ARUSHA 15 May 2002 (Internews) The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has confirmed that a former colonel in the Rwanda Armed Forces, Leonidas Rusatira, was arrested today in Belgium.
Rusatira, 58, is a former director of cabinet of the Ministry of Defense in Rwanda. He served as commander of the High Military School (ESM) during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
According to an indictment prepared by the ICTR Office of the Prosecutor (OTP), Rusatira ordered soldiers and ‘Interahamwe’ militiamen to kill civilians who had sought refuge at a technical college (ETO) in the Rwandan capital Kigali. The Interahamwe was the youth wing of the Movement of the Republic for National Development (MRND), the party that led a coalition government during the genocide.
Kingsley Moghalu, ICTR Spokesperson, told Internews: “We expect his transfer [to the United Nations Detention Facility in Arusha] as soon as possible.”
Rusatira faces five counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The indictment states that the Belgium contingent of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) established their base at ETO, where thousands of people had sought refuge to escape violence.
The OTP says that approximately 100 refugees died in an attack organized by Rusatira immediately after the Belgian soldiers left ETO on 11 April 1994. It is alleged that the Interahamwe and gendarme surrounded the college during the attack.
Allegedly an estimated 2000 refugees who survived the attack were rounded up and led to a place called Sonatube, near the college. At Sonatube, attackers ordered the refugees to sit down on the ground, while soldiers jeered them, telling them that although Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) soldiers were around, they would not arrive in time to protect them.
The soldiers and militiamen later led the refugees towards Nyanza, near Sonatube, the indictment states. Rusatira allegedly addressed the refugees at Sonatube and asked them to go to Nyanza where they would be safe.
On the way to Nyanza, according to the prosecutor, ethnic Hutu refugees were separated from the group and were later released, while ethnic Tutsi refugees who tried to flee were killed.
When the Tutsi refugees arrived at Nyanza in the evening of 11 April 1994, soldiers and Interahamwe allegedly attacked them with grenades and guns. Traditional weapons such as machetes were used to kill the survivors.
A human rights organization, African Rights, issued a report in April 2002 entitled ‘Left to Die at ETO and Nyanza: The stories of Rwandan civilians abandoned by UN troops on 11 April 1994.’
On 19 April 2002, African Rights issued a statement entitled ‘Who will take Responsibility for Rwanda’s Srebrenica’, in response to the resignation of the Dutch government last month over the 6-8 July 1995 massacre at Srebrenica, and called for similar accountability for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The rights group criticized the government of Belgium for harboring Rusatira.