Brussels, 30 April 2007 (FH) - More than three years after having been acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Emmanuel Bagambiki, aged 59, prefect of Cyangugu during the genocide of 1994, is still a pariah for the Belgian state which refuses to admit him, even after having naturalised his wife and children. With two other former Rwandan leaders also acquitted he is sharing a house in Arusha, rented by the Tribunal, which continues to safeguard their security and future life. Every day they go to the library of the tribunal to check for mails. Their only contacts with the outside world are made on the premises of the United Nations. On 25 February 2004 the former prefect thought that the nightmare he had been living before, like Andre Ntagerura, former minister of transports, was over. But his hopes were soon dampened. The demonstrations in Rwanda which followed the acquittals engendered the mistrust of the ICTR: at the prosecutor’s request both men were kept under the control of the Tribunal. In unanimously confirming the acquittals on 8 February 2006, the Appeal Chamber definitively cleared the men of any suspicion. Since then their situation has not improved at all. Bagambiki’s situation seemed to be a better one: his wife and their three children obtained the Belgian nationality and a family reunion seemed to be self-evident for everybody. Except for the Belgian state. With the agreement of the Tribunal, which refused the prosecutor’s claim for a prolonged detention, in March Bagambiki applied for a visa to join his family in Belgium. The Tribunal simply asked the receiving country to guarantee his stay during the judgement in appeal. But the revision of his file by different ministries has been dragging on for a long time since. According to Mr. Vincent Lurquin, Bagambiki’s lawyer, the Rwandan ministry of foreign affairs, in contact with the Belgian embassy in Kigali, has tried to convince the Belgian authorities to oppose the family reunion right from the filling of the request. In answering on numerous requests of Laurette Onkelinx, Belgian minister of justice, the general prosecutor of Kigali finally wrote that “an investigation would possibly be opened against Mr. Bagambiki”. According to the lawyer the file in question comprised nothing else than a vague note without any relevance. When in November 2004 still nothing had happened on the part of the Immigration office, responsible for a decision on the matter, Mr. Lurquin addressed himself to the Security Council of the United Nations in order to lift the blockade and to persuade Adama Dieng, registrar of the ICTR, to organise a meeting in Belgium between the minister of the interior, the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of justice. Just the announcement of this meeting seems to have accelerated the Belgian administration’s proceedings: they rejected his demand on the ground of a possible breach of the public order, without any other justification. The meeting did not take place. A motion of appeal was entered before the Supreme Administrative Court of Belgium, which is empowered to adjudicate on appeals of decisions rendered by the Immigration Office, in order to obtain a arrest of judgement. The plaintiff had to prove a serious and irreparable prejudice. The Court declared the rejection unlawful and held that there was no risk of breach of the public order. The Belgian administration nevertheless decided not to follow this decision, referring to the appeal of the acquittal filed before the ICTR. If it should be confirmed, the administration will change its position, it assured. In the meantime Kigali has issued an international warrant of arrest against Bagambiki based on facts that had not been taken into account in their judgement by the ICTR. The latter however decided not to react and signed an agreement with Tanzania to prevent his arrest and extradition. Today, an action concerning the annulment of the decision of the Immigration Office is still pending with the Supreme Administrative Court. According to Mr. Lurquin, this second appeal should normally be completed with new elements that had not been looked into by the Belgian administration. Nevertheless the acquittal has been confirmed before and Mr. Lurquin does not understand why the Court spends so much time today to deal with the dossier. A second visit of Adama Dieng was supposed to take place in Belgium but the minister of justice refused to receive him. “I suspect a lack of courage of the Belgian authorities to oppose Kigali’s will to prosecute Bagambiki”, the lawyer claims and adds that Belgium does not recognize the work already carried out by the international justice. According to Mr. Lurquin, the demonstrations which took place in Bugesera and Cyangugu after the announcement of the acquittal and the visit of President Kagame in Belgium seem to have determined Belgium’s refusal. “I am afraid that, in the end, the states choose to accept persons judged by the ICTR ‘a la carte’, whether they are convicted or not”, he confides. The situation of Emmanuel Bagambiki has, in any way, to be sorted out in 2008 when the ICTR is closing its gates. The lawyer reminds that Belgium, which is currently holding a seat in the Security Council, has played a pioneer role with its law on universal jurisdiction, and affirms that Emmanuel Bagambiki, aged 59, has no longer any intention to start a political debate whatsoever. But he assures that he will go on right to the end of the proceedings.
© Hirondelle News Agency