his first public appearance in Paris, that he wanted "to be tried in France". The last main fugitive sought by the Mechanism is Protais Mpiranya, who commanded the guard of President Juvénal Habyarimana, whose assassination on April 6, 1994 is considered to be the trigger for the genocide. Five other suspects indicted by the ICTR, whose cases have been referred to the Rwandan authorities, are still at large.