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Rwanda Genocide: Trials

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    Rwanda Genocide: Trials

    Belgian criminal courts have started proceeding against two Rwandans responsible for the massacres of 1994. Purpose of highlighting such issues is to remind us what humanity is capable of doing in the name of ethnicity/religious superiority/race or language.

    Belgium to open Rwanda genocide trial

    By Philippe Siuberski

    Brussels - Two Rwandan businessmen are set go on trial on Monday before a Brussels criminal court for their roles in the 1994 genocide in their country.

    This marks the second case that Belgium's so-called "universal competence" law has been invoked to bring suspects in the massacres to justice.

    Etienne Nzabonimana, 53, and his half brother, Samuel Ndashyikirwa, 43, will face accusations of war crimes, murder and attempted murder before a jury, according to a 34-page report prepared by federal prosecutor Philippe Meire after 10 years of investigations.

    In June 2001, a Brussels court gave four Rwandans, including two nuns, prison terms ranging from 12 to 20 years for their roles in the genocide.

    "The present case follows the same logic: to bring to justice people suspected of having participated in the killing on a large scale which caused several hundred thousand victims in Rwanda in 1994," Meire said.

    The grounds for the second trial of Rwandans lie on a 1993 law which allows Belgian courts to judge suspects accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, regardless of where the alleged acts were committed or the nationality of the accused or victims.

    The law was watered down in 2003 under pressure from the United States, some of whose leaders faced lawsuits because of it.

    But the trial of the two Rwandan men, who could face life sentences, is unaffected by the changes because they were in Belgium when they were arrested.

    The two stand accused of acts that occurred in the northeastern district of Kibungo where some of the worst massacres took place, claiming 50 000 victims in about two weeks.

    The first suspect, Etienne Nzabonimana, was a well-known businessman in the region who sold beer wholesale. He was arrested in the Belgian capital in October 2002 and fiercely denies any involvement in the massacres.

    But the prosecution claims he played an important role in organizing in Kibungo the massacres in the months ahead of the genocide, in which Hutu troops and extremist militias killed 800 000 Tutsis and Hutus who opposed the slaughter.

    He also let the militias known as Interhamwe use his vehicles during their purges and offered them beer on coming back. He is also accused of being present during several attacks and of giving orders to the militias.

    The second suspect, Samuel Ndashyikirwa, was arrested in December 2002 in Brussels where he was living under a fake identity.

    He had a small business selling drinks and was well respected in his village of Kirwa, about a half an hour drive from Kibungo.

    Ndashyikirwa, who denies the charges against him, is also accused of having participated in preparations for massacres and having let Interhamwe use his vehicles. He stands accused of having directly or indirectly taken part in killings.

    About half the 170 witnesses in the case are coming to Brussels for the trial.

    "Until now we have 76 witness who are supposed to leave" for Belgium, Rwandan prosecutor Emmanuel Rukangira told AFP in Kigali.

    Other witnesses, who are currently under detention or on parole in Rwanda, will give testimony by a video-link, he added.

    The trial is expected to last seven weeks and end on June 24.

    Published on the Web by IOL on 2005-05-07 10:36:41

    Re: Rwanda Genocide: Trials

    For those who are not familiar what happned, here is a brief report done by BBC.

    Rwanda: How the genocide happened
    Between April and June 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days.

    Most of the dead were Tutsis - and most of those who perpetrated the violence were Hutus.

    Even for a country with such a turbulent history as Rwanda, the scale and speed of the slaughter left its people reeling.

    The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994.

    A recent French official report blamed current Rwandan President, Paul Kagame.

    The report - extracts of which appeared in the daily, Le Monde - said French police had concluded that Mr Kagame gave direct orders for the rocket attack.

    Rwanda has rejected the report, describing it as a "fantasy".

    Within hours of the attack, a campaign of violence spread from the capital throughout the country, and did not subside until three months later.

    But the death of the president was by no means the only cause of Africa's largest genocide in modern times.

    History of violence

    Ethnic tension in Rwanda is nothing new. There have been always been disagreements between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis, but the animosity between them has grown substantially since the colonial period.

    The two ethnic groups are actually very similar - they speak the same language, inhabit the same areas and follow the same traditions.

    But when the Belgian colonists arrived in 1916, they saw the two groups as distinct entities, and even produced identity cards classifying people according to their ethnicity.

    April: Rwandan president Habyarimana killed in plane explosion
    April -July: An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus killed
    July: Tutsi-led rebel movement RPF captures Rwanda's capital Kigali
    July: Two million Hutus flee to Zaire, now the DRC

    The Belgians considered the Tutsis as superior to the Hutus. Not surprisingly, the Tutsis welcomed this idea, and for the next 20 years they enjoyed better jobs and educational opportunities than their neighbours.

    Resentment among the Hutus gradually built up, culminating in a series of riots in 1959. More than 20,000 Tutsis were killed, and many more fled to the neighbouring countries of Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda.

    When Belgium relinquished power and granted Rwanda independence in 1962, the Hutus took their place. Over subsequent decades, the Tutsis were portrayed as the scapegoats for every crisis.

    Building up to genocide

    This was still the case in the years before the genocide. The economic situation worsened and the incumbent president, Juvenal Habyarimana, began losing popularity.

    At the same time, Tutsi refugees in Uganda - supported by some moderate Hutus - were forming the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Their aim was to overthrow Habyarimana and secure their right to return to their homeland.

    Habyarimana chose to exploit this threat as a way to bring dissident Hutus back to his side, and Tutsis inside Rwanda were accused of being RPF collaborators.

    In August 1993, after several attacks and months of negotiation, a peace accord was signed between Habyarimana and the RPF, but it did little to stop the continued unrest.

    When Habyarimana's plane was shot down at the beginning of April 1994, it was the final nail in the coffin.

    Exactly who killed the president - and with him the president of Burundi and many chief members of staff - has not been established.

    Whoever was behind the killing its effect was both instantaneous and catastrophic.

    Mass murder

    In Kigali, the presidential guard immediately initiated a campaign of retribution. Leaders of the political opposition were murdered, and almost immediately, the slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus began.

    Within hours, recruits were dispatched all over the country to carry out a wave of slaughter.

    The early organisers included military officials, politicians and businessmen, but soon many others joined in the mayhem.

    Encouraged by the presidential guard and radio propaganda, an unofficial militia group called the Interahamwe (meaning those who attack together) was mobilised. At its peak, this group was 30,000-strong.

    Soldiers and police officers encouraged ordinary citizens to take part. In some cases, Hutu civilians were forced to murder their Tutsi neighbours by military personnel.

    Participants were often given incentives, such as money or food, and some were even told they could appropriate the land of the Tutsis they killed.

    On the ground at least, the Rwandans were largely left alone by the international community. UN troops withdrew after the murder of 10 soldiers.

    The day after Habyarimana's death, the RPF renewed their assault on government forces, and numerous attempts by the UN to negotiate a ceasefire came to nothing.


    Finally, in July, the RPF captured Kigali. The government collapsed and the RPF declared a ceasefire.

    As soon as it became apparent that the RPF was victorious, an estimated two million Hutus fled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). These refugees include many who have since been implicated in the massacres.

    Back in Rwanda, UN troops and aid workers then arrived to help maintain order and restore basic services.

    On 19 July a new multi-ethnic government was formed, promising all refugees a safe return to Rwanda.

    Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, was inaugurated as president, while the majority of cabinet posts were assigned to RPF members.

    But although the massacres are over, the legacy of the genocide continues, and the search for justice has been a long and arduous one.

    About 500 people have been sentenced to death, and another 100,000 are still in prison.

    But some of the ringleaders have managed to evade capture, and many who lost their loved ones are still waiting for justice.

    Story from BBC NEWS:

    Published: 2004/04/01 15:51:23 GMT


      Re: Rwanda Genocide: Trials

      Horrors of Rwanda shall stay with humanity for many years to come. Inaction of the UN and rest of the civilized world was deplorable which led to this genocide.

      How do Pakistanis/Indians feel when they look back at what their countries have done to their people: East Pakistan (Pakistan), Kashmir (India).

      Why is it that our human value system seems to get switched off when fingers are pointing in our direction? Has there ever been a serious introspection of the unfortunate events of East Pakistan? Was anybody ever tried and punished? If not, why not?

      Those who do not learn from their history, will repeat the same mistakes. Can Pakistan and India suffer the same fate as that of the Tutsi's? Question that we must ask ourselves for the sake of our generation?