Rwandan spy chief Karake arrested in London

23rd June 2015, Comments 0 comments

British police have arrested the head of Rwanda's intelligence service on a warrant issued by Spain, officials said Tuesday, sparking outrage from Kigali.

The police said Karenzi Karake was held on suspicion of war crimes, apparently in reference to a 2008 arrest warrant from a Spanish court for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and terrorism.

However, a Spanish judicial source said some of those allegations have since been dropped and Karake was now wanted for terrorism offences relating to the deaths of several Spaniards in Rwanda in the 1990s.

The Rwandan government condemned the detention of the 54-year-old general, who has been President Paul Kagame's spy chief since 2011, branding it an "outrage."

"Western solidarity in demeaning Africans is unacceptable!!" Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said on Twitter, calling the arrest "lunacy."

Justice Minister Johnston Busingye has "sought explanation" from British authorities over the move, which came after Karake had been on official business in London for a week, according to Rwanda's New Times newspaper.

Karake was arrested on Saturday morning at London's Heathrow Airport and after an initial court hearing, was remanded in custody pending another hearing on Thursday, the Metropolitan Police said.

Busingye had been due in Spain on Tuesday for a meeting with his counterpart Rafael Catala, but Spanish officials said he had cancelled the visit.

- Spaniards killed in Rwanda -

A British police spokesman said Karake was "arrested on a European arrest warrant on behalf of the authorities in Spain, where he is wanted in connection with war crimes against civilians."

The statement appears to refer to warrants issued by Spain's top criminal court in 2008 for 40 Rwandan army officers, including Karake, alleging crimes against humanity before and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

About 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi minority, were killed by Hutu militias and government troops during the 100-day genocide, which was brought to an end by Kagame's then rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

Karake, known as KK, was alleged to have known about and approved the massacre of civilians between 1994 and 1997 in the towns of Ruhengeri, Gisenyi and Cyangugu, including the deaths of three Spanish charity workers.

But the 2008 warrants were issued under Spain's doctrine of universal jurisdiction, which gave national courts the right to probe cases of grave human rights abuses committed abroad.

Spain under the ruling conservative government has since curbed this doctrine, and the judicial source said Tuesday that allegations against Karake concerning genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes had been closed.

The case remained open, however, for the murders of eight Spaniards in Rwanda.

"The case is still open for crimes of terrorism," the source added. "This official is wanted in connection with what happened to several Spanish victims."

- Controversial figure -

Karake is part of an exclusive circle of top military officers in the RPF, and his fortunes have risen and fallen under Kagame's rule.

In 2010 he was placed under house arrest for misconduct but was later released.

Karake is also a former deputy chief of the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region, although his appointment in 2007 was controversial.

Human Rights Watch has accused him of responsibility for the killings of civilians in the town of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo, in June 2000.

Busingye said he would be "surprised" if the arrest of Karake in London was based on the 2008 Spanish warrant.

"I would be surprised if it is one the UK is acting on. We will contest in the courts," the justice minister said.

The Spanish indictments were criticised by US officials at the time as "outrageous and inaccurate," according to a diplomatic cables sent by the embassy in Kigali and released by WikiLeaks.

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© 2015 AFP

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