28.01.08 - BELGIUM/RWANDA - NKEZABERA CASE COULD BE TRANSFERRED TO ASSIZE COURT OF BRUSSELS

Brussels, 28 January 2008 (FH) - The Federal Prosecutor requested last Friday, before the court chambers, the transfer of Rwandan Ephrem Nkezabera, a former Influential member of the Interahamwe militia during the 1994 genocide, to the Assize Court of Brussels.
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Former executive of the Banque Commerciale Du Rwanda, Nkezabera, 55, is accused of crimes of genocide and rape.

During the three "Rwanda trials" of 2001, 2005 and 2007 held in Belgium, only the qualifications of war crimes and crimes of international humanitarian law were retained against the convicts.

Nkezabera was in 1994 president of the commission on economic affairs and finances of the national committee of the Interamhamwe militia, responsible for slaughter of more than 800 000 people.

The accused was also a member of the party of President Juvénal Habyarimana, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND).

He has acknowledged to have armed and financed the Interahamwe and to have publicly encouraged many Interahamwe to commit massacres at a public meeting in 1993.

He admitted of having taken part in the financing of the hate radio Radio Mille Collines.

The former banker rejects, however, the rape charge.

Gilles Vanderbeck, lawyer for Nkezabera, also disputes the indictment for genocide.

He said that the Rwandan genocide took place ion 1994 while the Belgian law was only introduced in 1999 to try such crimes.

The federal prosecutor Michel Yernaux and the civil parties reminded that Belgium had ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) in 1951. Although explicitly absent in the law before 1999, this crime thus formed part of the Belgian law since this date.

Nkezabera was arrested in Belgium in 2004 following an agreement concluded with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

The court chamber will render its order on 20 January, before the court of criminal appeal eventually decides on the trial date.

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