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Last Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005, 15:25 GMT
Canal body 'was Rwandan minister'
A soldier looks at skulls in Rwanda (file photo, 1999)
Uwilingiyimana was charged over his alleged role in the 1994 genocide
A decomposed body found in a canal in Brussels is that of a Rwandan former minister facing charges of genocide, the Belgian justice ministry has said.

Juvenal Uwilingiyimana, 54, a former minister for parks, went missing from his home in the city on 21 November.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Tanzania had indicted him earlier this year for his alleged part in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in 100 days.

The charges against Mr Uwilingiyimana included genocide, incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and murder.

'Pressure' claim

A badly decomposed, naked body was spotted on 17 December in the central Brussels-Charleroi canal by a passer-by.

Belgian lawyer Sven Mary said he had been informed by the investigating magistrate that the body was that of his client, Mr Uwilingiyimana.

Map of Rwanda

"What complicates things is that we have not been given any information on the cause of death. We would like light shed on this," he told the AFP news agency.

The former minister had met several times with ICTR officials in the three weeks before he disappeared from his home in the Brussels suburb of Anderlecht.

ICTR chief investigator Stephen Rapp said the last such meeting had taken place on 18 November, three days before Mr Uwilingiyimana disappeared.

On 28 November, a letter purportedly written by Mr Uwilingiyimana three weeks earlier was published on the internet.

It accused the ICTR of trying to pressure him into incriminating other high-ranking officials in the former Rwandan Hutu regime.

Vengeance fear

Tribunal prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow expressed his regret for Mr Uwilingiyimana's death, saying he had "voluntarily agreed to cooperate in the search for truth and justice".

Mr Uwilingiyimana had told investigators of his concern "about the dangers he and his family would face from powerful persons in the Rwandan exile community when he told the truth about these persons' responsibility for the Rwanda genocide", an ICTR statement says.

"Extraordinary measures" were taken to allow him secretly to give statements to investigators.

"If it is determined that he was the victim of a homicide it will be clear that the protective measures were inadequate," the statement concludes, adding that if Mr Uwilingiyimana was killed, the tribunal hopes the Belgian authorities will prosecute those responsible.

The ICTR has convicted 22 people in connection with the Rwanda genocide.

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