Wednesday May 24, 2023 afternoon, Fulgence Kayishema, one of the world’s most wanted genocide fugitives, was arrested in Paarl, South Africa in a joint operation by the IRMCT Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) Fugitive Tracking Team and South African authorities.
Kayishema is alleged to have orchestrated the killing of approximately 2000 Tutsi refugees – women, men, children and elderly – at the Nyange Catholic Church during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. He has been at large since 2001.
In reaction to the arrest, IRMCT Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz stated:
“Fulgence Kayishema was a fugitive for more than twenty years. His arrest ensures that he will finally face justice for his alleged crimes.
Genocide is the most serious crime known to humankind. The international community has committed to ensure that its perpetrators will be prosecuted and punished. This arrest is a tangible demonstration that this commitment does not fade and that justice will be done, no matter how long it takes.
The thorough investigation that led to this arrest was made possible through the support and cooperation of the Republic of South Africa and the Operational Task Team established by President Ramaphosa to assist our Fugitive Tracking Team. My Office would like to recognize in particular the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigations, Crime Intelligence Western Cape Province, SAPS Interpol and the Ministry of Home Affairs. Their exceptional skills, rigour and cooperation were critical for this success.
We also received vital support from similar Task Forces in other African countries, notably the Kingdom of Eswatini and the Republic of Mozambique. Rwandan authorities under the leadership of Prosecutor General Aimable Havugiyaremye continued to be our strongest partners and provided essential assistance. Finally, our supporters elsewhere in the world, including the United States of America, Canada and the United Kingdom, gave important help as they have consistently done for so many years. Kayishema’s arrest demonstrates yet again that justice can be secured, no matter the challenges, through direct cooperation between international and national law enforcement agencies.
Today is a day to think of the victims and survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. While twenty-nine years have passed, they continue to bear the physical and mental scars of their suffering. My Office reaffirms that we will not rest in our efforts to secure justice on their behalf, and by carrying out our mandate contribute to a more just and peaceful future for the Rwandan people.”
Kayishema was indicted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2001 and charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity for killings and other crimes committed in Kivumu Commune, Kibuye Prefecture during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The indictment alleges that on 15 April 1994, Kayishema, together with other co-perpetrators, murdered more than 2,000 men, women, elderly and children refugees at the Nyange Church in Kivumu commune. Kayishema directly participated in the planning and execution of this massacre, including by procuring and distributing petrol to burn down the church with the refugees inside.
When this failed, Kayishema and others used a bulldozer to collapse the church, burying and killing the refugees inside. Kayishema and others then supervised the transfer of corpses from the church grounds into mass graves over the next approximately two days.
The investigation leading to Kayishema’s arrest spanned multiple countries across Africa and elsewhere, in strong cooperation with many national law enforcement and immigration agencies. During his flight from justice, Kayishema utilized many aliases and false documents to conceal his identity and presence.
He further relied upon a network of trusted supporters, including family members, members of the ex-Forces Armées Rwandaises and ex-Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda, and those aligned with the genocidal Hutu Power ideology. Kayishema was located and arrested through an analysis-driven investigation exploiting multi-source evidence with both traditional and leading-edge methodologies.
Kayishema’s arrest marks a further step forward in the OTP’s strategy to account for all remaining fugitives indicted for genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Since 2020, the OTP Fugitive Tracking Team has accounted for the whereabouts of five fugitives, including Félicien Kabuga, Augustin Bizimana, Protais Mpiranya, and Phéneas Munyarugarama. There are now only three outstanding fugitives.