Four men accused of organizing and participating in Rwanda's 1994 genocide — including two municipal leaders and an alleged militia commander — were ordered held in British prison custody Friday at an initial court appearance on extradition warrants.
The four were arrested Thursday night on warrants issued by the Rwandan government, London's Metropolitan Police said.
All were accused of killing members of the Tutsi ethnic group "with the intent to destroy in whole or in part, that group."
Vincent Bajinya, 45, also known as Vincent Brown and Charles Munyaneza, 48, were denied bail and ordered held until their next court date on Jan. 26.
Emmanuel Nteziryayo, 44, and Celestin Ugirashebuja, 53, did not make applications for bail and were also ordered held. Nteziryayo will appear before the court on Jan.5 to apply for bail.
District Judge Anthony Evans said all four men will appear before City of Westminster Magistrates Court on Jan. 26.
Agreement reached on extradition attempt
Britain and Rwanda last week signed agreements to allow Rwanda to seek extradition of the four men, following an assurance that they would not face the death penalty, said Gemma Lindfield, prosecutor for the Rwandan government.
"We are very happy that the arrest has been made on the basis of our request," Rwanda's Chief Prosecutor Martin Ngoga said in Kigali.
International human rights watchdog Amnesty International said Friday those suspected in crimes like the Rwandan genocide should face justice, but expressed concern about Rwanda's courts.
Some 63,000 genocide suspects are detained in Rwanda, and justice authorities say that at least 761,000 people should stand trial for their role in the slaughter and chaos that came with it. The suspects represent 9.2 percent of Rwanda's estimated 8.2 million people.
A U.N. tribunal in Tanzania is trying those accused of masterminding the genocide.
Lindfield said police believed the men arrested in England were high-ranking organizers of the genocide with links to a group of exiles that continued to spread the ideology of Hutu ethnic group supremacy.
Munyaneza had refused the services of a Tutsi translator at the court and had been found in possession of a Hutu supremacist document on his arrest, Lindfield said.
Prosecutors allege that between Jan. 1 and Dec. 12, 1994, the men killed Tutsis with the intent of destroying the group in whole or part, conspired to kill Tutsis and aided and abetted other people in the conspiracy.
More than half a million Tutsis are believed to have been killed in 1994.
Rwanda's genocide began hours after a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down as it approached the capital, Kigali, on April 6, 1994. The killing ended after rebels, led by current President Paul Kagame, ousted the extremist Hutu government that had orchestrated the slaughter.
Bajinya, a doctor who had previously worked for London-based refugee charity Praxis, was granted British citizenship in November 2004 and changed his name to Vincent Brown, his lawyer Philip Eldin-Taylor said.
Rwandan state prosecutors allege he was a militia commander who directed killings at roadblocks in Kigali and surrounding provinces, Lindfield said.
Refugee status revoked
Munyaneza arrived in Britain in 1999, but has since had his refugee status revoked by the Home Office. Prosecutors allege he planned killings in the Gikongoro region of southern Rwanda.
Ugirashebuja, who served as mayor of the Kigome region, and Nteziryayo, who held the same position in the Mudasomwa commune in Gikongoro, attended meetings where killings were planned and the number of Tutsis massacred tallied
All four men were directly implicated in the slaughter of "tens of thousands of women, children and men," Lindfield said.
Lawyers for Bajinya and Ugirashebuja said both men had denied the charges. No formal pleas have yet been entered.