Rwandan genocide survivors back Belgian trial

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The main body of survivors of Rwanda's genocide, Ibuka, said Thursday that it supports a trial ongoing in Belgium against the Belgian state and three soldiers, accused of failing to protect people.

The trial, which began in Brussels on Wednesday, is the outcome of a case filed by two survivors of a massacre of more than 2,000 people abandoned by Belgian UN troops on April 11, 1994 in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

"The initiative of these two plaintiffs is a very good thing which we support very much. We ask that it should be supported right to the end," Ibuka chairman Theodore Simburudali told AFP by telephone from Kigali.

"The role of Belgium and the United Nations no longer needs to be proven. Belgium had the best trained and best equipped force in UNAMIR (the UN mission in Rwanda.

"People pleaded in vain, asking the Belgian soldiers not to abandon them. They even asked in vain to be driven to the zone under the control of the FPR," Simburudali added, referring to the Tutsi-led rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, which was fighting the mainly Hutu army and extremist militias.

"If the Belgian state is declared criminally liable, all the people abandoned in this place on that day will file a civil suit," he warned.

On April 7, the day after three months of genocide began, 10 Belgian UN troops were killed. Belgium immediately decided to withdraw from UNAMIR, being primarily concerned with evacuating its nationals in the former Belgian protectorate.

Four days later, 97 Belgian soldiers stationed at a technical school in Kigali were ordered to go to the capital's airport, leaving 2,000 mostly Tutsi refugees who were there without protection.

The refugees were taken by extremists up the nearby Nyanza hill, where most of them were shot with machine guns and finished off with machetes.

Others, like former foreign minister Boniface Ngulinzira, a politically moderate Hutu, were killed while trying to escape.

Ngulinzira's widow, Florida, who now lives in Belgium, is one of the two plaintiffs in the trial.

The plaintiffs accused the Belgian government and soldiers of "failing to act" to prevent or put an end to violations of international human rights, a crime recognised by Belgian law since 1993.

The defendants include Major Luc Marchal, who headed the UN mission's Belgian contingent in Kigali in April 1994.

"The Belgian soldiers knew, when they left, that these people were going to be killed. It's all the more serious when it's the Belgian contingent that had the responsibility for ensuring safety in the capital," Simburudali said.

© 2010 AFP

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