International court sends Rwanda genocide suspect to face trial in Kigali

Former pastor and Rwanda genocide suspect Jean Uwinkindi is going home.

More than six months after the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda announced its decision to send him to Rwanda to stand trial, Uwinkindi has lost his last appeal and will face a Kigali courtroom, according to a statement issued by the Rwandan government.

The ICTR was created 17 years ago, when Rwanda lay in ruins after the civil war and the fastest genocide in history.

Uwinkindi was arrested in Uganda in 2010 and is the first genocide suspect to be sent back to Rwanda by the United Nations-backed court. In a statement on its website, the court says the Rwandan justice system is now ready to give him a fair trial.

“Rwanda had made material changes in its laws and had indicated its capacity and willingness to prosecute cases referred by the ICTR adhering to internationally recognized fair trial standards,” reads the statement.

The Rwandan government has declared the transfer a victory, saying it “shows the world how far we have come.” Critics have accused the Rwandan courts of being politicized, and under the thumb of the ruling party, the Rwanda Patriotic Front party of President Paul Kagame.

In the past, the court has refused Rwanda’s previous requests to transfer genocide suspects to Kigali, saying the country did not have the capacity to hold a fair trial. Observers will be sent to monitor Uwinkindi's trial, and the court reserves the right to bring him back to Tanzania if things go awry, according the court statement.

Uwinkindi is accused of crimes against humanity including planning, instigating, ordering and committing acts of genocide, according to his ICTR profile. The prosecution says that after the former pastor fled Rwanda in 1994, about 2,000 corpses were found near his church.

The Rwandan genocide was the fastest in history, with roughly 1 million people slaughtered in 100 days. The genocide was planned and executed by Hutu extremists, with intent of exterminating Rwanda's Tutsi minority. The victims were Tutsis and sympathetic Hutus attempting to protect their neighbors.

The genocide ended in 1994, as the Rwandan Patriotic Front took over the country ending the slaughter and the ongoing civil war. Once a rebel army, the RPF remains the country’s ruling party and has overseen the trials of more than a million genocide suspects in community-based courts in Rwanda.

Human Rights Watch criticized the community-based courts, saying the system was flawed, partially because the courts would not hear crimes allegedly committed by RPF soldiers during the war or in retaliation for the genocide.

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