Arusha, July 27, 2001 (FH) - An alleged leader of death squads in Rwanda was arrested in Belgium on Thursday, at the request of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Protais Zigiranyirazo, known to Rwandans as "Z", is the brother-in-law of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, whose death sparked the 1994genocide.

1 min 21Approximate reading time

"Z" is charged with crimes against humanity. A 1993 report by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) points to "Z" not only as a member of the "Akazu", the powerful circle around the former president, but also a leading member of death squads set up after Tutsi RPF guerrillas invaded Rwanda in 1990. The report says thesedeath squads, or "Zero Network" carried out systematic attacks against civilians, mainly Tutsis and Hutu opponents of the Habyarimana regime. Belgian authorities detained "Z" at Brussels airport in early June, Hirondelle has learned, because of doubts about his travel documents. When he was found to be travelling under a false identity (with a French passport), he asked for asylum in Belgium. Since, then he has been kept in an asylum-seekers' centre in Brussels airport, while the ICTR Prosecutor drew up an indictment. This has now been done, and "Z" is expected to appear in court in Belgium on Monday, before being transferred to the UN prison in Arusha. Informed sources say the job of indicting "Z" was not easy, especially as the ICTR's mandate covers only 1994. The strongest allegations against him relate to the period before the genocide. The ICTR indictment charges "Z" with extermination or, alternatively murder, as a crime against humanity. The charges relate mainly to killings carried out at roadblocks during the genocide. "During April - July 1994, Protais Zigiranyirazo ordered and authorized roadblocks to be established in direct proximity to each of his three residences in Kiyovu cellule (Kigali-ville prefecture), in Gasiza cellule (Giciye commune, Gisenyi prefecture), and in Gisenyi town (Rubavu commune, Gisenyi prefecture), knowing and intending that they would be used in the campaign of extermination or killing," says the indictment. It says "Z" ordered soldiers and Interahmwe militia to kill Tutsis at these roadblocks, and that he also ordered, aided and abetted other specific killings. JC/MBR/FH (AR0727e)