Rwandan major guilty of manslaughter
5 July 2007
BRUSSELS (AP) – A jury found a former Rwandan major guilty on Wednesday of manslaughter involving the death of 10 Belgian peacekeepers while on U.N. duty at the start of the Rwandan genocide 13 years ago.
The 12-person jury, however, did not find the Rwandan Maj. Bernard Ntuyahaga responsible for the killing of then Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingiyimana, who the Belgian peacekeepers were responsible for protecting.
Ntuyahaga was accused by prosecutors of spreading rumours that the Belgians were responsible for shooting down a plane, killing President Juvenal Habyarimana the evening before April 7, 1994, when the peacekeepers and premier were killed.
The jury’s verdict came almost three months after the trial against the former major started in a Brussels court.
The murders set off Rwanda’s genocide, a 100-day killing spree during which radical Hutus slaughtered some 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis. The jury and judges will deliberate Thursday on what sentence will be levied against Ntuyahaga. He could face up to 15 years in prison.
Bernadette Muhorakeye, Ntuyahaga’s daughter, protested the jury’s decision.
“It is not the truth, it is not right,” she told VRT television. “The truth will come out one day.”
The court heard over 150 witnesses and surveyed some 70,000 pages of evidence during the trial which aimed to reveal more about the start of the Rwanda genocide.
The death of the 10 peacekeepers led to the withdrawal of the 450 Belgian troops in Rwanda and eventually, troops from other nations in the U.N. mission too. It opened the way for the genocide.
The 10 peacekeepers were given orders to protect Uwilingiyimana and take her to a radio station to make an appeal for calm the day after a plane crash killed the president, a crash which remains unexplained.
When they arrived there, soldiers of the Hutu army opened fire with rifles and grenades. After about two hours, the prime minister fled. She was caught and murdered.
Ntuyahaga handed himself over to Belgian diplomats in the Tanzanian capital Dar es Salaam in 2004 after a court there released him from custody and rejected an extradition request from Rwanda.
Ntuyahaga was arrested by Tanzanian police in March 1999, just after he was released on a legal technicality by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is based in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha.
[Copyright AP 2007]
Subject: Belgian news