Arusha, February 7, 2000 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday welcomed this weekend's arrest in Britain of a former Rwandan army officer wanted by the tribunal. "We're very pleased with the cooperation that the British government has extended to the International Tribunal," ICTR spokesman Kingsley Moghalu said, "especially coming, as it does, on the heels of another arrest in Belgium barely a week ago.

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I think this shows very clearly that this tribunal is very active and effective. "British police arrested Tharcisse Muvunyi in southeast London on Saturday, after the ICTR sent the British authorities an arrest warrant for him on Friday. Muvunyi is wanted on charges of genocide, direct and public incitement to genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape. He was due to appear on Monday before Bow Street magistrates court in London. "We hope that procedures for his transfer to this tribunal will kick in as soon as possible," Moghalu told Hirondelle news agency. At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Muvunyi was commander of the ESO (Ecole des Sous-Officiers) military school in the southern district of Butare, where some of the worst massacres took place. He had effective control over all the military operations in Butare prefecture at the time. According to the indictment, Muvunyi told his men that speeches made by the then President Theodore Sikubwabo and Prime Minister Jean Kambanda inciting the extermination of ethnic Tutsis should be considered as orders to be carried out. Muvunyi himself is alleged to have made public speeches inciting the population to kill Tutsis, and to have supplied local nterahmwe militias with grenades for the purpose. Muvunyi is held responsible for atrocities committed by soldiers under his command, including the killing of two Tutsi priests and of 25 Tutsi children who were hunted down in a convent. According to the indictment, many women and girls were raped in the geographical area under Muvunyi's command. He knew that his subordinates were involved in rape, but did nothing to stop it or to punish the perpetrators. Temporary asylumMuvunyi had been living for about two years in England, where he was granted temporary asylum. The ICTR was alerted to his whereabouts by Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, which reported that he was living on social security in London with his family. The Rwandan government requested his extradition early in 1999, but Britain has no extradition treaty with Rwanda. ICTR Chief of Prosecutions Mohamed Othman told Hirondelle that his office had questioned Muvunyi some time back. UN war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte visited London earlier this month to press the British authorities to arrest him. Asked why it had taken so long, ICTR spokesman Moghalu replied that "investigations for such serious crimes as genocide cannot be a short term affair. Investigations that are credible, accurate and professional take time. "This is the first time that a Rwandan genocide suspect has been arrested in Britain. Othman said the arrest was important, and that the British authorities had already indicated they would cooperate. "It shows a good level of cooperation to immediately execute the warrant of arrest," he told Hirondelle, "and this time we didn't have to employ our own means to track him down, as we have done elsewhere. "String of arrests in EuropeMuvunyi's arrest in Britain comes just after that of former Rwandan gendarmerie (military police) boss Augustin Ndindiliyimana in Belgium, and of former Rwandan interim government minister Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda in France in December. The majority of Rwandan genocide suspects held in the ICTR jail in Arusha were arrested in African countries. But new Prosecutor Carla del Ponte has promised a more aggressive arrests policy, and there are some 90 people still under investigation. "The prosecution is very active," Moghalu told Hirondelle. "I also think this is an indication that the European countries are being increasingly cooperative towards the work of the Tribunal. "He said it was also a positive development in the sense of the whole international community being involved in the hunt for genocide suspects. "The arrests in Europe point to the global aspect of this issue," Moghalu said. "What we are saying is that they can run, but they can no longer hide. JC/FH (MV%0207e)