Arusha, January 25, 2000 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday welcomed a US Supreme Court ruling that should clear the way for extradition proceedings against former Rwandan pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana. "We are very happy at this decision," Tribunal spokesman Kingsley Moghalu told Hirondelle, "and we believe it clears the way for his extradition to the ICTR.

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"The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request that it review a circuit court ruling that the United States can extradite Ntakirutimana. This should clear the way for actual extradition proceedings. However, informed sources say the next step requires a decision from US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "The State Department has informed the Tribunal of the Supreme Court ruling," Moghalu said. "In the event that, as we expect, the Secretary of State approves the extradition, we will go into discussions with them on how to effect Ntakiruitmana's transfer to Arusha. "Ntakirutimana, a former Seventh Day Adventist preacher, is wanted by the ICTR on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. He was arrested in Texas on September 26th, 1996, but has been fighting a long legal battle against extradition. Mogahlu said, however, that the ICTR had never doubted the support of the administration in Washington. "We have never doubted the will and the cooperation of the government of the United States with regard to extraditing Ntakirutimana," he said. "In fact it is they that have been bringing all the necessary legal moves. "Ntakirutimana now looks likely to join his son Gérard, a medical doctor, in the ICTR prison in Arusha. The two are jointly charged along with businessman Obed Ruzindana and former mayor of Gishyita Charles Sikubwabo. All four are accused of conspiring to round up and kill ethnic Tutsis in the Kibuye prefecture of western Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, which left up to one million people dead. At the time of the genocide, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana was preacher at Mugonero Seventh Day Adventist church in Gishyita commune, Kibuye prefecture. JC/FH (NK%0125e)