Arusha, January 25, 2000 (FH) - A ruling by the US Supreme Court has cleared the way for extradition proceedings against former Rwandan pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, who is wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on genocide charges. The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request that it review a circuit court ruling that the United States can extradite Ntakirutimana.

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Sources in the US say this means Washington can finally launch the actual extradition proceedings to deliver the suspect to the ICTR's detention facilities in Arusha, Tanzania. He is currently being held in Texas. 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. . Former US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark has fought the case on the basis that the US does not have an extradition treaty with the UN and that the law passed by Congress to allow extradition was unconstituitonal. On August 5th, however, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that the preacher should be extradited. It made the decision on an appeal from the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Clark's attempt to take the case to the Supreme Court has now failed. It is not yet known how long extradition and transfer proceedings will take, but the preacher looks set 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)