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Rwandan genocide suspect on Swiss welfare

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09:57 CEST+02:00

An alleged Rwandan war criminal suspected of genocide is living in Luzern on welfare benefits, according to a Swiss media report.

The man, identified only as GR, is one of three people living in Switzerland suspected of involvement in the Rwandan genocide. He protests his innocence, online news site Blick reported.

“The accusations against me are nonsense. I always wanted to help my people. But now they want to see me hang," he said referring to Rwanda’s current ruling party.

GR, now 59 years old, was Rwanda’s Minister of Environment and Tourism when the genocide began in Rwanda some 18 years ago. Meeting with one of Blick’s journalists in Luzern, he said he fled the country when the genocide started, taking refuge in Switzerland, where he has remained ever since.

Since his arrival in Switzerland in 1994, GR has benefited from welfare payments of up to 260,000 francs ($273,000). His wife and four children have been living in Geneva. He has been living on 1,677 francs ($1,759) a month, having tried without success to find work.

“As long as I am a suspect, I cannot get a job,” he said.

GR is being investigated by the military justice system in Switzerland, but will not be returned to Rwanda despite a request for his extradition, the news site said. He is also wanted by Interpol for war crimes and genocide.

“We know that Switzerland is a happy hunting ground for former war criminals who live here in secret," says Philip Grant, director of TRIAL, the Swiss society for international criminal law.

Switzerland cannot return GR to Rwanda because it does not believe that he would receive a fair trial: if the Rwandan system found him guilty, he would almost certainly face the death penalty.

“They have accused me of leading the army in the fighting. This is absurd, I was only Minister of Environment and Tourism. I’ve never given a command to kill,” he told the news site.

Rwanda expert Gerd Hankel from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research believes that GR was not one of the instigators of the genocide, but said that as minister, he must have at least condoned it.

GR said he was not perturbed by the military investigations into his past.

“I have nothing to hide, and it is also important to me that the truth comes to light.”

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