JUNE 30, 1994

Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) -- An international war crimes tribunal should try the leaders behind the ethnic massacres in Rwanda, where up to 1 million people may have been slain in the past three months, a U.N. investigator said Thursday.

The bloodshed has been a pre-planned, systematic campaign of genocide aimed at minority Tutsis, the report charged in the most damning indictment to date of the Hutu-dominated government and army in Rwanda.

The report by Rene Degni-Segui provided the first support for charges that the death of Rwanda's president in a mysterious plane crash April 6 was not the cause of the bloodbath -- but rather an excuse for something already planned.

Degni-Segui, dean of the law faculty at Abidjan University in the Ivory Coast, put the death toll at between 200,000 and 500,000 but said this was very conservative. He cited estimates from observers on the spot that 1 million people might be dead -- or one of every eight Rwandans.

He said the slaughter of Tutsis by majority Hutus was genocide, as defined by U.N. conventions. "It is uncertain whether we will ever know the number of victims," Degni-Segui said.

He said the United Nations should either set up a tribunal to bring the guilty to justice or extend the authority of a court established to hear atrocity cases from ethnic fighting in former Yugoslavia.

Degni-Segui based his report on interviews with aid workers and U.N. officials and on his own observations during a four-day visit to Rwanda. He noted that rebels of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front also had been accused of atrocities but it was difficult to verify the charges.

His report said the hate campaign by Hutu radio, the mass distribution of weapons to Hutus, intense training for militiamen between November and March, and the sheer speed and scope of the massacres all pointed to the slaughter being planned before the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana.

There has been speculation that Hutu extremists assassinated Habyarimana because he reached a power-sharing agreement with the Tutsi rebels last August.

Degni-Segui did not attribute blame for the plane crash but pointed out that it took only a few hours for militant Hutus to set up an interim government and that Hutu militia barricades went up in Rwanda's capital even before Habyarimana's death was announced.

The report disputed claims by the interim government that the ethnic slaughter was a spontaneous outpouring of rage by Hutu civilians intent on revenge for the death of their president.

"The massacres have a systematic character," the report said. "Entire families were wiped out, grandparents, parents, children."

"But what is even more symptomatic is that victims were pursued into their last retreat. Churches, in particular, which should have been a refuge for Tutsis, became the theater of their holocaust."

He said Hutu authorities had done nothing to punish perpetrators of the massacres, who continue to live "a peaceful life and to circulate freely and in all impunity." Local officials who won notoriety for their cruelty had been promoted while those who tried to maintain calm had been killed, he said.