One of nine top fugitive Rwandan genocide suspects, a former mayor accused of slaughtering thousands of people and organising mass rapes in 1994, has been arrested, the United Nations said.
Ladislas Ntaganzwa, who had a $5 million (4.6 million euro) US bounty on his head and has been indicted by a UN-backed court for genocide and crimes against humanity, was captured in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Around 800,000 people — mostly members of the minority Tutsi community — were slaughtered in the 100-day orgy of violence in 1994, largely by ethnic Hutus.
Ntaganzwa is accused of organising “the massacre of thousands of Tutsis at various locations,” the UN-backed Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) said in a statement received Thursday.
“He was also alleged to have orchestrated the rape and sexual violence committed against many women,” it said.
Ntaganzwa, 53, is expected to face trial in Rwanda on nine counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violating the Geneva Conventions.
DR Congo army spokesman Guillaume Djike said Ntaganzwa was captured overnight Saturday by police, some 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of the eastern city of Goma, where he was brought on Wednesday.
– $5 million reward –
Djike said the fugitive was fleeing an army offensive launched the day before against Congo-based Rwandan FDLR rebels, a Hutu group seeking the overthrow of the Tutsi-led government in Kigali.
Congo’s Minster of Justice Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said Ntaganzwa would be taken to Kinshasa for questioning, without confirming whether he would be extradited to Rwanda to face trial.
The US State Department, which offered the $5 million bounty for his arrest under its War Crimes Rewards Program, lists Ntaganzwa as “one of the main instigators of the genocide” in Rwanda’s southern Butare district.
“Ntaganzwa is also accused of making speeches calling for the elimination of Tutsis in the region and facilitating the killing of Tutsi refugees,” the US bounty notice reads.
Ntaganzwa was intially wanted for trial at the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha.
But his case was transferred to Rwanda in 2012, and the MICT prosecutor Hassan Jallow has asked authorities in DR Congo to transfer him to Kigali.
According to a 44-page ICTR indictment, Ntaganzwa helped to establish, train and arm the local Interahamwe militia, the Hutu youth wing of the political party he ran in the Nyakizu area, “with the intent to exterminate the Tutsi population and eliminate its ‘accomplices’.”
– Survivors ‘pleased’ at arrest –
The indictment also accuses Ntaganzwa of personally leading a series of massacres of Tutsi civilians, including an attack on a church where thousands had taken shelter.
Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, president of Rwanda’s genocide survivors’ association, Ibuka, welcomed the arrest saying Ntaganzwa must now face trial in Rwanda.
“We are pleased that he was arrested,” he said, adding it should be an example to other nations where remaining fugitives are still hiding. “We think if there was the political will of the countries where these people are, they would all be arrested,” he said.
Ntaganzwa fled Rwanda for neighbouring Congo soon after the genocide.
Announcing Ntaganzwa’s arrest, Jallow, “thanked the authorities of the DRC for their cooperation and urged them to transfer the accused to Rwanda for trial without delay,” according to the statement.
There was no immediate reaction from Kinshasha.
Eight other fugitives remain at large: Felicien Kabuga, Augustin Bizimana, Protais Mpiranya, Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Aloys Ndimbati, Ryandikayo and Charles Sikubwabo.