03.10.07 - RWANDA/BELGIUM - CERTAIN CIVIL PARTIES DEPRIVED OF LEGAL ASSISTANCE AT NTUYAHAGA TRIAL

 

Arusha, 3 October 2007 (FH) - The legal assistance service in Belgium refused to pay certain lawyers who had constituted civil parties at the trial of the former Rwandan major, Bernard Ntuyahaga, sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Assize Court of Brussels, revealed Tuesday the Belgian newspaper, Le Soir.

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"Intrigued by the behaviour of certain litigants, the Office of Legal Assistance (BAJ), which allots public aid to lawyers representing defendants without means, sometimes clarified their regulations, sometimes refused to pay some lawyers", writes the newspaper which qualifies these lawyers as "indelicates".

"It is that at 500 or 600 euros a day of court, this trial that lasted two and a half months appears to have caused some straying, even if that relates to only a small amounts lawyer ", continues the Belgian newspaper.

The newspaper quotes "ridiculously incomplete cases, canvassing of clients, in particular while going to commemoration ceremonies of the genocide and while proposing to defend for free foreign victims of the events, or of the subcontracting of cases to fellow-members in exchange of a commission". According to Le Soir, the BAJ denounced a double request from the same civil parties as well as a case including certificates for deaths which had occurred in 1965, 1966 and 1980.

Pressed to put order in this plethora of cases and requests for expenses, the BAJ of Brussels promised to verify if incomplete documents were not systematically filed by the same lawyer, notes Le Soir.

"In a letter addressed to the counsels, it recalled that there was no question of invoicing a complete day for a half-day service, that the lawyer could only be paid by the government for only one assize court at a time and that the cases for which the lawyer is assigned to cannot be sub-contracted", adds the newspaper.

At the time of Bernard Ntuyahaga's trial, which began on 19 April and lasted 11 weeks, the interests of more than a hundred Rwandans had been defended. According to Le Soir, in its September ruling on civil interests, the Belgian court allowed 30 civil parties out of the 164 which had been constituted. These civil parties had been able to be constituted at any moment during the instruction hearing on simple declaration of their counsels, enacted by the court.

ER/PB/MM
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