The international tribunal responsible for trying Rwandan genocide
suspects is threatening to appeal to the United Nations Security
Council for assistance if the Democratic Republic of Congo does not
hand over a key suspected genocide perpetrator by next week. Congolese forces captured the
indicted fugitive three weeks ago.
The spokesman for the United Nations-created International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Bocar Sy, told VOA that the refusal by Congolese authorities to extradite the prisoner may force the court to take the matter to the U.N.
"By next week if nothing is happening, the prosecutor will have to address the issue to the Security Council directly," he said. "But for now, we hope and he hopes that things will change and the guy will be transferred here soon."
According to the spokesman, the usual period between capture and extradition is three or four days. The only explanation the court has received for the delay is vague assertions that the prisoner is still being questioned in Kinshasa.
"Nobody knows absolutely why they are keeping him there," said Sy. "Officially, we don't know anything. We have said what we know, that is the guy is still there and whenever we call them they says, 'Guys, wait, we are still busy with him.'"
The suspected genocide perpetrator, Gregoire Ndahimana, was captured by Congolese forces in the North Kivu Province in eastern DRC. The fugitive had been hiding amid the Hutu rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French initials of FDLR, many of whom were behind the 1994 genocide of Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The international court based in Arusha, Tanzania, has categorized Ndahimana as a Category 1 suspect, meaning that he is one of the court's most-wanted. The former Rwandan mayor is accused of orchestrating the death of thousands of Tutsi living in his town, including 2,000 who were massacred when the church in which they had sought refuge was destroyed with the help of the parish priest.
The delay by the DRC has led some to speculate that the nation is hoping to leverage its new-found possession to negotiate an exchange for former Congolese rebel Laurent Nkunda, now in Rwandan custody.
It has also been speculated that the DRC is trying to cash in on the up to $5 million reward that the U.S. offers under its "Rewards for Justice" program for information leading to the arrest of a number of key genocide suspects who remain at-large, of which Ndahimana was included.
The Congolese government's spokesman, Lambert Mende, sought to re-assure the international community that his transfer was imminent.
"His final destination is definitely Arusha, according to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo," he said. "Maybe there is some delay with judicial actions to be taken, but definitely he is being sent very soon to Arusha, there is no doubt about it."
12 indictees of the international tribunal remain at-large, many of whom are suspected of also hiding with the FDLR in the eastern DRC.