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Key Figure in Rwanda's '94 Genocide Arrested - 2002-09-30

A key suspect in Rwanda's 1994 genocide has been arrested and transferred for trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The senior military officer was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A spokesman for the tribunal says Colonel Tharcisse Renzaho is believed to be one of the leading organizers and perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide.

At the time of the 1994 genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed, Colonel Renzaho was the mayor, or prefect, of the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Tribunal spokesman Tom Kennedy said the colonel's position enabled him to play a key role in the genocide. "His job as prefect meant that he was the main administrative authority in the city and its immediate surroundings. So any instructions that he received from the government would have been executed directly under his authority. He was a senior military officer, a colonel in the Rwandan army and therefore had close links to the senior military officers, some of whom are already on trial, of course," Mr. Kennedy said.

Colonel Renzaho, 57, was apprehended Sunday in Congo and immediately sent to the tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania.

Mr. Kennedy says the Congolese government has stepped up its co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda since it signed a peace deal with Rwanda last July. In the agreement, Rwanda agreed to withdraw troops it has in Congo if the Congolese government handed over genocide suspects living in the country.

Mr. Kennedy said the arrest of Colonel Renzaho is another sign of the increasing cooperation between the Congolese and Rwanda governments. "It is interesting that this arrest should take place in the context of the developing peace process in Congo, with the withdrawal of troops of foreign countries, including the Rwandan troops, in the context of the agreement under which the Congo government undertook to arrest fugitives from the ICTR [International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda]. This is the first arrest that has taken place in that context," he said.

Though Colonel Renzaho is considered a key figure in the genocide, the criminal tribunal still has much work to do. There are 40 to 50 genocide suspects on the run.