Serge Brammertz (TPI): “Rwanda fugitive Protais Mpiranya who died in Zimbabwe is buried under an assumed name”

Posted in:

For more than twenty years, justice believed him on the run. Protais Mpiranya, a Rwandan fugitive wanted for his alleged involvement in the 1994 genocide, has already been dead for sixteen years. The International Criminal Tribunal Mechanism announced this on Thursday. The investigation team confirmed that Mpiranya died on 5 October 2006 in Harare, Zimbabwe. A look back at the investigation of Serge Brammertz, the Mechanism’s Prosecutor, interviewed by Alexandra Brangon.

Question: When did Protais Mpiranya leave Rwanda?

Serge BrammertZ: He fled Rwanda in September 1994, obtained passports for himself and his family, and went to Cameroon, the country where a whole chain of genocide perpetrators sought refuge. But in 1996, after the arrest of the other fugitives – Bagosora – he no longer felt really safe and he left for the DRC, and this is where – when there was the Second Congo War – he became the leader of the FDLR (FDLR) ). He fought with the military forces of Zimbabwe.

RFI: Yes, since he fought with the Congolese army led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila who asked for help from Zimbabwe to fight against the Rwandan army, that was in 1998…

That’s right, he himself was a high-ranking officer, moreover, he was highly respected by the authorities and military forces of Zimbabwe, because he was considered a very disciplined officer. But once the peace agreement was reached in 2002, he was considered persona non grata in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when in 2002 he left for Zimbabwe, where it was clear that there were officials who facilitated his entry into the country.

And at that time it was already required?

At that time, it was already required. He was indicted by the Rwandan court in 2000, the indictment that was published in 2002, and at that time there were several arrests, mainly in Cameroon, and so he decided to take refuge in the place where he most likely felt safe, most protected, and it is clear that those Zimbabwe was where it was clear that he had the support of some members of the armies.

When did you get information about his possible presence in Zimbabwe?

In fact, it was already so many years ago: when I took over the management of the mechanism, it was already in the files as one of the important paths. There were already reasons to believe that he was there. Now it is clear that we are working with sources and informants, and over the past five years we have had a lot of contradictory information: we have information that he was living in Zimbabwe, but we also have information that he was between South Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that he had either political activities or Commercial activities and all these paths that we tried to trace to finally conclude that he was in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has said for many years: No, we don’t think it was on our national territory “.

So from that moment on, you send investigators to the site?

Over the past two years, I’ve been there several times. I met the two vice presidents and the attorney general after Mugabe’s departure. It was agreed to form a task force composed of police and intelligence services from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This collaboration wasn’t always easy, but once we were fully convinced, for our part, that at least in 2002/03 it was physically in Zimbabwe, we really focused our investigation on that path there.

So, you go there and how do you find it?

We interviewed a whole group of people, relatives, in European countries and elsewhere in countries in Africa. We’ve already had an important lead which is that he may have died. Then we were able to take over the computers and other computers and were able to find traces of his death.

Then we checked the movements of a whole group of people including his family members and were able to see that during the dates of interest the members were in Zimbabwe and then we tried to check this travel information and as soon as we thought we knew the cemetery to look for we actually searched this cemetery and found A tomb engraved with one of the nicknames he used during his voyage: his last identity was “Ndome Sambao”, the identity under which he died, and this is the name we found on the grave in the cemetery.

So there is no real name on his grave?

No there is no real name, but there is his real date of birth. Then we applied to the authorities to carry out the exhumation that had been done three weeks earlier. The DNA was sent to the Police Technical Institute here in The Hague, two days ago we received the results and the conclusion that he was indeed a fugitive from justice.

This case raises the question of the support that defectors sometimes enjoy…

Yes, state cooperation is still an important issue. It is hard to believe that no authority in Zimbabwe was aware of his presence in the country. But it is clear that in general, and we see it with all our fugitives, they have as many as twenty different identities. Almost all of them received real passports with pseudonyms, issued by the relevant authorities, which clearly means corruption and the payment of salaries to civil servants, and I must say that the requests for assistance that we have sent in this regard to a whole chain of countries in the region, including Uganda, have not You never receive satisfactory answers.

Serge Brammertz, Belgian prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal Mechanism, here in March 2019. Agence France-Presse/Photos by Jean Henop

Leave a Comment