Man in court over Rwandan genocide

A RWANDAN man who has been living in a coastal town in Essex played a “key role” in the genocide of thousands of men, women, and children, a court heard yesterday.

A RWANDAN man who has been living in a coastal town in Essex played a “key role” in the genocide of thousands of men, women, and children, a court heard yesterday.

Celestin Ugirashebuja, who lives with his family in Walton on the Naze, faces being sent back to his homeland after he was remanded in custody in extradition proceedings for his alleged part in the genocides in 1994.

The City of Westminster Magistrates Court heard that Ugirashebuja, 53, was responsible for overseeing and facilitating the killing of “many thousands” of Tutsis.

Ugirashebuja, who attends his local church, appeared along with two other Rwandans following the arrests across the country on Thursday evening.

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The court heard the arrests came after a special agreement was signed between Britain and Rwanda allowing the suspects to be extradited.

Under the newly signed Memorandum of Understanding with Rwanda - which has not been previously publicised in order not to alert the genocide suspects - the men would not be given the death penalty were they to be convicted.

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The Rwandan government's lawyer Gemma Lindfield set out the origins of the 1994 slaughter in which up to one million Tutsis were massacred.

She told the court that Ugirashebuja, a Hutu, had held the powerful position of mayor, in the commune of Kigoma, close to Kigali, where militias roamed murdering Tutsis and raping women.

She said: “His role was to make sure that the Tutsis were being killed and to monitor how many were being killed.

“He also organised road blocks in the commune to prevent the escape of Tutsis and again is responsible for many thousands of Tutsi lives.”

Ugirashebuja appeared in court alongside Vincent Bajinya and Charles Munyaneza and a fourth man,

Emmanuel Nteziryayo, appeared later in the day.

Miss Lindfield told the court the four defendants played key roles in the genocide.

She said: “They were not the militia men, they were the organisers and facilitators in the genocide in which hundreds of thousands of men, women and children died because of the fact they were Tutsis.”

She said that the Rwandan government believed that there was evidence to suggest they retained the Hutu ideology and feared were they to be given bail they could flee to another country.

Ugirashebuja was refused asylum and excluded from refugee status last year, she told the court.

Earlier this year Ugirashebuja's appeal against the decision at the High Court was unsuccessful.

All four men deny the accusations and indicated that they would be opposing extradition to Rwanda.

A remand hearing for all four defendants is due to take place on January 5, although they are not expected to appear in person before the court again until January 26.

At Ugirashebuja's home yesterday his family declined to comment on the allegations but neighbours spoke of their shock at the news.

Joyce Serle said: “This is all a bit of a shock - I am very sorry to hear that Celestin is in court, I did not know anything about it.

“They are a nice family, I do not know them very well, but say 'hello' when I see them out and about.

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