Hutu who saved Tutsis in war is among missing

October 23, 1994|By New York Times News Service

KIGALI, Rwanda -- When the Hutu militias began killing Tutsis in April, Ladislas Benimana, a Hutu, harbored Tutsis in his house, his wife and neighbors recalled.

After several weeks, when the militia started raping women, his wife, Catherine Mujawamariya, a secondary school teacher, fled Kigali with their own daughters and several Tutsi women and children they were protecting.

Mr. Benimana remained until Kigali fell to the Tutsi rebel army of the Rwandan Patriotic Front in early July, when he fled to the French-protected zone in the southwest, along with thousands of other Hutus uncertain about their fate under the new Tutsi-led government.

But when the new government called on the refugees to come home, and especially civil servants, Mr. Benimana, who had worked for the Finance Ministry for 21 years, returned, along with his 18-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter.

Two days later, at about 11 p.m. on Aug. 4, soldiers came and took them away, his wife said. She has not seen them since.

The Benimana case is not an isolated one, senior civilian judicial authorities said.

"It is exactly what happened at the end of the previous regime," the prosecutor for Kigali, Francois Xavier Nsanzuwera, said of the disappearances. "It is very dangerous."

Mr. Nsanzuwera, who confirmed that Mr. Benimana's wife had been to see him, said the Justice minister had instructed police and military commanders on the law of arrest and detention, which bars soldiers from making arrests and requires that anyone arrested be brought before a prosecutor within 48 hours. Mr. Nsanzuwera said the instructions were "not being respected."

The senior judge in Kigali, Gratien Ruhorahoza, who did apply the law and released some detainees after determining that there was no basis for the charges against them, was himself abducted from his house by two soldiers and a man in civilian clothes on the night of Oct. 2, Mr. Nsanzuwera said. Judge Ruhorahoza has not been seen since.

Amnesty International released a report last week accusing the Rwandan Patriotic Front of engaging in killings, abductions and other human rights abuses. All of the incidents mentioned in the report, except for one, occurred during the civil war, before the rebel front assumed control of the government in mid-July.

Along with the disappearances, there have been persistent reports of returning Hutu refugees being killed, particularly in rural areas. One senior government official said that in early August about 60 people were executed in the southern town of Butare.

And last month, a patrol of United Nations soldiers saw about 50 bodies in a village 10 miles north of Butare; Rwandan soldiers prevented them from investigating further.

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