BRUSSELS -- A Rwandan fugitive wanted for allegedly playing a major role in the country’s 1994 genocide has been confirmed dead, leaving just four major suspects to be found, a prosecutor with a United Nations-backed tribunal said Wednesday.
Phénéas Munyarugarama, one of the few remaining fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), was confirmed to have died, said Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor with the U.N. International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.
The news comes less than a week after Protais Mpiranya, another “of the major fugitives,” was confirmed to have died in 2006 in the southern African nation of Zimbabwe,
A statement from Brammertz’s office said that Munyarugarama “died from natural causes on or about 28 February 2002 in Kankwala, in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he was also buried.”
Munyarugarama had been charged with genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity. He was accused of responsibility for mass killings, attacks, and sexual violence against Tutsi civilians at various locations in the Bugesera region.
The mass killing of Rwanda’s Tutsi population was ignited on April 6, when a plane carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot down and crashed in Kigali, the capital, killing the leader who, like most Rwandans, was an ethnic Hutu.
The Tutsi were blamed for downing the plane, and although they denied it, bands of Hutu extremists began killing them, including children, with support from the army, police and militias.
Brammertz said that hoped the news of Munyarugarama’s death “brings some closure” for the victims and families. The chief prosecutor said his “main priority now is Fulgence Kayishema, who we previously located in South Africa.”