LONDON – Four men accused of organizing and participating in the Rwandan genocide in 1994 have been arrested in Britain on warrants issued by the Rwandan government, police said.
The men, arrested Thursday night, were accused of killing members of the Tutsi ethnic group "with the intent to destroy in whole or in part, that group," according to the warrants.
All four appeared in court Friday and were ordered held until their next court dates in January.
Britain and Rwanda agreed last week to allow Rwanda to seek extradition of the men, following an assurance by the central African country that they would not face the death penalty, said Gemma Lindfield, a 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 the country's capital, Kigali.
"We are going to begin another judicial process in order to have legal obstacles cleared to have these people extradited and tried in Rwanda," he added.
More than half a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus are believed to have been killed by Hutu militiamen in 1994 after a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down as it approached the capital. The killing ended after Tutsi rebels, led by current President Paul Kagame, ousted the Hutu government that orchestrated the slaughter.
Some 63,000 genocide suspects are detained in Rwanda, and justice authorities say that at least 761,000 people -- or nearly 10 percent of the country's population of 8.2 million -- should stand trial for their role in the slaughter and chaos that accompanied it.
A U.N. tribunal in Tanzania is trying those accused of masterminding the genocide.
Lindfield said police believe the four Rwandans arrested in Britain were high-ranking organizers of the genocide, with links to a group of exiles that has continued to spread the ideology of Hutu ethnic supremacy.
One of the men, Vincent Bajinya, is a doctor who had been employed by a London-based charity assisting refugee nurses and midwives seeking to work in Britain, charity director Vaughan Jones said last month. His lawyer, Philip Eldin-Taylor, said he had been granted British citizenship in November 2004 and changed his name to Vincent Brown.
Rwandan prosecutors say Bajinya directed militiamen at roadblocks where Tutsis were killed, Lindfield said.
Another suspect, Celestin Ugirashebuja, a former mayor of the Kigome region, is accused of organizing massacres and had appeared on a list of suspects issued by Rwanda's government in April.
Lawyers for Bajinya and Ugirashebuja said both men have denied the charges. No formal pleas have yet been entered.
A third suspect, Charles Munyaneza, arrived in Britain in 1999 and was granted refugee status three years later. It has since been revoked. Prosecutors say he planned killings in the Gikongoro region of southern Rwanda in 1994.
The fourth man, Emmanuel Nteziryayo, who was mayor of the Mudasomwa commune in Gikongoro, also appeared on the list of suspects released by the Rwandan government earlier this year.