MONTREAL, Apr 6 – Fifteen years after the Rwandan genocide, which saw the massacre of some 800,000 people, prosecutors say hundreds of suspected perpetrators are still at large.,
They include many of those on the wanted list of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), presumed to be living under false identities in Belgium, Canada, France, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) experts say.
Some are out in the open claiming political refugee status, as they are eyed with suspicion by families of the victims.
After the massacre of the Tutsi minority many Hutu militants fled the troops of Rwandan President Paul Kagame to neighboring DRC, still holding on to their weapons.
Some, like Felicien Kabuga, who allegedly bankrolled the 1994 massacre, stayed in Africa, in places Kenya, which according to the ICTR refuses to apprehend him.
But others chose to leave Africa’s Great Lakes region and are now living in exile in North America and Europe, especially in Belgium and Canada where hundreds reside, according to Rwandan prosecutors.
But some alleged criminals are being brought to justice.
In France, relatives of genocide victims filed a lawsuit a year ago against Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of president Juvenal Habyarimana, who died when his plane was shot down on April 6, 1994.
The event is widely seen as sparking the wholesale slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The lawsuit accuses Habyarimana of having taken part in planning, organizing and directing the genocide.
Although France has refused to extend her refugee status, she still lives in the Paris region.
A dozen Rwandans living in Paris are being investigated for their presumed roles in the 1994 massacre.
France has refused to extradite three of them to Kigali because they believe the Rwandan courts that convicted them failed to meet international standards.
Canada’s Supreme Court cited the same motive when it turned down Rwanda’s extradition request for Leon Mugesera, the reputed mastermind of the genocide.
According to survivors’ groups Canada has become a key destination of former Rwandan rebels, hosting some 800 suspected militants.
In 2007, Kigali filed an extradition request for five men, but Canada has not responded.
"That sends the wrong message to criminals," Paulin Nteziryayo the vice president the non-governmental group Page-Rwanda told AFP.
"There is no hurry to make tracking down these Rwandan mass murderers a priority," said Rene Provost the head of a McGill University human rights center.
Both experts, however, welcomed Canada’s trial of suspected Hutu militia leader Desire Munyaneza, which began in 2007.
Prost said the Munyaneza trial was an encouraging sign and also "a test," since outside Europe few countries have made such moves, even though more than 100 have pledged compliance with the International Criminal Court.
Despite the slow pace of justice, Provost said he sees the "start of an international culture of criminal justice."
The trials of Rwandan murder suspects will encourage "countries to see the arrest and prosecution of people who have committed genocide as an obligation."