Fulgence Kayishema, one of the last remaining suspects accused of orchestrating the Rwandan genocide nearly 30 years ago, intends to apply for political asylum in South Africa, according to his lawyer.
The move further complicates his extradition process to a U.N. tribunal in Tanzania and subsequently to Rwanda for trial, where he faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Kayishema, a former police officer in Rwanda, was apprehended in South Africa last month. Seeking asylum would potentially introduce additional delays in his extradition, prolonging the wait for justice.
The United Nations’ International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals is pursuing Kayishema and three other fugitives for their involvement in the 1994 genocide, which claimed the lives of over 800,000 people.
The U.N. tribunal had indicted Kayishema in 2001 for his alleged central role in the massacre of more than 2,000 individuals seeking refuge at a Catholic church.
The charges assert that he led a Hutu mob that killed Tutsi men, women, and children hiding inside the church. The mob attempted to burn down the church but resorted to using a bulldozer, resulting in the deaths of those seeking shelter.
Although South Africa has charged Kayishema with multiple immigration offenses and fraud, his lawyer claims that these proceedings will be put on hold while his asylum application is considered.
The extradition timeline remains uncertain, with a South African court postponing the proceedings until August 18.
Kayishema, now 62 years old, had evaded capture for half his life before his arrest in May. He allegedly used fraudulent means to acquire documents and assume false identities while living in South Africa for at least two decades.
Survivors of the Nyange church massacre, one of the many horrific episodes of the 1994 genocide, are eager to see Kayishema face justice in Rwanda.
While he remains incarcerated, his extradition and the subsequent trial will likely face further delays due to the asylum application and pending court proceedings.