Burundi + 2 more

IRIN Update 852 for the Great Lakes

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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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for Central and Eastern Africa
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RWANDA: Rights group hails US court ruling

The London-based NGO 'African Rights' on Wednesday issued a statement in support of a ruling by the US Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal against extradition by genocide suspect Elizaphan Ntakirutimana. African Rights says the court's decision to reject the retired pastor's appeal against extradition from Texas where he now resides was "correct and important". The organisation, which has been investigating the case against Ntakirutimana since 1995, added that extradition "represents the only just course of action given the strength of the accusations". "Not only would it demonstrate clearly that the US will not be a haven for fugitives from justice, but it would be an acknowledgement of the suffering of genocide survivors in Kibuye [western Rwanda], which the lengthy judicial process in Ntakirutimana's case has so far only served to prolong." African Rights said it had gathered solid evidence of the pastor's "central role" in massacres committed in Gishyita commune, Kibuye, during the 1994 genocide. His trial would send a warning to genocide suspects all over the world that they may yet have to answer to the charges against them. The organisation urged the US, in considering whether now to extradite Ntakirutimana, "not to contradict and undermine the investment it has made in trying to promote justice in Rwanda and in supporting the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania".

RWANDA: ICTR set to receive genocide suspect from Belgium

Genocide suspect Augustin Ndindiliyimana, who was arrested in Belgium on Saturday, will be transferred to the ICTR following discussions with the Belgian authorities, the ICTR's chief of prosecutions Mohammed Othman told the Hirondelle news agency. However, the former chief of military police will not be judged alongside a group of Rwandan military officers already being held in Arusha. This group includes Theoneste Bagasora, the former cabinet director in the defence ministry. "He [Ndindiliyimana] will tried with a number of military officials who we are still looking for," Othman said. "Some of them have already been found, others not yet."

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Facilitator says US-UN cooperation "vital"

The new facilitator of the inter-Congolese dialogue, former Botswanan president Ketumile Masire, has said US-UN cooperation is "vital" for a successful resolution of the DRC conflict. "Without this cooperation, the exercise in naming me facilitator to the Congo crisis would be futile," he said in an interview with the State Department's US Information Agency (USIA). "We have cases in the past, like Rwanda, where there was not such cooperation and it ended in a situation where close to a million people were slaughtered." He said his first task would be to get all the key players to sit together for a "general discussion". The Lusaka peace accord had gone part way in achieving this, "but it should be followed by a dialogue by the Congolese, and there must be someone to sit in adjudication".

DRC: RCD "crackdown" on civil society condemned

The rights group, Human Rights Watch, has condemned an "ongoing crackdown" by the rebel Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD) on civil society groups and human rights activists in eastern DRC. In a press release, issued on Wednesday, HRW called on the RCD to "immediately and unconditionally" release all detained activists and allow groups to "express their views openly". It said "outspoken and courageous members of civil society" were being "threatened and attacked" by the RCD authorities.

Humanitarian sources in eastern DRC told IRIN there had been some arrests. However they pointed out that many civil society groups in the region were partisan and promoted the human rights of certain ethnic groups. The sources added that a strike had been underway in Bukavu since Friday and that groups of young men were harassing people who tried to go to work.

BURUNDI: Voting rights in UN General Assembly under threat

Burundi and Rwanda are among 52 countries that face the threat of losing their voting rights in the General Assembly after failing to meet their dues on time. "We know the problem. By the time of voting we shall have paid up, this is due to the crisis we are undergoing," Luc Rukingama, the Burundi government spokesman told IRIN on Wednesday. Another 18 African countries also face the threat of losing their voting rights.

BURUNDI: Parliamentary speaker on upcoming meeting with Mandela

Parliamentary Speaker Leonce Ngendakumana and President Pierre Buyoya are to meet peace mediator Nelson Mandela in South Africa on 7 February, ahead of the next round of Arusha talks on 21 February. Interviewed by the BBC Kirundi service, Ngendakumana said Mandela had told the government and parliament to start behaving "in a way that everybody in the country can trust us". He said the two men would inform Mandela of the suffering in the country. "All Burundians should acknowledge they have sinned...and we should forgive each other," he said. He added that other issues he wanted to raise with Mandela included his belief that the rebels should be invited to Arusha "as one group and not several", as well as the future composition of the government.

BURUNDI: Major players ready for next round of talks

Meanwhile, consultations among key players in the Burundi conflict have ended in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam, ahead of the all-party talks scheduled for 21 February. "Yes the consultations have ended and a lot of ground has been covered," Burundi government spokesman Luc Rukingama told IRIN. "Other issues, like the issue of the armed groups, will be discussed at the next meeting."

The Tanzanian 'Guardian' daily quoted Judge Mark Bomani of the facilitation team as confirming the next round would start on 21 February. "But we are still negotiating with world leaders and parties to the conflict on their participation," he added.

BURUNDI: Rebels deny forcing refugees to flee

The rebel Forces pour la defense de la democratie (FDD) has denied claims that it is responsible for refugees fleeing to Tanzania. In a statement, received by IRIN on Wednesday, the CNDD-FDD "denounced the misinterpretation" of a refugee's comments to that effect by "some diplomatic circles". According to the statement, the refugee reportedly told UN High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata that the "government is forcing [the people] to stay in regroupment camps while the rebels order them to run away from the camps or else be killed". The FDD admitted it "did its duty" of advising civilians to flee the camps, but claimed the army "is the perpetrator" of the killings, not the rebels. The statement also criticised the UN Security Council for its "failure to condemn" the camps.

Nairobi, 2 February 2000, 14:55 gmt

[ENDS]

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