Charities contest Rwandan president seat at Madrid talks

15th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Spanish charities have criticised the planned presence of Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is targeted in a Spanish probe into the 1994 genocide, at a UN anti-poverty meeting in Madrid Friday.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has named Kagame and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero co-chairs of the advocacy group pushing for progress on the Millennium goals that set the aim of halving extreme poverty by 2015.

In a statement issued Thursday, the Coordinating Committee for Development NGOs in Spain (CONGDE) said the UN's choice of Kagame for the post was "questionable."

It criticised "Zapatero's passivity for accepting without objection to work beside someone accused of genocide".

Spain in 2008 announced its intention to prosecute 40 Rwandan army officers for genocide, crimes against humanity and terrorism related to events that took place between 1994 and 2000, including under the Kagame's rule.

Kagame's then rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front in July 1994 put an end to the 100-day slaughter of at least 800,000 people, mostly from his Tutsi minority, by Hutu extremist militias and government troops.

But the Spanish judiciary accuses Kagame of fomenting the ethnic clashes in a bid to seize power. The Rwandan officers are accused, among other things, of murdering missionaries and Spanish expatriates who were allegedly witnesses to massacres.

Under Spanish law, a court can prosecute human rights crimes even if the alleged offences took place abroad.

But Kagame is immune from prosecution because of his status as head of state. His government has formally rejected the judge's accusations.

A Spanish government spokesman told AFP that "it is the UN Secretary General who selected" the Rwandan president to co-chair the group.

Others in the so-called MDG Advocacy Group, named after the Millennium Development Goals, include Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, CNN founder Ted Turner and Jeffrey Sachs of The Earth Institute and Columbia University.

Friday's meeting in Madrid will be the first by the group since it was set up last month.

© 2010 AFP

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