Rwanda urges Canada to extradite 'genocide masterminds'

Rwandan prosecutors have requested the extradition of five accused genocide masterminds believed to be hiding out in Canada, the Canadian Press has reported.

Rwandan prosecutors have requested the extradition of five accused genocide masterminds believed to be hiding out in Canada, the Canadian Press has reported.

Unidentified attendants mourn at a wreath laying ceremony in Gisozi, Rwanda, in April of 2004. ((Sayyid Azim/Associated Press))

Rwandan officials said the men are the lead figures among hundreds of lesser accused war criminals hiding in Canada since the 100-day massacre of up to a million Rwandans, primarily minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in 1994.

"We've got five people that we think are confirmed to be in Canada," said Jean Bosco Muntangana, a spokesman for the Rwandan prosecutors and a special unit tracking genocide suspects.

The prosecutors have recently asked Canada to extradite Leon Mugesera, an academic living in Quebec City; former politicians Pierre Celestin Halindintwali, Evariste Bicamumpaka and Gaspard Ruhumuliza; and mason Vincent Ndamage. All are accused of inciting or organizing the massacre. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

"They should be arrested to answer these charges," he said. "There's no reason they should be allowed to move freely and benefit from the social welfare of the Canadian government while they're suspected killers."

Muntangana said the Canadian government has been slow but co-operative in dealing with genocide suspects.

Investigators with the Canadian war crimes unit and federal officials declined to comment.

Accused on Rwanda's most-wanted list

The men are all on the African country's most-wanted list. Bicamumpaka, a former municipal-level politican who was last known to be living in Vancouver, is number 10 on the list. He is accused of supplying guns, machetes and murderous encouragement to the Interahamwe militias, Hutu paramilitary groups.

Former director of public works Halindintwali, listed at number 22, is accused of being an Interahamwe leader responsible for organizing and attending genocide planning meetings. He's also accused of supplying fuel and transport to the militia and killing a family.

Halindintwali was last seen at a wedding in Ottawa according to the Rwandan community.

Ndamage is also believed to have been a militia leader, giving speeches calling for the killing of Tutsis and participating in a number of attacks. At number 63 on the list, he is also accused of numerous rapes and the slaughter of 30 children.

Ruhumuliza was a minister in the government prior to the genocide and helped form the interim government during the killings. The entire interim government has been charged, and Ruhumuliza has been accused of helping to plan the genocide and inciting crowds to kill. He is also accused of being part of so-called death squads that eliminated critics of the government.

Mugesera, a one-time professor at the national university, is accused of inciting hatred with anti-Tutsi speeches.

Mugesera has denied the accusations. The other men could not be reached for comment.

Many suspects believed in Canada

The prosecutor's spokesman said the government believes there could be many other people involved in the 1994 slaughter living in Canada.

"We believe there are actually hundreds of them in Canada, because they secured easy movement and possibly visas in 1994 and 1995, calling themselves refugees," Mutangana said.

He said many of the suspects live under false names, making it difficult for authorities to track them down.

The Rwandan government has said it would prefer all genocide suspects be returned to the country for trial.

"But if all that is not possible, then the countries where these fugitive live, including Canada, should opt to take them to court [themselves]," Mutangana said.

Canada has done so in the case of Desire Munyaneza, an alleged ground-level participant in the massacre whose trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity resumes in Montreal on Tuesday. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

With files from the Canadian Press