KIGALI, Rwanda – A Rwandan general has been arrested on suspicion of playing a key role in the 1994 genocide in which more than half a million Tutsis (search) and moderates from the Hutu (search) majority were killed, officials said Tuesday.
A community court investigating and trying suspects in the 100-day genocide ordered the detention of Maj. Gen. Laurent Munyakazi (search) after allegations emerged that he was intimidating witnesses and paying others not to reveal damaging information against him, said Raymond Kalisa, head of the court that issued the arrest warrant.
In May, Munyakazi — commander of the army's 3rd Division and a Hutu — appeared at a community court, known as Gacaca, in the capital and denied accusations that he was involved in the genocide.
Munyakazi was in charge of security in central Kigali during the slaughter that was orchestrated by the extremist Hutu government then in power.
Witnesses who testified in the traditional court said Munyakazi directed the extremist Hutu militias to seize Tutsis who had taken refuge in churches, Kalisa told The Associated Press.
The traditional court has identified Munyakazi as among the genocide masterminds, which means that he can only be tried by the formal justice system — not the traditional courts that have powers to try those accused of playing a lesser role, Kalisa said.
At least 760,000 Rwandans accused of crimes during the genocide are to be tried by the newly established community courts.
Those serving on the nine-judge Gacaca courts are elected from their communities and can impose penalties of up to life in prison. Only conventional courts can impose the death penalty.
Rwandan officials said they turned to the Gacaca system to speed the judicial process, which has dragged on for more than a decade.
The genocide stopped only after Tutsi rebels led by Paul Kagame, now Rwanda's president, ousted the former Hutu-led government.