A quarter of a century has passed since the mass slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsi people in Rwanda.
But the search for those who were behind the genocide is far from over.
The houses in the quiet side street of Kigali look confusingly like ordinary homes. But behind the walls of three adjoining villas, hectic activity is taking place. This is the headquarters of a global operation that works to trace the worst killers in the Rwanda genocide.
Here, investigators from all corners of the globe come to talk to witnesses and gather evidence with the help of Rwanda’s Genocide Fugitive Tracking Unit (GFTU). This is a special team created in 2007 to track down and prosecute the architects of the genocide, in which Hutu militia attacked Tutsis and moderate Hutus and slaughtered them on sight.
Arrests from Norway
After the carnage many of the killers escaped from Rwanda. Many are still on the loose, and the GFTU has issued 1,012 international arrest warrants on suspects in 32 countries worldwide.
A team of Norwegian police officers from Kripos were recently in Kigali in connection with the investigation of a Rwandan who came to Norway as a refugee in 2006. The approximately 50year old man was arrested last year.
‘’We carried out investigative steps in cooperation with the Rwandan authorities’’ said communication adviser, Axel Wilhelm Due to NTB news.
Kripos have been in Rwanda a number of times in connection with other issues he said.
Rwandan authorities have asked Norway to investigate 19 named Rwandans who have come to Norway as refugees. So far, five of them have been checked.
The results of the GFTU’s work are beginning to emerge.Since 2007, 19 people suspected of being involved in the genocide have been returned to Rwanda, while 22 have been brought to justice in other countries according to AFP news agency.
In addition, over 11,000 former Hutu militia have returned home, 1,500 of them as late as last year after they were expelled from Congo. But this is still just a drop in the ocean.
Between 2005 and 2012, local tribunals were established, so-called “gacacas”, where those suspected of having participated in the genocide were brought to justice. In total, nearly 2 million trials were carried out, where close to two out of three were found guilty.
However, nearly 72,000 were sentenced in absentia, and in 2012, the GFTU received a list of the names. These are the ones that are now being hunted.
“It’s not easy” a spokesperson GFTU, Faustin Nkusi, admitted to AFP.
Need for justice
“The investigation requires that we must cooperate with institutions in the countries where the suspected war criminals hide” he said.
Among those still on the run are Felicia Kabuga, once one of Rwanda’s richest men, who is accused of funding the genocide, and former Defense Minister, Augustin Bizimana. The two are believed to be hidden in Kenya and Congo, respectively.
After Rwanda abolished the death penalty in 2007, several countries have been willing to extradite suspected war criminals. But several countries, including France, have no extradition agreement with Rwanda.
Nevertheless, Nkusi hopes that the 25-year anniversary this month will cause more people to be handed over so that they can be sentenced in their home country.
“We want justice” he said.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today