Fulgence Kayishema, suspected Rwandan genocide killer, appeared cool and calm when the charges against him were read out in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court.
On Friday, dressed in a blue jacket, black trousers and glasses, Kayishema took his place in the dock for the first time. The courtroom was packed and a heavy police presence was continuously maintained.
Armed police officers wearing head shields and bulletproof vests accompanied Kayishema.
The 62-year-old ex-policeman is on trial on charges of, among other things, genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. He also faces additional charges of fraud and breach of immigration law in South Africa.
Further charges are likely to follow.
At this stage, Kayishema’s extradition to Rwanda has not yet been discussed.
After a brief appearance, magistrate Ronel Oliver adjourned the case until June 2 and Kayishema will remain in custody until then.
The complaint on which Kayishima is originally prosecuted relates to his alleged complicity in the murder of around 2,000 Tutsi refugees, including men, women, children and the elderly, at a Rwandan church. He has been a fugitive since 2001.
He is Wednesday caught at a grape farm in Paarl. Kayisema has been living and working on this farm for some time under a pseudonym, Donatien Nibashumba.
Kayishema is described by the UN war crimes tribunal – the successor to the UN court that prosecuted many major suspects – as “one of the world’s most wanted genocide fugitives”.
Around 800,000 Rwandans, most of them members of the Tutsi ethnic group, were killed by Hutu extremists in 100 days.
Kayishema and others allegedly killed more than 2,000 men, women and children who had taken refuge in a Roman Catholic church in Nyange in the Kivumu district.
“Kayishema actively participated in the planning and execution of this massacre, among other things by obtaining and distributing petrol to burn down the church with the refugees in it,” the tribunal said on Thursday.
“When that failed, Kayishema and others used a bulldozer to overturn the church and bury and kill the refugees inside.
“Kayishema and others then supervised the moving of the bodies from the church grounds to mass graves.”
The South African Police Service said the arrest was made in response to a red notice from Interpol.
Pseudonyms, false documents
The search for Kayishema spanned the continent. He used various aliases and false documents and relied on a “network of trusted supporters”, the tribunal said.
The USA has offered a reward of as much as $5 million (about R98 million) for information that could lead to Kayishema’s arrest, extradition or conviction. However, there were no details as to whether this incentive played a role in the arrest.
In 2015, the tribunal took over the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which the UN set up after the Rwandan genocide.
Before handing over the reins, the ICTR sentenced a total of 62 people and acquitted 14.
Rwanda began in 1996 to track down and execute genocide suspects and on a single day in April 1998, 22 of them were executed by firing squad.
The death penalty in this country was abolished in 2007.
Between 2005 and 2012, more than 12,000 community-based courts tried nearly two million people for the genocide, 65% of whom were convicted and sentenced to prison.
Other convictions were made in Belgium, France, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA and Canada.
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