Belgium to Open Landmark Rwanda War Crimes Trial
A landmark trial is to open in Belgium on Tuesday of four Rwandans suspected of being among the perpetrators of the genocide which left hundreds of thousands dead in Rwanda in 1994.
The unprecedented trial in a Brussels court is being held under a 1993 law that gives Belgian courts jurisdiction to judge war crimes regardless of where they were committed, the nationality of the victims or the nationality and place of residence of the accused.
Vincent Ntezimana, a 39-year-old university professor, and Alphonse Higaniro, a 51-year-old former minister and businessman, are suspected of inciting and organising the slaying of Tutsis in the southern Rwandan region of Butare.
Consolata Mukangango (Sister Gertrude) and Julienne Mukabutera (Sister Maria Kisito), two Benedictine nuns aged 42 and 36 respectively, are suspected of handing over several thousand people who took refuge in the Sovu convent to the Hutu killers.
Sister Gertrude was the mother superior at the convent.
Their trial on war crimes charges will be the first in a civil court outside Rwanda for actions connected with the genocide, during which between 500,000 and 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died between April and July 1994.
Troops of Rwanda's then Hutu army systematically slaughtered minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the genocide before the mainly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front seized power and ended the massacres.
The four accused have not been charged with genocide because the prosecution began before 1999, when the 1993 law was broadened to include crimes against humanity and genocide as well as war crimes.
During the public trial, which is expected to last between four and six weeks, 171 witnesses will be heard, including about 50 from Rwanda and others from Burundi, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.
Belgium has paid for their travel and accommodation – BRUSSELS (AFP)
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