Brussels, 22 May 2007 (FH) – The trial of Bernard Ntuyahaga, a former Rwandan officer accused of ordering the killing of ten Belgian peacekeepers at the beginning of the Rwandan genocide, started about a month ago and the criticisms are mounting about the difficulties the Court is having in keeping the arguments relevant.
"One should not transform this Crown Court into Trivial Pursuit. It is necessary to return to the facts: it is Mr. Ntuyahaga whom we are judging and him alone" stated at the beginning of last week Marc Uyttendaele, one of the lawyers of the families of the Belgian soldiers, supported by the federal Prosecutor Philippe Meire.
The Court had just heard testimonies of Belgian soldiers present in Rwanda in 1994, some being satisfied to present their opinion on the genocide. Mr. Uyttendaele, representing the families, had shared his "discomfort" vis-à-vis "a whole series of actors who come to say what they think, and does not have any relevance".
Witnesses of context followed one another during four weeks to clarify to the jury the genesis of the genocide; they delayed lengthily, and logically, on events to which the Rwandan major was not involved.
On Wednesday, the lawyer Eric Gillet had criticized "the method" of the President Karyn Gerard, and Marc Uyttendaele responded harshly. According to him, "there is an impression of degradation to be mislaid in a heap of useless facts. One becomes gold diggers to search for the smallest nugget in connection with the defendant ", he declared. Aggravated, the President had suspended the hearing to discuss with the lawyers.
She had already called to order all sides, in particular at the time of the frequent evocations of the question of responsibility in reference to the attack against the plane of President Juvénal Habyarimana, April 6 1994. "It is above all to relate the facts to the person present in the dock: Bernard Ntuyahaga ", she said.
Laurent Kennes, lawyer of the families of the soldiers, had insisted to the jury: "You will have noted that there is a slip, perhaps at the instigation of the defense, on the question of knowing who fired on the plane. It has nothing to do with the Bernard Ntuyahaga case, and this question will not be answered here"
"Bernard Ntuyahaga has nothing to do with this attack; he is being judged for the death of ten peacekeepers and for several assassinations including that of Agathe Uwilingiyimana ", the Prime Minister of the time; had specified the Prosecutor.
Luc de Temmerman returned the ball to the other court on Wednesday. The lawyer of Ntuyahaga said that he was satisfied "to name witnesses to contradict the witnesses cited by the Prosecutor and the civil parties. It is you who want these debates; if you let yourselves go overboard, I have no control over it".
© Hirondelle News Agency