Man Wanted for War Crimes in Rwanda Caught Crossing Northern U.S. Border

Paul Lagarde | August 12, 2014 | 3:43pm EDT
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University Teaching Hospital of Butare in Rwanda. (UTHB)

( A Rwandan man wanted for his alleged role in his country's 1994 genocide was apprehended in northeastern Maine last week after illegally crossing the U.S.-Canadian border.

Jean Leonard Teganya was arrested August 3 after a local resident of Houlton, Maine reported a “suspicious person” walking in the woods near the Canadian border, according to a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) press release.

A Border Patrol agent took the 42-year-old Teganya into custody. While processing him for illegal entry into the U.S., he discovered that Canada had issued a warrant for Teganya's deportation to Rwanda for alleged violation of human rights under the Crimes against Humanity and the War Crimes Acts.

Last week, CBP stated that Teganya has been processed for removal and turned over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s office of Enforcement and Removal Operations.

“This is a good reminder that people who are wanted for war crimes, who are prohibited from entering this country, who may seek to harm us through a terrorist attack may exploit the vulnerabilities of the northern border as well,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told WABI-TV.

Teganya is an ethnic Hutu, the majority group in Rwanda. In 1994, he worked as a medical intern at the University Teaching Hospital of Butare, where Hutu extremists killed over 200 patients and staff members who were Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Some medics and nurses were complicit in the slaughter.

Over 800,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutus during 100 days of blood-letting in 1994. Teganya fled the country that same year, going to Zaire, Kenya, and India, before settling in Canada in 1999.

Teganya’s father was a regional leader in the Hutu government and was sentenced to 22 years in prison for war crimes during the genocide, according to Toronto's National Post.

Teganya applied for refugee status in Canada and told the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) there that he did not actively participate in the massacres and only stayed at the hospital so he could complete his internship, the National Post reported.

But the IRB denied his request.

“This justification is not reasonable in the context of the Rwandan horror,” the IRB found. “Although he claims that he did not actively participate in the massacres, the entitled to ask itself why the presence of the claimant on the campus did not seem to concern the extremists, who pursued their dirty work for several weeks.”

Although Teganya claimed he feared a long period of torture and imprisonment before trial if he were to return to Rwanda as the son of a convicted war criminal, Canada refused his multiple bids for refugee status and ordered him deported in 2011. However, the deportation was delayed by court battles.

A CBP spokeswoman stated that a judge will determine whether Teganya is deported to Rwanda or Canada.

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