Arusha, November 14, 2012 (FH) –November 16 is set to be an important date in the history of Swedish justice, since on Friday the country will open its first genocide trial. The individual in the dock is a Swede of Rwandan origin, accused of participating in the 1994 genocide. The Stockholm District Court handling the case has already judged several war crimes cases related to the Balkans war in the 1990s.

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Swedish judicial authorities have so far declined to name the accused, but Rwandan sources say he is Stanislas Mbanenande, a civil engineer from western Rwanda. He was formally charged on November 5 with genocide, including the crimes of murder, attempted murder and abduction, according to the Swiss association Track Impunity Always (TRIAL).

Bisesero Massacres

Mbanenande was born on August 26, 1958, in the Rwandan prefecture of Kibuye, where he was working as a teacher in 1994. It is there that he allegedly recruited people, often young students, and acted as an informal leader for a militia gang during the genocide. Mbanenande is accused of having actively participated in four massacres of Tutsis between April 6 and June 30 in the western regions of Bisesero and Ruhiro, where over 50,000 people were killed.

Mbanenande allegedly took part in a massacre on 17 April 1994 in the city of Kibuye where men, women and children had gathered inside and around a catholic church and in a hotel, according to TRIAL. Most of the people were unarmed and had sought protection there on advice from the authorities.

The people were forced to stay in the area by armed groups. They were then attacked by hundreds of militia, police and civilians using guns, grenades, machetes and other weapons. Those who hid in the church were forced out by smoke and were killed outside. Many of those who tried to flee drowned when trying to swim in the Kivu Lake. Mbanenande is accused of having shot into the group of fleeing people with an automatic weapon with the intention to kill as many as possible. He is also accused of killing a man by repeatedly hitting his head with a stone and a block of concrete.

Mbanenande denies all the allegations. He claims he is the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated from Kigali.

Judges to go to Kigali

The trial is expected to last until May 2013. Certain sessions will be held in Rwanda using the country’s newly acquired videoconference technology. At the end of November the judges, prosecution and defence are expected to go to Kigali to hear witnesses. Mbanenande will be able to follow the hearings from the court in Stockholm. The Prosecution will call over 40 witnesses, according to TRIAL, of whom 19 are alleged survivors of murder attempts by Mbanenande.

Rwanda had wanted to try the case, but Swedish authorities rejected its extradition request on grounds that the accused had obtained Swedish nationality. Mbanenande was tried in absentia by a gacaca semi-traditional court in his Rwandan home village, and sentenced to life in jail in 2009. But Swedish law does not recognize the gacaca courts.