Brussels, April 27, 2007 (FH) – The trial of Bernard Ntuyahaga continued at the Court of Assises in Brussels after ten days. The Rwanda officer is accused by Belgium in the assassination of ten Belgian Blue Helmets from the UNAMIR as well as of several other Rwanda figures during the 1994 genocide. He has maintained his innocence.
Bernard Ntuyahaga’s examination finishes Tuesday. The major, in a jerky testimony during which he got sometimes carried away, denied any responsibility for the murder of the Belgian paras. “I was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he explained.
According to him, he was the victim of a conspiracy: “In essence, the case is false and manipulated. The other officers tried to protect themselves and everything has fallen again on me after 13 years. I never received a mission, nor orders on this subject,” he repeated.
Numerous witnesses, including neighbors or colleagues, implicated Ntuyahaga in the assassinations committed in the Kyovu district, including among others Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana. These testimonies are “completely false accounts” on events “of which he had no knowledge,” the defendant assessed.
“You were a soldier, but you saw nothing, you knew no one, not even your neighbors: you were a little like a ghost in 1994…” the president of the court Karine Gerard commented after 8 hours of examination.
Major Ntuyahaga’s defense elicited questions. “The general impression is that of a man thrust in a system of unsustainable defense,” wrote La Libre Belgique. “To be so blind and deaf in his environment defies imagination,” the journalist said. In an aside, lawyers judge it “catastrophic.”
The families of the paras, who eagerly awaited Bernard Ntuyahaga’s testimony, were left unsatisfied. “He is not telling the truth and is putting his responsibility on others,” Martine Debatty, sister of one of the killed Blue Helmets, declared.
Numerous incidents involving Mr. Luc de Temmerman, Bernard Ntuyahaga’s lawyer, dominated the hearings. In the presentation of his defense Monday, he accused the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of the Interior of having tried to obstruct the calling of an “important witness” living in the DRC. He then addressed the civil parties who “asked…to show dignity.”
The investigating judge Damien Vandermeersch and Sylvania Verstreken appeared to explain the unwinding of their investigations – the long judicial process of Bernard Ntuyahaga which started after the issuing of an international arrest warrant against him by a Belgian judge.
Then the Court started to hear background witnesses. The human rights advocate Joseph Matata, the historian Antoine Nyetera, the writer-journalist Pierre Pean, the journalist Colette Braeckman, then Rene Degni Segui, United Nations reporter in Rwanda after the genocide, were heard. After them around 150 witnesses, both background and fact, should appear in this trial which should last two months.
This trial is taking place in Belgium because of the law known as “universal jurisdiction” which permits, under certain conditions, Belgian courts to try foreign planners of crimes against humanity committed abroad.
© Hirondelle News Agency
27.04.07 - RWANDA/BELGIUM - NTUYAHAGA - TEN DAYS OF AN AWAITED TRIAL (WEEK ENDER)
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