INTERPOL praises Italian arrest of Rwandan genocide fugitive as ‘powerful’ example of international co-operation

22 October 2009

LYON, France -- A Rwandan fugitive wanted in connection with the 1994 Rwandan genocide has been arrested by officers from Italy’s Carabinieri and INTERPOL’s National Central Bureau (NCB) in Rome, following close co-operation with INTERPOL’s NCB in Kigali, Rwanda and with INTERPOL's Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit at its General Secretariat headquarters in Lyon.

Emmanuel Uwayezu, the subject of an INTERPOL wanted persons Red Notice, is wanted by authorities in Rwanda where he is accused of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. 

At the time of his arrest in Italy, the Rwandan fugitive was living under a false identity (Emmanuel Mihigo Wa Yezu) and working as a vicar in Ponzano-Empoli, a province of Florence. His arrest came after INTERPOL’s Fugitives unit obtained information and pictures from Rwandan Authorities that led to the identification of the fugitive who arrived in Italy in 1997.

According to the arrest warrant issued by Rwandan judicial authorities, the fugitive is alleged during the genocide to have acted individually and as part of a conspiracy to plan and commit genocide by instigating Hutus to kill Tutsis in the area of Gikongoro, as Director of the Groupe Scolaire Marie Merci college in Kibeho,. He is also accused of participating in meetings with government and military authorities which allegedly planned the extermination of the Tutsi ethnic group. 

Uwayezu is in particular accused of complicity in the massacre of some 80 students in May 1994 in the college which he headed.

“The arrest of Uwayezu demonstrates the power and effectiveness of international co-operation between police worldwide in obtaining information in relation to the identification, location and apprehension of fugitives around the world,” said INTERPOL Executive Director of Police Services Jean-Michel Louboutin.

“It demonstrates that however long it takes, the international law enforcement community will keep on searching for fugitives until they are located and arrested, even if they go on the run for years,” said Mr Louboutin.

“This operation is a credit to law enforcement officers and agencies in Italy and Rwanda,” added Mr Louboutin.

Uwayezu’s arrest follows the recent arrest in Uganda of Ildephonse Nizeyimana, a key Rwandan fugitive wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). That arrest by Ugandan police was part of a joint operation between the investigative division of the ICTR, Ugandan authorities, the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Kampala and INTERPOL's Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit.

The INTERPOL Rwandan Genocide Fugitives Project, run by its Fugitive Investigative Support unit, was created in 2007 with the aim of supporting the search of fugitives wanted by the United Nations - International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and by Rwandan Authorities, in relation to the crimes perpetrated during the Rwandan genocide. To date 12 fugitives who were the subject of INTERPOL Red Notices have been arrested in the framework of  INTERPOL’s Rwandan Genocide Fugitives Project (five suspects wanted by the ICTR and seven wanted by the Rwandan authorities).

The 1994 Rwandan genocide left an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead during 100 days of violence.

Uwayezu will remain in custody at the disposal of Italian judicial authorities pending his extradition to Rwanda.