4 November 2012

Rwanda: Sweden's First Genocide Trial to Open This Month

A man suspected to have participated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi will be tried by a Swedish court, beginning November 28, 2012.

The accused, a 54-year-old Swedish citizen, lives in central Sweden.

According to prosecutors he participated in massacres in west Rwanda during the Genocide. He could be responsible for the deaths of thousands.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that Sweden is not a haven for suspected war criminals and for those who commit genocide," Swedish prosecutor Magnus Elving told The Local - a publication with presence in Sweden.

Rwanda asked for the man's extradition in 2010, but Swedish prosecutors said their country could not comply since the suspect received Swedish citizenship in 2008.

For three weeks in November to December 2012, the trial will transfer to Rwanda where witnesses will be heard in the High Court of Kigali.

According to John Bosco Siboyintore, who is charge of tracking Genocide suspects, his office is ready to assist with the trial.

"We have given them a green light. The Swedish prosecution and police have been here more than six times so the trial is a good development," Siboyintore told The New Times, yesterday.

According to Elving, it will be a standard, Swedish trial taking place at a foreign location, as for practical reasons it was not possible to transfer some witnesses to Sweden.

The suspect, however, is not expected to travel to Rwanda but will participate in the trial via a video feed.

The prosecution alone will call 40 witnesses.

"There are very strong reasons for carrying out these processes even if it is very costly," said Elving.

Elving said that the 54-year-old Swedish citizen could have been involved in massacres at four different locations in Rwanda.

The 54-year-old denies the charges. His lawyer, Tomas Nilsson, has questioned the validity of the evidence against his client, saying it is unreliable particularly since it concerns events that took place 18 years ago, The Local reported.

The tracking of Genocide suspects has of recent gained momentum with Norwegian and French prosecutors and investigators expected in the country this month to follow up on cases related to suspects on their soil.

Last year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) upheld a decision to extradite - to Rwanda - Genocide suspect Sylvere Ahorugeze.

Ahorugeze, was arrested in Sweden in 2008 on an Interpol Red Notice following his indictment by the Rwandan prosecution, accusing him of playing part in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

After his arrest, Ahorugeze, 55, battled against extradition.

The European court was his latest attempt after all courts in Sweden ruled in favour of his extradition to Rwanda for trial.

The court unanimously ruled that, the suspect can receive a fair trial in Rwandan courts, contrary to what he and his lawyers claimed when they initially tried in vain to block the extradition.

Rwanda's judiciary has registered remarkable progress, winning confidence of various countries, consequently more suspects being sent to Rwanda for trial.

The Swedish trial, set to commence this month in Kigali, will use the top notch technical facilities of Rwandan courts to link the trial with Judges and prosecutors in Sweden.

The massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda began in April 1994. Over the course of approximately 100 days, an estimated one million people were killed.

About 50,000 suspects are believed to be at large with some freely roaming in various countries across the world.

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