Rwanda asks Dutch for Hutu leader over 1994 genocide

Hutu militiamen control fleeing Rwandans at a checkpoint south of Kigali on May 27, 1994

Hutu militiamen control fleeing Rwandans at a checkpoint south of Kigali on May 27, 1994  (AFP/File)

Rwanda has asked the Netherlands to extradite a suspected Rwandan Hutu militia leader for his role in the central African nation's 1994 genocide, a Dutch justice official said on Tuesday.

The 37-year-old man was arrested in July in a Dutch investigation into a 1994 mass murder at a school outside the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

"An extradition request has been filed by Rwanda a short while ago" in a similar investigation, Wim de Bruin told AFP, but he could not give specifics.

Only identified by Dutch authorities as "Jean-Claude I.", the man was booked in a Hague suburb earlier this year after his refugee status was scrapped in the Netherlands. His appeal was declared unfounded by a local court in March.

"I. is being suspected of being an armed leader of the Interahamwe who participated in attacks on Tutsis," including at the ETO school and elsewhere, Dutch prosecutors said in a statement.

Some 2,000 Tutsi victims were massacred on April 11, 1994 near the ETO school, based on the outskirts of the Rwandan capital after United Nations peacekeepers withdrew from the area, according to the Kigali Memorial Centre's website.

Rwanda's bloodshed was sparked when a plane carrying the country's then-president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down on April 6, 1994.

His death was blamed on Rwanda's minority Tutsi population, and over the next three months some 800,000 people died in an orgy of violence, according to UN figures.

Dutch courts can try foreign suspects for genocide if the act was committed after October 1970, following a changed law to broaden prosecution possibilities for the most serious of all crimes.

In the first conviction of its kind, Rwandan-born Dutch citizen Yvonne Basebya was jailed in March for six years for inciting genocide during the 1994 massacres.

But Dutch prosecutors said they favoured home-based investigations and prosecutions for foreigners because "the evidence is there and the participants are well versed in the language, culture and the background to the events."

"Most victims and their relatives are also there," the public prosecutor's office said.

A Dutch court is to mull the extradition request next week Wednesday.