The shadow of a doubt

27 June 2005 by Franck Petit

At the end of the Brussels trial of the two Rwandan businessmen accused of war crimes, the outcome was far from cut and dried. While the die was cast for Etienne Nzabonimana after the defence wrapped up its case on 24 June, lawyers representing Samuel Ndashyikirwa were still waiting to plead on the 27th. The verdict is expected on June 29.

The week began with submissions from 16 lawyers representing about a hundred plaintiffs, whose complaints had been lodged both before and during the trial of the two Rwandan brothers, accused of participating in the genocide in Kigungo [see IJT 27 and 28]. The first counsel to take the stand, Melanie Uwamaliya, refused to comment on the growing number of accusers. "It's the dead who count, after all" she said with a smile. Huge numbers of people died in Kibungo between 6 and 22 April, 1994. By then, "the machine was well-oiled, effective and worked perfectly", claimed deputy prosecutor Alain Winants, who referred in lyrical terms to "this extraordinary trial" in the history of Belgian justice. This time, he did not brandish a machete in court, as in the first Rwandan case in 2001, contenting himself with a graphic description of scenes such as a woman carrying a child whose back was pierced by an arrow, or a Tutsi whose legs have been "shortened" by a machete.

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