October 27, 2021

Genocide Suspect Twagirayezu Wenceslas, Is It Case of Mistaken Identity?

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Genocide Suspect Twagirayezu Wenceslas

A genocide suspect Twagirayezu Wenceslas, 53, who was extradited by Denmark in November 2018, may be a different person from the one who committed the alleged crimes.

Prosecutors at the High Court Specialised Chamber for International Crimes in Nyanza district have lined up 25 witnesses to prove that Twagirayezu commanded militia attacks that killed more than 1,000 Tutsis at Busasamana catholic parish in Rubavu district.

It is said that more than 3,000 Tutsi sought refuge there during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. As a well-known local school teacher and CDR party militant, says prosecution, Twagirayezu led attacks on the parish.

Twagirayezu, say witnesses, carried a gun all that time. He is also alleged to have been ringleader of killings at Mudende University where more 1,000 Tutsi civilians had sought refuge and others at the Institute Saint Fidele where teachers and students were forced to board a bus and transferred to Nyundo where they were killed.

Court has been hearing prosecution submissions since December 2018. This Tuesday, Twagirayezu began his defence, and it did not look very promising for the prosecution side.

Through his lawyer, Me Bikotwa Bruce, and his own verbal submission, Twagirayezu said the person whom the 25 prosecution witnesses describe is a different individual.

First, Twagirayezu says when the genocide started, he was not in Rwanda. He had visited the then Zaire, now DR Congo. He says, that although he was in Rwanda, for the times when the prosecution witnesses describe to have seen him, he had left the region.

Prosecution witnesses claim he was a teacher at Munanira proimary school in Rubavu district, which Twagirayezu says is false because he never worked or taught there.

Instead, the accused says he was a pupil at Munanira primary school, and moved to DR Congo to find work as they were very poor at home which precented him from continuing school in Rwanda.

Twagirayezu also says contrary to prosecution claims that he was a school inspector for Rwerere sector, he never held that post.

Prosecution witnesses claim he was local coordinator of the extremist CDR party, but he affirms he never belonged to any political party.

For the times when witnesses claim Twagirayezu carried gun in Mudende, Busasamana and the notorious Commune Rouge spot, he responded that he was not in the country as he had already crossed to DRC before the genocide.

Twagirayezu says after living in DRC for some years and getting some education there, he returned to Rwanda in 1993. He apparently applied for teaching jobs at different schools but was not allowed because, according him, the authorities found his qualifications wanting.

He found a job at College Baptiste Gacuba II as a storekeeper, and would later start teaching maths. At the same time, he was also in charge of discipline at the school.

Twagirayezu narrated that he again left Rwanda in March 1994 to DRC for easter holiday. The mass killings started on April 7.

In his account, Twagirayezu says he returned to Rwanda April 9 to start his his teaching work. Twagirayezu said, but with unclear explanations, that he crossed to DRC in July along with thousands others.

Twagirayezu says he managed to settle in Denmark in 2001. Then 2017, a warrant was issued for his arrest by Rwandan authorities. His case went up to the European Court of Justice after Denmark decide to extradite him.

His lawyer told court that all the witnesses cannot prove he was at the locations they claim he was. Court should dismiss the case, said the lawyer, and let his client go back to his family in Denmark.

The case continues December 1.

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