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Major Rwandan massacre trial opens in Brussels

Published on 09/05/2005

9 May 2005

BRUSSELS – The trial of two Rwandan businessmen suspected of helping in the 1994 massacre in their country opened in Brussels on Monday.

Etienne Nzabonimana, 53, and his half-brother Samuel Ndashyikirwa, 43, are being prosecuted for war crimes under Belgium’s “universal competence” law which allows suspects to face justice for crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

It is the second time that Rwandans have been tried for crimes committed in the massacre in which about 800,000 people were killed. In 2001, four, including two nuns, were sentenced to prison terms of between 12 and 20 years for their parts in the genocide.

Nzabonimana, who was a big beer wholesaler in Kibungo, is suspected of having given orders to the “interhamwe” – the extremist hutu militia. Prosecutors at the trial, which is expected to last around seven weeks, will claim that he attended several meetings where the killings were planned.

He is also believed to have provided vehicles to the militia for the genocides and to have treated them to beer when they returned.

Nzabonimana was also present at a number of the attacks, say prosecutors.

Ndashyikirwa, who ran a bar in a village called Kirwa near Kibungo, is believed to have attended meetings to plan the massacres, lent vehicles and taken part both directly and indirectly in several murders.

Both men fiercely deny the charges. If convicted they could face life imprisonment.

On Monday, both appeared in court dressed in dark suits. They were due to face questioning later on in the day, through translators, after the selection of the jury.

A total of 120 jurors were summoned for the trial, with around 50 presenting a legitimate reason for not attending. Twelve will finally be chosen and 12 substitutes.

Some 170 witnesses from Rwanda are expected to give evidence.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news