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Rwandan Leaders Call for Genocide Trials to Punish Hutu Officials

<i> from The Washington Post</i>

This country’s new president and prime minister called Tuesday for genocide trials as soon as possible against Hutu officials who planned, ordered and carried out the killings of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans from the Tutsi minority during the nation’s 3 1/2-month civil war.

In separate interviews, both leaders of the Tutsi-dominated rebel government now in power said they envision a genocide tribunal in which outside powers would participate in the role of observers. They said that to allow foreign governments or the United Nations to control the tribunal, as in the Bosnian conflict, would most likely lead to unacceptably long delays.

“We want a transparent system, but we don’t want to wait as long a time as in Yugoslavia,” said President Pasteur Bizimungu, a moderate Hutu who was installed in office last month after the Rwandan Patriotic Front overran the army of the former Hutu-dominated government.

Both leaders said they saw no conflict between proceeding swiftly with genocide trials at the same time they are proclaiming their desire to build a government of national reconciliation--and trying to convince millions of Hutu refugees who fled after the rebel victory that it is safe to return.

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“Reconciliation cannot be built on impunity,” said Bizimungu, interviewed on the second-story veranda of his presidential mansion. “Justice must be the pillar of reconciliation.”

He said that if the government does not move quickly with genocide trials, then “victims will be inclined to make justice themselves.”

Most of those responsible for the bloodshed have fled to Zaire.

Prime Minister Faustin Twagirimungu noted that Rwanda already has a special provision in its criminal justice system that calls for death by firing squad for anyone convicted of genocide. He said he expected some ministers of the former government, as well as leaders of extremist militias, to be brought to trial--and, if found guilty, to face execution.

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