23.07.07 - RWANDA/BELGIUM - MAJOR NTUYAHAGA HEADS TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

Brussels, 23 July 2007 (FH) - The lawyer of Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, a Rwandan convicted on 5 July to twenty years in prison by the crown court of Brussels, has just filed an appeal.   
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The deadline to file an appeal was set for 23 July but Luc de Temmermann, as he had announced at the conviction of his client, filed his request on Thursday at midday.
 
De Temmermann repeated to the Hirondelle news agency what he implied on many occasions during the trial. "Bernard Ntuyahaga did not have a fair trial, neither in the pre-trial nor in the trial phases", he estimates.
 
He particularly points out to the testimony of Guy Verhofstadt, the then Belgian Prime Minister, who appeared as a rapporteur of a 1997 senatorial commission charged with examining the role of Belgium in Rwanda in 1994.
 
"He indicated by name Ntuyahaga while arising testimonies from the commission; however a member of the government in power does not have to express himself on an ongoing case", argued de Temmermann.
 
The Flemish lawyer does not yet want to say what other arguments he will raise, suggesting nevertheless that there would be "a lot".
 
The former Rwandan Major Bernard Ntuyahaga was found guilty of the murders, in Kigali, of ten Belgian peacekeepers on 7 April 1994, as well as those of several families and "of an unspecified number" of people between 6 April and 6 June 1994.
 
He was, on the other hand, found not guilty of the charges of assassination of the Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and of a certain number of Rwandan in the prefecture of Butare (south).
 
The federal prosecutor had requested life in prison but the jury had estimated that the historical context of ethnic violence known to Rwanda and the fact that he saved several Tutsis, the ethnic group that was the victim of the 1994 genocide, constituted mitigating circumstances.  
 
This request for appeal will be handled by the registrar's office of the crown court which will transmit it to the registrar's office of the court of appeals. A first date of proceedings will then be scheduled.
 
The court of appeals does not rule on the facts of the cases. Its role is to verify that decisions which are submitted to it are in accordance with established law norms.
 
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