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Friday, April 30, 1999 Published at 03:30 GMT 04:30 UK

World: Africa

UK sanctuary for alleged killer

Two of the 25 children hunted down in the convent

An army commander accused of ordering the massacre of 25 children during the Rwandan genocide in 1994 has been given temporary asylum in the UK.

Fergal Keane goes on the trail of Mr Muvunyi (Please note: some scenes may be disturbing)
Rwanda wants Lieutenant Colonel Tharcisse Muvunyi to stand trial for the murder of a group of Tutsi children who had sought sanctuary at Benebikira convent in Butare, southeast Rwanda, in April 1994.

The Rwandan Government says an extradition request to Britain is underway, but the UK has no extradition treaty with Rwanda.

[ image: Lt Col Muvunyi: Senior officer]
Lt Col Muvunyi: Senior officer
A Home Office spokesman said there had so far been no official contact about the extradition, although officials were aware of the allegations.

The UK has said it is committed to supporting the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda, but the court has indicated informally that it is not likely to issue an indictment against Lt Col Muvunyi.

Mr Muvunyi lives with his family in a flat in South London. He has permission to stay in Britain until 2002. He is reported to be living on benefits and working at a charity.

[ image: Mr Muvunyi had no comment]
Mr Muvunyi had no comment
He refused to requests for an interview from BBC Special Correspondent Fergal Keane.

He said: "I want to tell you I don't have anything to say. And that if you want to talk with me, you'll have to wait for my solicitor."

He had previously said that he had tried to stop massacres and that he saved the lives of Tutsis.

However when our correspondent tracked him down, he ran away without commenting.

In hiding

[ image: Sister Speciose Mukarubayiza: They found every single child]
Sister Speciose Mukarubayiza: They found every single child
The children who Lt Col Muvunyi is alleged to have massacred had sought sanctuary in the convent after witnessing the murder of their parents. They hid in attics and other secret places, emerging only at night.

A group of soldiers and militiamen arrived at the convent with a search warrant on 30 April.

One of the nuns, Sister Speciose Mukarubayiza, said: "We hoped they would kill us before finding the children, but they found every single one."

The children were led out in a line and taken away, lying down in a truck with the soldiers standing on top of them. They were slaughtered with guns, machetes and clubs in the forest.

Sister Speciose said: "The last image of the children, which I can't forget, is that we looked into each other's eyes and they were so sad." It is thought they were buried in a mass grave.

'Muvunyi's orders'

[ image: Lt Col Andrew Rwigamba: We have overwhelming evidence]
Lt Col Andrew Rwigamba: We have overwhelming evidence
Lt Col Muvunyi was one of Rwanda's most senior officers and commander of operations in Butare when the worst of the killing took place.

The nuns at the convent said the soldiers who came for the children told them they were acting under his orders.

The officer in charge, Idlefonse Hatiegimama, said Lt Col Muvunyi had told them to go and take the people who were hiding at the convent.

Pierre Bizimania, a second lieutenant who served under the colonel, says he must have known what was happening.

"Muvunyi was a well-respected commander. I do not know of a single time when soldiers disobeyed his orders.

"Soldiers were executing orders given by officers. They just followed orders. Army rules and regulations were observed. Soldiers received orders via the chain of command which was functioning normally."

Rwanda's military prosecutor general Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Rwigamba said Lt Col Muvunyi was a member of the governing army council, "so all decisions were taken by him because he was a member".

Lt Col Muvunyi is currently under investigation by the UN team examining violations of human rights during the tribal genocide between 1990 and 1994, which includes the brutal murder of a group of children who were sheltering in a convent.

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