KIGALI (Reuters) – Rwanda has for the first time arrested senior army officers accused of war crimes while battling to end the 1994 genocide orchestrated by the country’s previous government, Rwanda’s military said on Thursday.

In a reversal of more than a decade of reluctance to point the finger at top soldiers seen by many as heroes in the central African nation, Rwanda said it would send the four officers before a military court for the killing of 13 clergymen.

“The military prosecution authorities … (on Wednesday) ordered and effected arrest of four suspects,” a statement from Rwandan Defense Forces spokeswoman Major Jill Rutaremara said.
The arrested men are Brigadier-General Wilson Gumisiriza, Major Wilson Ukwishaka, Captain John Butera and retired Captain Dieudonne Rukeba, the statement said.

Rights groups have long accused members of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), a Tutsi-led guerrilla group that fought its way to power in 1994, of killing innocent civilians and urged prosecution.

Current President Paul Kagame successfully commanded the RPA as it overthrew the Hutu-led government that organized the slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu sympathizers in one of Africa’s grisliest episodes.

The four are charged with responsibility for the acts of subordinates accused of killing the clergymen out of anger, after finding family members slaughtered in the church compound where they had sought sanctuary from Hutu militiamen, Rutaremara said.
The arrests followed investigations by the Rwandan government and officials from the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), a U.N. court that has mainly been trying the Hutu organizers of the genocide.

Rwandan clergy have been among those prosecuted.
Last week, Rwanda’s prosecutor-general gave assurances to the U.N. Security Council that some army officers would soon be indicted for the crimes.

Since 1994, Rwandan military says it has prosecuted 43 soldiers accused of war crimes and revenge killings in its military courts.