A special tribunal established by the UN, known as the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), announced Thursday that fugitive Fulgence Kayishema has been arrested in Paarl, South Africa after 22 years on the run. Kayishema, a police officer accused of orchestrating the killing of more than 2,000 Tutsi refugees at Nyange Catholic Church in the Rwandan genocide of 1994, was the most wanted fugitive of the 1994 genocide.
According to the IRMCT, Kayishema was arrested Wednesday in a joint operation between South African authorities and UN investigators, which includes the Crime Intelligence Western Cape Province, Ministry of Home Affairs, South African Police Service Interpol and the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigations. The IRMCT stated that the investigation that led to Kayishema’s arrest involved investigations in multiple countries across Africa and elsewhere. Prior to his arrest, Kayishema assumed false identities and relied on his network, which includes family members and former Rwandan military members, to conceal his identity.
In light of Kayishema’s arrest, IRMCT Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz expressed that the arrest of Kayishema “ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes.” He also stated that as “the most serious crime known to humankind, [t]he international community has committed to ensure that perpetrators [of genocide] will be prosecuted and punished. This arrest is a tangible demonstration that this commitment does not fade and that justice will be done, no matter how long it takes.”
Due to be arraigned on Friday in a Cape Town, South Africa court, the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) indicted Kayishema in 2001. He was charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity for killings and other crimes committed in Kibuye Prefecture, Rwanda during the genocide.
The indictment alleges that Kayishema, who was a police inspector during the genocide, was a direct participant of the planning and execution of the massacre. Kayishema is accused of procuring and distributing petrol to burn the church when refugees were inside. He, among others, later buried and killed the refugees by using a bulldozer to collapse the church after his initial plan failed. Additionally, he was involved in supervising the transfer of corpses from church grounds into mass graves over the following two days.
The IRMCT noted that Kayishema’s arrest is a clear step forward in the UN’s Office of the Prosecutor’s (OTP’s) strategy to account for fugitives charged with genocide by the ICTR. The OTP Fugitive Tracking Team has accounted for five fugitives since 2020, leaving three outstanding fugitives unaccounted for now.