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Saturday, March 20, 1999 Published at 18:34 GMT

World: Africa

Extradition call for Rwanda suspect

Rwanda Government soldiers in June 1994 during the genocide

Belgium has asked the Tanzanian authorities to arrest and extradite a former Rwandan army officer accused of killing 10 Belgian peacekeepers during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Chris Simpson in Kigali: "Belgium has a long-standing interest in the case."
A United Nations tribunal in Tanzania ordered the release of the man, Bernard Ntuyahaga, after charges were dropped to allow a trial in Belgium.

But the UN prosecutor stressed the tribunal had no mandate to hand over any suspect to an individual government and it was up to Tanzania to decide what to do with the man.

Mr Ntuyahaga has chosen to stay at the UN detention centre in Tanzania for his own safety.

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

He said Belgium was likely to host a trial if the Tanzanian authorities agreed to the extradition of the genocide suspect.

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Mr Muna emphasised that the prosecutor's office in Arusha, Tanzania, had deliberately withdrawn its indictment against Mr Ntuyahaga before the trial began, because the charges he faced of crimes against humanity carried only a modest prison sentence.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

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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