07.09.07 - RWANDA/BELGIUM - A HEARING IN BRUSSELS ON COMPENSATION FOR THE VICTIMS OF NTUYAHAGA

  Brussels, 7 September 2007 (FH) - The Crown Court of Brussels will render a decision next Tuesday on the attribution of compensation to the claimants present at the trial of former Rwandan Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, sentenced on 5 July to 20 years in prison.   
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Bernard Ntuyahaga was found guilty of the murder of ten Belgian peacekeepers in Kigali on 7 April 1994, as well as the assassinations of several families of his district of Kyovu and of an "unspecified number people", according to the indictment, between 6 April and 6 June in Kigali.
 
At the time of the first "Rwanda trial" held in Belgium, in 2001, the Court had not ruled on the civil interests. At the 2005 trial, if compensation had been granted, no sum has been given to the victims up to date.
 
To decide on the attribution of compensation, the Court will have initially to examine the admissibility of the constitutions of the claimants.
 
Those of the families of the ten Belgian soldiers and the identified Rwandan victims, such as, for example, the family of Emmanuel Nkundabagenzi, should not raise any problem. The only question will relate to the amount of compensation which the judges will grant them.
 
The families of the soldiers of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), already compensated within the framework of other Belgian procedures, have only asked for one euro as a symbolic measure.
 
On the other hand, there is doubt concerning the majority of the "unspecified and unidentified people" in Kigali, for the murders of which Bernard Ntuyahaga was convicted by jury. Many Rwandan claimants were constituted on this prevention. More than 160 people were represented by 32 lawyers at this trial.
 
At the time of the hearing of the lawyers on this last point, 6 July, Luc Walleyn, followed by several other counsels, had considered it necessary to establish a causal link between two of his clients in this category of victims and the acts of Bernard Ntuyahaga.
 
A method sharply criticized by other counsels for the claimants, primarily because, according to a source close to these cases, some of them were not able to show such a link for their clients.
 
The parties, when they justified their constitution as claimant (what few did in the hearing), estimate that Bernard Ntuyahaga, by holding a judicially recognized role in the genocide in Kigali, helped a project that resulted in the injury of their clients, survivors of the genocide in this zone.
 
Another debate was also opened: on which basis to calculate the compensation, Belgian law or Rwandan law? Whereas the lawyers, basing themselves on Belgian law, have sometimes asked for several hundreds of thousands of euros in compensation (up to 500 000 euros), Rwandan jurisprudence provides for smaller amounts, calculated at the rate of exchange of the time of the facts: 5 000 000 Rwandan francs for the death of a spouse (29 796 euros) or 1 000 000 (5 959 euros) for that of a brother or a sister, for example.
 
For the family of Antoine Ntashamaje, defended by Walleyn, the compensation required for the murder of a father, a mother, three brothers and sisters and for an attempted murder is 14 000 000 Rwandan francs at the rate of the time of the facts, i.e. 83 430 euros.
 
A debate which jurisprudence clarifies: at the time of the 2005 trial, where two businessmen from the area of Kibungo were tried, the three lawyers who obtained compensation based themselves on Rwanda law, the place of the events, and had been able to show a causal link between their clients and the case.
 
The Crown Court, which was then presided, as for the Ntuyahaga trial, by Karin Gérard, had thus recognized in a decision from 7 July 2005 that 570 000 euros should be granted to 15 people out of the 63 represented in the hearings. To date these decisions have remained symbolic, although lawyers still work on the means of obtaining compensations for their clients.
 
With the end of the 2001 trial known as the "Butare Four", counsels had asked for a delay of the hearing on the civil interests in order to be able to prepare themselves. But no later date has ever been scheduled.
 
The trial of Bernard Ntuyahaga, which opened on 19 April and lasted 11 weeks, was the third in connection with the Rwandan genocide that Belgium applied its law known as "universal jurisdiction".

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