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Rwanda: top figures of former regime arrested

Seven persons, including Jean Kambanda, the Prime Minister of the Interim Government of the Republic of Rwanda during the massacres of April 1994, were arrested in Nairobi on 18 July 1997 by the Kenyan authorities at the request of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in an operation code named “NAKI" (standing for Nairobi-Kigali).

They were immediately transferred to the Detention Facility of the Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania. "I hope that with these arrests there will be an increased focus on the quality of the work accomplished by the Tribunal, in light of the undeniable judicial success it now has to its credit", declared Judge Laïty Kama, a Senegalese national and President of the ICTR. "The Tribunal is determined to do everything it can so that justice is done, which is an indispensable prerequisite to national reconciliation in Rwanda.

The persons arrested are dignitaries in the former Rwandan regime, who occupied positions of political or military responsibility, and some of them played an influential role in the media.

One woman, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former Minister in the Government of the late President Habyarimana and then in the Interim Government, was among the persons arrested. She is believed to be the first woman ever to be indicted by an international criminal court.

Of the persons apprehended in Kenya, Mrs. Nyiramasuhuko and her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, are the only ones already indicted.

The others are considered to be suspects by the ICTR Prosecutor, Judge Louise Arbour, a Canadian national, who requested their arrest. They are the subject of judicial decisions ordering both their transfer to the Detention Facility of the lCTR in Arusha and their provisional detention under the provisions of the Tribunal's rules authorizing the arrest and provisional detention of suspects in order to prevent their escape and to permit the Prosecutor of the ICTR to complete her investigations.

An influential member of the media, Hassan Ngeze, former Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Kangura, who is believed to have played a vital role in the propaganda of genocide was also arrested.

The other arrests include Gratien Kabiligi, Colonel in the General Staff of the Rwandan army until July 1994, and of Aloys Ntabakuze, former Commander of the Para-Commando Battallion of the Rwandan Armed Forces. Sylvain Nsabimana, former Prefect of Butare between April and July 1994 has also been detained.

These arrests marks a turning point in the strategy of the Tribunal which has sometimes been accused of not having arrested the national leaders involved in or suspected of having participated in the killings which plunged Rwanda into mourning in 1994. "Thanks to the more active cooperation of certain States, in particular Kenya, we are on the right path", asserted Bernard Muna, a Cameroonian national and Deputy Prosecutor of the ICTR. "These arrests prove that no one is beyond the reach of international justice”.

The ICTR was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 955 of 8 November 1994, to "prosecute persons responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and Rwandan citizens responsible for such violations committed in the territory of neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994".

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed during this period.

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