Special to The Gazette

BUTARE, Rwanda — Some of the men in the dusty yard of Butare Central Prison
remember Pierre Célestin Halindintwali as a schoolmate or party guest. But more
often, he’s recalled as the man who hid bodies.

During Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, inmates here say, the then-director of Butare’s
public works department allegedly donned a camouflage jacket and devoted his
department’s fleet of Caterpillar tractors to digging Butare’s mass graves.
According to one prisoner’s account, he also helped fill them.

Joseph Nzabirinda, a Hutu chauffeur, was giving a Tutsi friend a ride on
April 21, 1994, when armed men stopped his car at a roadblock.

Halindintwali worked down the street from Nzabirinda, the chauffeur says,
and was easy to recognize among the crowd.

Also present was Désiré Munyaneza, the son of a prominent local businessman,
Nzabirinda says.

Halindintwali stabbed his passenger to death, Nzabirinda says, because the man
refused to hand over his identity card. When a truckload of Tutsi refugees
arrived, Halindintwali’s compatriots took their cue.

“They took the Tutsi refugees one by one from the truck and killed them with
machetes and clubs studded with nails,” says Nzabirinda, who estimates that he
and a small group of observers watched 40 people die that day. “We refused (to
help) and they sent us away, telling us we were not men.” Halindintwali has
been charged with participation in the Hutu government-led genocide in the
spring and summer of 1994, when Rwanda’s majority Hutu population massacred
more than 500,000 fellow citizens of minority Tutsi ethnicity.

But the former public works director can’t be found among the men milling
outside their barracks at Butare Central Prison or those working the fields of
the prison farm. He lives in Canada, Rwandan prosecutors say, where both he and
Munyaneza fled when the genocidal government collapsed. But unlike Munyaneza,
whose arrest and ongoing trial in Montreal marks the first application of
Canada’s Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, Halindintwali is still
living free.

And he’s not the only one, Rwandan prosecutors say. Of 93 top genocide suspects
living abroad, five are said to be residing in Canada. But even that list, say
the prosecutors who put it together, is not complete.

“There might be 15 more or 100,” says Jean-Bosco Mutangana, a prosecutor who
directs Rwanda’s Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit in Kigali, the country’s

“Munyaneza’s case is not different from what others did – they have all killed
people.” The five men have been formally charged in Rwanda, and if they
returned there, they would face arrest. But only one has run into trouble in
Canada: Léon Mugesera, a former professor at Rwanda’s National University. He
has spent 12 years fighting deportation orders stemming from a speech he made
in 1992 calling for Hutus to fill Rwanda’s Nyabarongo River with Tutsi corpses.

The others – Halindintwali; former environment and tourism minister Gaspard
Ruhumuliza; former Butare sub-prefect Evariste Bicamumpaka; and a man named
Vincent Ndamage – have not been in the public eye.

A spokesperson for Citizenship and Immigration Canada says there is no record
of anyone entering the country under the men’s names. Should they have entered
Canada using false identities, she notes, that act alone would be grounds for
deportation. No one who could be found through public records admits to being
one of the men.

Rwanda has requested their extradition through Interpol. RCMP and federal
Justice Department officials will not say whether the five are indeed in
Canada, though Rwandan prosecutors insist their Canadian counterparts became
aware of the men’s presence long ago. Not only has Mutangana talked over the
suspects’ cases with them, he says, but they have made repeat investigatory
trips to Rwanda. (In Butare Central Prison, one inmate accurately recalled the
first name and physical description of a Canadian prosecutor, specifically
mentioning that she had questioned him about Halindintwali.) But even without
public confirmation by authorities, members of Canada’s Rwandan expatriate
community are convinced that Halindintwali made it here – they say they’ve seen

Paulin Nteziryayo, an economist for the Quebec government, left Rwanda two
years before the genocide claimed five siblings and his parents. In the years
since, he has taken a lead role in PAGE Rwanda, an organization formed to aid
genocide survivors, remember victims and track killers.

While living in Quebec City in 2002, Nteziryayo says, he met a man named
“Célestin” through their respective wives, and this man eventually ended up
attending a party celebrating the birth of Nteziryayo’s second baby. A friend
recognized the guest as Halindintwali and pulled Nteziryayo outside, aghast
with the news.

Neither man could think of anything to do about it. They went back to the
party, avoiding the guest until he left. To this day, Nteziryayo says, he’s
not sure how he should have reacted.

“I was just astonished,” he says. “I’d like him to be arrested, for him to
explain what happened. I don’t know how to say my feelings.” Running into those
believed responsible for the killings is a destabilizing but not infrequent
event in Canada, says Jean-Paul Nyilinkwaya, PAGE Rwanda’s spokesperson.

Before Munyaneza was arrested in 2005, Nyilinkwaya says, many genocide suspects
saw no reason to hide.

A graduating senior at the University of Michigan when the genocide began,
Nyilinkwaya had planned to return to Rwanda in summer 1994 and open a business
with his father, an opposition politician in Kigali.

“All that was wiped out in a couple of hours,” he says.

“My kids will never know their grandparents, and they ask me what happened. I
have to tell them, because it is part of my history now. To know that someone
remotely responsible for that is enjoying their life here to me is

Of the five genocide suspects Rwanda says it has tracked to Canada, four
have ties to the former prefecture of Butare. That might not be a coincidence.

Located in Rwanda’s southwest, Butare is home to the National University,
founded in 1963 by a Canadian Dominican priest.

The university built on its close ties to Canadian academic institutions
over the years, and the head of the National University rector’s office
recalls partnerships with such institutions as Université Laval and the
Université du Québec.

While more went to France and Belgium, a sizable number of Rwandan academics
also studied in Canada.

Rakiya Omaar, the director of Kigali-based African Rights, says the academic
and social ties between the countries might have provided an escape route for
some perpetrators. When military defeat drove the genocidal government’s
supporters into squalid camps in the eastern Congo, members of Butare’s elite
would have seen Canada as an obvious and perhaps even familiar destination.

Omaar’s opinion is based on more than speculation. The Somali-born human rights
researcher, who arrived in Kigali in the genocide’s waning days, and his small
staff have tracked alleged perpetrators to their new homes in Western
countries, sometimes publicly outing them.

Like Mutangana, she maintains that Canada is host to far more than the five
genocide suspects that Rwandan prosecutors have already named.

“We know of a number of others who are not on that list,” she says.

Genocide came late to Butare prefecture. While the downing of Hutu President
Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994, provided cover for a hard-line
Hutu coup and death squads in the capital, Butare remained calm; it was
governed by Rwanda’s only Tutsi prefect, Jean-Baptiste Habyalimana, and had
a Tutsi population of 130,000, the largest in the country.

As bordering prefectures caved in to government-sanctioned mob violence,
Habyalimana stood his ground. He organized joint Hutu-Tutsi militias to keep
order and, cowed by his force of will, his subordinates carried out his orders.
Phone lines were down, but word of Butare’s stand spread; Tutsi refugees
streamed in.

Radios broadcast news of Habyalimana’s sacking on June 17, and the former
prefect was murdered soon after. Administrators who had obeyed his call
for order abruptly realigned themselves with the paramilitary Interahamwe
and, in some cases, entire villages joined in the “work.” As many as
three-quarters of the Tutsis in Butare were massacred, most within weeks.

What roles the indicted Canadian residents from Butare might have played
in the genocide is unknown; the Rwandan prosecutor-general’s office declined
to make its evidence public prior to trial.

But, in the instance of Halindintwali, Valerie Bemeriki says she knows. A
former voice of Hutu extremism, Bemeriki is a plump and expressive middle-aged
woman who sports dirty white sneakers, an inmate’s standard pink dress, and
rosary beads.

As a star journalist for RTLM, a hard-line Hutu radio station in Kigali
that beat the drum for genocide, her broadcasts equated killing Tutsis with
patriotic duty and self-defence.

She revealed the hiding places of survivors on air.

“I thought radio was my weapon, and I thought I had no other choice,”
Bemeriki says.

She was captured in the eastern Congo in 1999, and now lives within the
brick walls of Kigali Central Prison. Only recently has she conceded that
the killing was genocide, not a war.

During visits to Butare in May and June 1994, Bemeriki says, she often
saw Halindintwali.

The director of public works was a busy man, she recalls, distributing money,
food, gasoline, and equipment to the Interahamwe.

Bemeriki says she never saw any killing take place in Halindintwali’s presence.
“By the time I reached Butare, so few (Tutsis) were alive,” she says.

Bemeriki saw Halindintwali supervise the Caterpillar backhoes that dug
mass graves in at least four locations, she says, among them the site of a
church and a primary school.

The purpose was not to bury the genocide’s victims, she says, but to hide
their bodies.

Without the support of leading public officials like Halindintwali,
Bemeriki says, many of the worst massacres might never have occurred.

“They’re the ones who gave the orders, even to me,” she says. “These people
should be in prison.”

Three other inmates independently said that Halindintwali’s crews constructed
mass graves in and around the city. Among them is Faustin Munyeragwe.

The former warden of Butare Central Prison, Munyeragwe is now incarcerated

He is jailed, he says, because he participated in a security council tied to
the killing. He also failed to fulfill his duties, he says, when he did not
intervene to prevent his prison’s Hutu inmates from killing their Tutsi fellows
in late April 1994.

But Munyeragwe says he was never a fanatic; he claims he even hid Tutsi friends
in his home.

When Halindintwali found out, Munyeragwe says, the public works director
personally confronted him. Munyeragwe denied their presence, but soon heard
from a prominent neighbour that Halindintwali had ordered a raid on his house.

Munyeragwe says he hurriedly sent off his Tutsi friends and their children
to hide with acquaintances. None survived the genocide.

“I can’t say the people died because I was irresponsible,” Munyeragwe says.
“They’re dead because (Halindintwali) drove them from my house.”

The three inmates who spoke about Halindintwali said they were motivated
to do so partly by repentance and partly by spite for people who they
believed should be in prison. Prosecutor Mutangana says inmates do not
receive lighter sentences for accusing others of genocide crimes.

If anyone in Canada is investigating Halindintwali, it is likely Terry
Beitner’s War Crimes Unit.

Formed in 1998 as a joint effort by immigration, police, border, and
justice officials, the unit spent 61/2 years quietly building its case
against Désiré Munyaneza before his 2005 arrest.

Beitner, its chief counsel, oversees a $15.6-million budget, a legal support
crew and 11 war crimes investigators split between two geographically defined
teams: One handles Africa, the other everywhere else.

As of 2006, the full unit reported 57 cases under review. Allegations stemming
from Rwanda’s genocide account for a significant portion of its workload,
Beitner and a RCMP colleague say, though they decline to give a specific number
of cases – or confirm whether they have looked into allegations against the five
indicted men, as Rwandan prosecutors say they have.

“I am comfortable in saying they have co-operated with us extensively,” Beitner
says of his Rwandan counterparts.

Building a case against a genocide suspect is slow work. Modern war crimes
cases are often built on eyewitness testimony, Beitner says, and gathering it
requires substantial time and money.

The ongoing Munyaneza trial proves the point: It has required months of court
dates, thousands of pages of testimony and more than $500,000 for research

But there are simpler ways to handle credible genocide allegations. Obtaining a
deportation order requires far less proof than winning a criminal conviction;
prosecutors need not prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Beitner expects his unit to keep both options at hand. There will likely be
more deportations.

“We’re going to apply the appropriate remedy to the appropriate facts,” he

In fact, Rwanda’s government would prefer to see genocide suspects deported
so they face justice at home. But where the trial takes place is less a concern,
Mutangana says, than ensuring that the men are tried somewhere.

“Why should Canadians feel safe when they’re living next to a genocide
suspect?” the prosecutor asks. “There cannot be immunity. It cannot end with

Rwanda’s arrest warrants for Halindintwali and the other suspects abroad
come at a crucial time. For nearly 13 years, the United Nations-led
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has handled the top genocide cases,
sending prosecutors around the globe for its investigations and holding trials
in Arusha, Tanzania.

But the tribunal is slated to conclude new trials by the end of next year.
With ranking genocide suspects still scattered across Africa, Europe and
North America, African Rights’ Omaar says, the question is whether nations
that failed to intervene during the genocide will now tolerate its alleged

The success of Rwanda’s efforts at justice and reconciliation hang partly
in the balance, Omaar contends. In 2001, the nation of 8.6 million adapted
a traditional form of local dispute mediation to handle a backlog of 130,000
genocide suspects.

Gacaca courts, as they are called, are tribunals given wide discretion to
investigate and try genocide crimes on the village and neighbourhood level,
putting a premium on rapidly disposing of cases.

Since its adoption on a national scale, the Gacaca system has elicited
thousands of confessions, leads and even apologies from genocide participants.
Never have investigators had so much information at hand, boasts Steven
Balinda, director of Rwanda’s national prison service.

“One half of the people confess,” he says. “The genocide was carried out
in broad daylight. … Many are ready to talk about what happened.”

Along with verdicts, Gacaca produces a sketch of the killers’ local
hierarchies. But in some jurisdictions, the top tier of the genocide’s
leadership is nowhere to be found: Unlike the subsistence farmers whom
they encouraged, bribed and sometimes forced to kill, many among the
deposed Hutu elite had the resources to flee.

“There’s an element of unfairness in who’s on trial,” Omaar says.

Joseph Nzabirinda, the former chauffeur who says he saw Halindintwali kill,
is older than most of his fellow inmates at Butare Central Prison, a thin man
with a slight stoop.

He admits to joining a massacre in his hometown, five kilometres from
Butare’s city centre, though he denies some of the worst allegations about
the things he did there.

He never wanted to kill anyone, he says, but he feared that he would be
murdered alongside the Tutsi victims if he refused.

Nzabirinda acknowledges that he might never be released.

In a cramped room just inside the prison’s gates, he apologizes when asked
about genocide suspects whose names he says he does not know.

At the end of an interview, he shakes hands and asks for a kilo of sugar.

Nzabirinda still thinks frequently about the genocide, he says, and of
Leopold Ruvurajabo, his Tutsi friend whom Halindintwali allegedly stabbed
to death.

April 21, 1994, was a Thursday, and Nzabirinda had just picked up his friend
on his morning drive to work when the roadblock came into sight. As Nzabirinda
brought his car to a halt, he and Ruvurajabo spotted a group of Tutsi captives
just off the road.

Like all Rwandans then, the men carried national identity cards stating
their ethnicities. In Nzabirinda’s mind, the genocide began the moment
the armed men at the barricade demanded to see them.

His friend began to run.

“It was the first time since I was born that I saw a person killed,”
Nzabirinda says.

Five suspects in genocide who are at large in Canada

* Léon Mugesera – The only one of the five men to have been arrested in Canada,
Mugesera was a professor and high-level government adviser who now faces
deportation because of his anti-Tutsi speeches. “We the people must take
action and wipe out this scum,” he allegedly said in a 1992 radio address,
though he left for Canada two years before the genocide began. In deportation
hearings, Mugesera unsuccessfully argued that recordings of his speech had
been falsified; Rwandans in every walk of life vividly remember his comments.
Mugesera is currently fighting his deportation on the grounds he would be
subject to mistreatment in Rwanda.

* Pierre Célestin Halindintwali – The former director of MINITRAP, Butare’s
public works department, Halindintwali is alleged by multiple genocide
participants to have constructed Butare’s mass graves. Regularly remembered
as armed and in the company of local paramilitary leaders, Halindintwali is
said to have diverted his department’s formidable resources toward aiding
the killers with food, money, gasoline, and tools. According to one inmate’s
account, he was among a group of men who clubbed and hacked Tutsi refugees
to death as they were unloaded from a truck.

* Gaspard Ruhumuliza – The minister of environment and tourism both before
and during the genocide, Ruhumuliza was also a leading politician in the wing
of the Christian Democratic Party that supported President Juvénal Habyarimana.
According to reports by Human Rights Watch, when high-level Hutu extremists
convened on April 8, 1994, to form the interim government that spearheaded
the genocide, Ruhumuliza was among them. A former local politician from Kigali
who is now incarcerated recalls that Ruhumuliza regularly delivered speeches
in the early 1990s railing against Tutsi governance and urging the Hutu majority
to stand up and fight.

* Vincent Ndamage – Prison officials and inmates offered little information
on Ndamage. Prosecutors list him as a mason by occupation, making him an
unusually low-profile addition to the government officials, businessmen and
military commanders on Rwanda’s list of top genocide suspects living abroad.

* Evariste Bicamumpaka – Bicamumpaka is listed by prosecutors as a Butare
sub-prefect. Several inmates in Butare Central Prison claim they knew
Bicamumpaka before 1994, but did not know what, if any, role he played in
the genocide.

Sources:http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/story.html?id=df323b39-77a3-45a7-9d49-2ef8486c646e&k=32791 and http://www.terroritory.com/2008/05/19/five-top-genocide-suspects-are-living-free-in-canada/

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