Expatica news

Belgium won’t judge ‘brains behind massacres’

2 June 2005

BRUSSELS Belgium won’t mete out justice to Rwanda’s president, who is accused by some of instigating the inter-ethnic slaughter of 800,000 of his countrymen back in 1994.

On Thursday, news agency Belga reported that Belgium’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, has ruled against putting Paul Kagame on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Four people in Belgium have filed charges against Kagame under the country’s controversial ‘universal competence’ law, which allows suspects to be tried for war crimes here committed anywhere in the world.

One of the legal complaints against Kagame was made by major Bernard Ntuyahaga, who is being held in Belgium on charges that he was involved in the deaths of 10 Belgian soldiers. The soldiers were killed on 7 April, the morning after former Rwandan president, Hutu Juvenal Habyarimana, died in a suspicious plane crash.

Kagame is suspected of having ordered the killing of his predecessor, a death which sparked off 100 days of ethnic murders in which mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus died. Ntuyahaga blames Kagame for the murder of his family and hundreds of thousands of other Rwandans.

This week, however, the Court of Cassation accepted the advice of the federal and general cassation public prosecutors that the case had nothing to do with Belgium. The court based its decision on the revisions which were introduced into the ‘universal competence’ law in 2003.

After diplomatic tension over world leaders like George Bush and Tony Blair being charged over their handling of Iraq, Guy Verhofstadt’s government changed the 1999 law to specify that only Belgian citizens or residents could be charged.

The legal change didn’t prevent the high-profile trial of Rwandan businessmen Etienne Nzabonimana, 53, and his half-brother Samuel Ndashyikirwa, 43, for war crimes – which is under way in Brussels. The court was able to accept jurisdiction since the pair were arrested in Belgium.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news