No more waiting for Bernard Ntuyahaga

16 April 2007 by Thierry Cruvellier

Bernard Ntuyahaga, a former major in the Rwandan army, will be tried starting April 19 before a court of Rwanda's former colonial power. For the Belgian justice system, this third universal jurisdiction trial for crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994 is the result of twelve years of efforts to try one of those it holds responsible for the murder of ten Belgian UN soldiers on April 7, 1994. For the accused, it is above all the end of a long drawn-out legal process.

Whatever verdict the Brussels Court of Assizes hands down against him in June, Ntuyahaga will already have spent nine years in prison. On June 6, 1998, "fearing being extradited to Kigali", the Rwandan officer voluntarily ended his exile in Zambia. He went to Arusha, in Tanzania, where he introduced himself to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as a "witness." In reality, there had been an international warrant out for his arrest (issued by a Belgian court) since May 1995. He was also a key suspect for the ICTR prosecutor who quickly indicted him. But on September 29, 1998, everything got out of hand. The confirming judge rejected the most serious charges, including genocide, and upheld "only" a crime against humanity for murder. In November, Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour consulted the Belgian Minister of Justice, who assured her of his unfailing will to prosecute Ntuyahaga. Four months later, she requested the entire withdrawal of her indictment.

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