Rwandan former army officer suspected of genocide arrested in the Netherlands

On Wednesday 11 May 2022, on the authority of the National Office of the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service, the International Crimes Team of the Dutch police arrested a 65-year-old Rwandan man living in Ermelo. The former army officer has been living in the Netherlands since 1998. Rwanda had requested his extradition on suspicion of involvement in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

In 1994, the man was an officer of the gendarmerie in Rwanda. According to the Rwandan authorities, he played a prominent role in the massacres committed in the Rwandan capital of Kigali and the municipality of Mugina.

‘The end of the Tutsis’

Fleeing the violence by the army and civil militias, thousands of Tutsi citizens had sought refuge in the nearby parish of Mugina in April 1994. The mayor of Mugina, who had tried to protect the Tutsi refugees in his municipality, was killed by militia members, giving the army, police and militias free rein. Several massacres took place between 21 and 26 April 1994, with 25 April seeing most victims. Human rights organisation REDRESS later spoke with a survivor of the massacre, who described the day of 25 April as the ‘end of the Tutsis’.

An estimated 30,000 civilians are said to have been killed during the Mugina parish massacre, which is still commemorated in Mugina each year.

According to the Rwandan authorities, the army officer was closely involved in the planning and execution of the massacres in Mugina, including by supplying weapons to militias that killed Tutsi refugees. The man and his accomplices are said to have led some 80 Tutsi civilians that had managed to escape the parish massacres to a house that was subsequently set on fire. The man is said to have supplied the fuel. There are eye-witness accounts attesting to this.

Rwandan authorities claim that prior to the massacres, the man had chaired a meeting calling for Tutsi civilians to be attacked and killed. He is also alleged to have played a part in the assassination of the mayor of Mugina.

Rwanda genocide

From April to July 1994, a genocide took place in Rwanda that claimed the lives of approximately 800,000 men, women and children. According to Human Rights Watch, Rwandan gendarmerie officers played an important role in the supervision and execution of the massacres. Because of their tactical knowledge and their use of weapons, these army officers greatly contributed to the high death toll of the massacres.

Revocation of Dutch citizenship

The man received an asylum status the Netherlands in 1999. Because of his suspected involvement in genocide, the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Department (IND) decided in 2013 to revoke his Dutch citizenship, which he had been granted in 2002. This decision was challenged in court. On 11 May 2022, the Dutch Council of State dismissed the appeal against the revocation of his Dutch citizenship on its merits, thereby removing any impediment to his arrest and ultimate extradition to Rwanda. On Friday 13 May 2022 the man will be brought before the examining magistrate in The Hague.

The Dutch Public Prosecutor takes the approach that investigation and prosecution of international crimes are to take place as much as possible in the country where the crimes were committed, as that is where the evidence is, where the participants in the criminal proceedings are knowledgeable of the language, culture and backgrounds of events, and where, in general, most of the victims and surviving relatives are located.