Protais Mpiranya

31.05.2016 ( Last modified: 10.06.2016 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.


Protais Mpiranya was born in the prefecture of Gitarama, Rwanda. He was second-in-command of military operations and intelligence (S2 and S3) in the Presidential Guard Battalion. In 1993, he was appointed Commander of the Presidential Guard Battalion in the Rwandan Army. In this capacity he exercised authority over the units of this battalion.

From end 1990 until July 1994, Mpiranya was said to have adhered to, and participated in the detailed development of a plan aimed at exterminating the Tutsis. Amongst other elements, this plan included recourse to hatred and ethnic violence, the training of and distribution of arms to militias as well as the drafting of lists of people to be eliminated. In the accomplishment of this plan, he was accused of having planned, ordered and participated in the massacres.

Beginning in 1992, Mpiranya allegedly supervised the training of militiamen in the prefectures of Ruhengeri, Cyangugu, Gisenyi, Butare and Mutara, particularly in the military camps in Gabiro, Gako, Mukamira and Bigogwe. In 1993, Mpiranya also reportedly sent his subordinates to supervise the training of the Interahamwe (an extremist Hutu militia)

He was said also to have distributed weapons to the militia and to certain carefully selected members of the civilian population with the intent to exterminate the Tutsi population.

On January 1994, at the time of the swearing-in ceremony of the broad based Transitional Government, the Interahamwe organised a demonstration in conjunction with members of the Presidential Guard. At this event, and despite several attempts by the UNIMAR (United Nations Mission for Assistance in Rwanda) to negotiate with him, Mpiranya allegedly refused access of political opponents into the premises of the National Development Council and in particular to members of the Lando wing of the Liberal Party. As a result of this the swearing-in ceremony did not take place.

UNIMAR had been instituted to facilitate the application of the Arusha Accords, but was perceived to be an obstacle by certain extremist politicians. The latter therefore adopted a strategy aimed at provoking the Belgian soldiers, who formed the most efficient and well equipped contingent within UNIMAR, in order to force them into withdrawing. With this in mind they waged an anti-Belgium propaganda campaign.

On 8 January 1994, units of the Presidential Guard under the command of Mpiranya and elements of the Para-Commando Battalion in civilian clothes were reported to have taken part in a demonstration with the Interahamwe aimed at provoking the Belgians. They were said to have hidden arms within the vicinity of the demonstration site which were intended to be used to kill Belgian UNIMAR soldiers. In the end, however, no Belgian UNIMAR patrol was sent to the scene on that occasion.

In the early morning of 7 April 1994, in Kigali, the Prime Minister, Mrs Agathe Uwilingiyimana was tracked down, arrested, sexually assaulted and assassinated by Rwandan army personnel, and more specifically by members of the Presidential Guard who were under the command of Major Protais Mpiranya. Concurrently, units of the Rwandan army arrested confined and killed senior opposition leaders and prominent figures in the Tutsi community such as the President of the Constitutional Court, JosephKavaruganda; the Chairman of the PSD party and Minister of Agriculture Frederic Nzamurambago; the Vice-Chairman of the PL party and Minister of Labour and Community Affairs, Landoald Ndasingwa as well as a member of the Political Bureau of the MDR and the Minister of Information, Faustin Rucogoza. That same morning, the ten Belgian para-commandos from UNAMIR who were guarding the Prime Minister were murdered at Kigali military camp by elements of the Presidential Guard. This event led to the withdrawal of the Belgian contingent on 13 April 1994 and to a drastic reduction of UNIMAR’s civilian and military personnel.

During the morning of 7 April, Mpiranya, upon being told by his soldiers that the Minister of Information, Mr. Faustin Rucogoza, together with his wife, were being detained at the Presidential Guard camp, asked his soldiers why they were being held. Immediately after, the Minister of Information and his wife were assassinated by soldiers of the Presidential Guard inside their camp.

As of 7 April 1994, killings of the civilian Tutsi population, which was preceded on many occasions by rape, sexual violence and other crimes of a sexual nature, were carried out by civilians and soldiers under orders from Mpiranya as were the murders of numerous political opponents,
In July 1994, faced with the advance of the troops of the FPR (Rwandan Patriotic Front, an opposition movement composed essentially of Tutsi refugees and led by Paul Kigame), Mpiranya fled Rwanda most probably towards the Democratic Republic of Congo. As of today’s date, he has still not been arrested.

legal procedure

Protais Mpiranya fled Rwanda in July 1994. As of today’s date, he has still not yet been arrested.

On 11 June 2002, the United States conducted a major media campaign in Kenya aimed at the capture of several men wanted by the ICTR one of which being Mpiranya. Although the American federal programme “Rewards for Justice” had already been used in an attempt to find persons indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, this was the first time it had been used against persons under accusation by the ICTR. A reward of up to $ 5’000’000 was put on offer for information leading to the arrest of Mpiranya.

Based on an amended bill of indictment dated 25 September 2002, Mpiranya was indicted on 11 counts. He was accused of, “conspiracy to commit genocide”, of “genocide” or in the alternative of “complicity in genocide”. He was also accused of “murder as a crime against humanity”, of “murder as a crime against humanity” for the assassination of the 11 Belgian soldiers of the UNIMAR of “extermination as a crime against humanity”, of “rape as a crime against humanity”, of “persecution on political, racial or religious grounds as a crime against humanity” and of “other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity” as well as various war crimes.

Mipiranya was originally indicted together with four other persons (Augustin Bizimungu, Augustin Ndindiliyimana, Innocent Sagahutu and François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye.

On 20 August 2004, due to the fact that he had still not been arrested, the Second Trial Chamber of the ICTR, on the request of the Chief prosecutor, ordered the separation of the trial concerning Mpiranya from that of the four other defendants.

In June 2012, special deposition hearings were conducted in order to preserve evidence for future use when Mpiranya would be arrested.

On 1 August 2012, the case of Mpiranya was transferred to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRM) created by the UN in December 2010 to assume some functions of the ICTR and ICTY after the end of their mandate including tracking, arresting and judging the 9 fugitives still wanted by the ICTR.


Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were outnumbered.


In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR. Some proceedings are however still ongoing.

The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.

Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the care and protection of witnesses.


In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.

These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.

According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.