Phénéas Munyarugarama: Another Rwanda Genocide fugitive confirmed dead

The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) yesterday confirmed the death of Phénéas Munyarugarama, one of the remaining fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and a notable figure in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. 

Together with the confirmation of the death of Protais Mpiranya last Thursday, only four outstanding fugitives now remain under the IRMCT’s jurisdiction and these are Fulgence Kayishema, Charles Sikubwabo, Charles Ryandikayo and Aloys Ndimbati.

In response to yesterday’s announcement, chief prosecutor Mr Serge Brammertz said the death was yet another important step in securing justice for victims of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and complete their mandate.

“For the victims and survivors of Munyarugarama’s crimes in the Bugesera region, we hope this result brings some closure,” said Mr Brammertz.

“I would also like to express my appreciation to national partners, including the authorities of Belgium and Rwanda, whose assistance meaningfully contributed to this investigation.

“With four fugitive cases closed in the last two years, my Office is now fully focused on accounting for the final four fugitives who remain at large. Our main priority now is Fulgence Kayishema, who we previously located in South Africa.”

Munyarugarama was alleged to be responsible for mass killings, attacks, and sexual violence against Tutsi civilians at various locations in the Bugesera region, including the attacks on Tutsi refugees at the Ntarama and Nyamata Catholic Churches.

In June 1994, Munyarugarama and his family fled Rwanda for Zaire, and he soon joined ex-FAR military forces regrouping in that country to continue fighting the Rwandan Government even after the genocide. 

His active involvement in the recruitment and training of ex-FAR forces was reflected by his appointment as the “Commissioner of Defence” of People in Action for the Liberation of Rwanda (PALIR), the predecessor of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR), an amalgamation of the various ex-FAR and Rwandan Hutu forces.

Following a comprehensive and challenging investigation, the OTP was able to conclude that Munyarugarama died from natural causes on or about 28 February 2002 in Kankwala, in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he was also buried.

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