Brussels, 01 July 2007 (FH) - Wednesday the Belgian Council of State set aside a decision of the Office of Foreigners which had denied a family reunion to Emmanuel Bagambiki, prefect of Cyangugu (South West of Rwanda) in 1994 and acquitted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in 2006.

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However, the annulment which, following the request of his lawyer Mr. Vincent Lurquin, was pronounced by the 11th Chamber of the highest administrative instance, does not grant him a visa. So the Office of Foreigners will soon have to come to a new decision, which has to follow the position of the Council of State.

Bagambiki, as well as two other former Rwandan leaders acquitted by the ICTR, are still under the responsibility of the tribunal which accommodates them in a "safe" house rented in Arusha, no country having wanted to welcome them until now.

Following his acquittal in first instance in 2004, the ICTR refused to maintain the former prefect in detention and asked the future host country to guarantee its appearance during the appeal hearing.

Following this decision Emmanuel Bagambiki filed a request of visa before the Belgian Embassy in Tanzania in order to meet his family who had obtained the Belgian nationality in 1998.

Although the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time had no problem with this procedure, the Minister of Justice was informed by the Rwandan authorities of possible new charges against Bagambiki. The acquitted has no case to answer, according to his lawyer.

The Belgian authorities then refused the granting of a visa on the sole basis of serious concerns about a possible breach of the public order.

The Rwandan authorities showed once again their disagreement to a departure of Bagambiki to Belgium in the beginning of June and subpoenaed him to attend before the Tribunal de grande instance of Rusizi. His lawyer affirms that he was not informed of this summons.

The procedure of family reunion is administrated by the Office of Foreigners which is in charge of answering to the application transmitted via the Belgian diplomatic or consular post in the state where the applicant resides.

The Council of State is the appeal instance before which the applicant can first ask a suspension of the decision if he proves the existence of a serious and irreparable prejudice and then file a request for setting aside the refusal.

In December 2004, Mr. Lurquin had obtained the suspension of the decision by the Office of Foreigners. A letter by the Registrar of the ICTR was necessary to the Council of State to determine a date for the hearing. The Belgian administration not having motivated its position, the Council of State took its decision Wednesday on the basis of old elements.

Emmanuel Bagambiki's wife, present during the hearing, reacted "relieved" but explained to Hirondelle News Agency that she "didn't except that to last so long, three and a half years now".

© Hirondelle News Agency