Tug of war over Rwanda suspect

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The Independent Online

Associated Press

Kigali - A tug of war is building up over the extradition from Cameroon of a suspected mastermind of the 1994 massacre of at least half a million Rwandans.

Police in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, arrested Theoneste Bagosora, a colonel in the former Rwandan army and a former senior defence ministry official, on Sunday.

The Rwandan government asked yesterday for Col Bagosora's extradition, but Belgium also wants him for the murder of 10 of their peace-keepers.

What happens to Col Bagosora, believed to be one of the inner circle that organised the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus following the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana in April 1994, depends on the courts in Cameroon.

The Belgian UN peace-keepers were tortured and killed by the presidential guard on the first day of the organised slaughter in Rwanda which lasted 100 days.

Human rights groups say Col Bagosora was the key organiser of the massacres and ordered the deaths of thousands.

If Col Bagosora were extradited to Rwanda, he could face the death penalty for genocide. An estimated 67,000 suspects are now crammed into jails awaiting some kind of trial.

Luc de Temmerman, Col Bagasora's lawyer, said his client was willing to go to Belgium to answer charges relating to the peace-keepers.

Alain Sigg, spokesman for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said the tribunal welcomed the arrest. Mr Sigg would not comment on any action the tribunal might take.

Rwandan officials have asked Cameroon to arrest at least four other genocide suspects living there, but so far only Col Bagosora has been picked up.

The government that emerged after the slaughter is eager to try the authors of the genocide plan but does not have extradition treaties with many countries to which they have fled, including Cameroon.