Protais Mpiranya, one of the most wanted genocide suspects could be hiding in South Africa but authorities are not cooperating in efforts to arrest him.
The Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations’ International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (ITMCT), Dr. Serge Brammertz, on Wednesday accused South African authorities of failing to cooperate in the arrest of ‘a fugitive’ sought over his role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Brammertz told the United Nations Security Council that since August last year, his office, which is charged with following up cases left behind by the UN Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR), has not received support from South Africa to apprehend the suspect thought to be in the country.
“Since August of last year, my office has been seeking urgent cooperation from South Africa in relation to the arrest of a fugitive located on its territory,” Dr Brammertz said without revealing the name.
“We have continually renewed our requests, and have repeatedly sought to engage directly with South African authorities,” he added.
South African media, quoting legal sources, has since identified the wanted suspect as Protais Mpiranya, one of the most wanted genocide masterminds with $5 million reward on his head.
Mpiranya held senior positions in the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) as the second-in-command of military operations and intelligence (S2 and S3) in the Presidential Guard Battalion. He was appointed Commander of the Presidential Guard Battalion, making him one of the most powerful figures at the time.
According to ICTR indictments, between 1990 and 1994, Mpiranya and other officers conspired to exterminate the Tutsi civilians and political opponents, and helped to train interahamwe and other militia groups who committed the genocide.
For many years, he was thought to be in Zimbabwe where he had been hiding under the protection of senior officials in former President Robert Mugabe’s government but Zimbabwean authorities kept denying until 2012 when they admitted that he could be in the country and launched a manhunt.
Mpiranya is thought to have relocated to South Africa through Botswana using a Zimbwebwean passport with fake names.
The UN Prosecutor however said that after a year of “pro-forma responses”, Pretoria had this week sent a message expressing its commitment to helping the court.
“I hope that this time it will deliver on this commitment immediately,” Brammertz told the UN Security Council.
25 years on, countries should act
Meanwhile Rwanda’s Prosecutor General Jean Bosco Mutangana says that 25 years on, no country should be accused of failing to act on requests to apprehend genocide suspects, whether by the UN Court on Rwandan authorities.
“It is absurd that 25 years later we are still talking about countries not cooperating. We have sent out over 1000 indictments, including to South Africa and other African countries but some of these requests are still pending, some countries haven’t reacted while others are taking long to act,”
The question has been why are these requests taking so long? Some of these countries like South Africa have functional systems and are signatories to Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. They have the obligation to act on these cases,” Mutangana told KT Press.
Rwanda has since 2007 issued over 1,012 indictments and arrest warrants in at least 32 countries in Africa, Europe, North America and Australia but the response to the requests has been slow in most cases.
DR Congo and Uganda top the list of countries that harbor most indicted Genocide fugitives with 254 people and 226 people, respectively. France and Malawi have 42 respectively while Belgium is safe heaven to 39 fugitives.
Mr Mutangana said that Rwanda requested these countries either extradite them to Rwanda for trial or indict them in national courts, sometimes to no avail. Several countries, mainly Scandinavian ones have heeded to the call and extradited them to Rwanda.
“We are always saying try them if you can’t extradite them. We are always ready to offer support in the process, but 25 years on, we shouldn’t be talking about countries not cooperating. They have a duty. What is taking them so long?” Mutangana wondered.
Efforts to get a comment from the South African High Commission in Kigali were futile by press time. Rwanda and South Africa are trying to restore diplomatic and bilateral ties after years of strained relations.