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Saturday, March 20, 1999 Published at 03:09 GMT

World: Africa

Genocide suspect 'likely to be tried'

Rwanda Government soldiers in June 1994 during the genocide

Rwandan genocide suspect Bernard Ntuyahaga may still face trial, despite the decision by an international tribunal to halt proceedings against him in Tanzania.

Mr Ntuyahaga, a former Rwandan army officer, is accused of involvement in the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers, and the Rwandan prime minister, in 1994.

Bernard Muna, deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said there had been a widespread misunderstanding of the tribunal's proceedings.

Belgium is likely to host a trial if the Tanzanian authorities agree to the extradition of the genocide suspect, Mr Muna said.

Prosecutors favoured Belgian trial

[ image: Ntuyahaga: Could face a tougher sentence in Belgium]
Ntuyahaga: Could face a tougher sentence in Belgium
Mr Muna emphasised that the prosecutor's office in Arusha, Tanzania, had deliberately withdrawn its indictment against Mr Ntuyahaga before the trial began, because the charges he faced of crimes against humanity carried only a modest prison sentence.

The prosecution team instead favoured a court process in Belgium, where the authorities are keen to see Ntuyahaga face charges relating to the killing of the Belgian soldiers.

Mr Muna said he was confident that Ntuyahaga would remain in custody, even though the tribunal has no mandate to hand over suspects to individual governments.

The prosecutor's office had already discussed a possible extradition with the Tanzanian and Belgian authorities, Mr Muna said.

Bernard Muna's clarification followed fierce criticism by the Rwandan government of the tribunal's handling of the case.

Rwanda wanted extradition

Rwanda has put in its own extradition bid for Mr Ntuyahaga, arguing that he played a critical role in the mass killings five years ago and should be tried on Rwandan soil.

The Rwandans cite in particular his alleged involvement in the murder of the then Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana.

But Mr Muna said Rwanda had volunteered little evidence of its own to help the prosecution in Arusha, and had only recently expressed an interest in Ntuyahaga being transferred to Kigali.

Deaths triggered genocide

The Belgians, members of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda, were killed in front of Rwandan army officers, including Mr Ntuyahaga.

They had been guarding Prime Minister Uwilingiyimana, who was later murdered by Rwandan soldiers and militiamen for being a moderate.

The killings triggered the onslaught of the three-month genocide, in which at least half-a-million minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus like the prime minister were murdered.

Suspect fears for his life

After the tribunal decided on Thursday to drop its prosecution, Mr Ntuyahaga was returned to the tribunal's detention centre, reportedly at his own request.

"I fear for my safety," he said. He said he thought Tanzania would arrest him and turn him over either to Belgium or to Rwanda.

It was unclear whether Tanzanian authorities would arrest Mr Ntuyahaga for extradition or whether he would be freed.

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