Genocide fugitives: How change of tack paid off

After several years of depending on informants in different countries, the prosecutor’s office at the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) realized the strategy was not bringing enough results in apprehending key genocide fugitives, and thus decided to try out something new

For almost two decades, the UN prosecutors continue to search for top genocide fugitives indicted by the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

With the arrests of individuals like Felicien Kabuga, Fulgence Kayishema, and the confirmation that Protais Mpiranyi, Augustin Bizimana and Pheneas Munyarugarama and  died, the list is now down to three.

The three who are yet to be apprehended are Aloys Ndimbati, a former Bourgmestre of the former Gisovu commune, Charles Ryandikayo, a businessman in the former Kibuye prefecture, and Charles Sikubwabo, a former Bourgmestre of Gishyita commune in Kibuye prefecture.

During the past three years (2020 to 2023), the prosecutors registered big results as they arrested two top suspects – Kabuga in 2020 and Kayishema in 2023, while in 2022, they confirmed that Mpiranya had died.


For such to be achieved, a new method of searching for the suspects played a role. Speaking to The New Times, Serge Brammertz, the IRMCT’s chief prosecutor, reflected on the old system they had used before and how it was not working.

“The methodology we were using for the fugitives was really to put aside dozens and dozens of informants and sources who were always calling to say, ‘I have seen him in Gabon, I have seen him in Mozambique, or he is in Kenya,” Brammertz explained.

“When I took over, I really thought those kinds of information were not leading us anywhere. So, we decided to go back to the basics and do three steps back in order to jump further in terms of results,” he added.

With the new system, the investigators are trying to go back to the time when a particular fugitive left Rwanda and follow the history of where they went next. This gives them the opportunity to get good information on their current location.

This method has been used for fugitives like Kabuga, Mpiranya and Kayishema.

In Kayishema’s case, for example, the prosecutors discovered that when he left Rwanda, he went to a refugee camp in Tanzania, and then moved to Mozambique. From there, he went to Eswatini and South Africa, under fake identification documents.

“By going through the last 20 years (of his history), we identified people who were around him at different moments. These are the so-called ‘persons of interest,’” Brammertz said.

These persons of interest who were discovered included family members or even some genocide suspects.

Kayishema was supported by former Rwandan army leaders and FDLR elements, who have also abused the asylum process to obtain refugee status in South Africa.

To thwart his arrest, they repeatedly provided false statements to South African law enforcement authorities and investigators and provided financial and material assistance to Kayishema and his family members.

“We found that many of those persons-of-interest were also using fake identities to stay in South Africa or elsewhere,” Brammertz said.

When the prosecutors identified them, they would approach them.

“Some of them were approached by us or by the South African police. They would say to us, ‘I’m person X; I’m a refugee.’ But we had information about them and would prove to them that we knew who they really are and that they were using fake documents,” he said.

The prosecutors would reduce these persons-of-interest into a smaller group of between ten to six people, and make an effort to collect a lot of evidence from them.

“We could say to them: ‘We know who you are. You cooperate with us or you will have issues,” Brammertz explained.

That is how the prosecutors landed on a lot of important information that played a big role in the arrests that were made in the past three years.

In addition to this, during the process, a number of people who are on the “wanted list” of Rwanda’s Prosecutor General were identified.

Rwanda’s prosecutor general has more than 1,000 outstanding arrest warrants, which are not on the IRMCT list.

Brammertz promised that his office is going to work with Rwandan prosecutors to locate such suspects.

“We will support the prosecutor generally in getting them arrested,” he said.

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