Brussels, 20 February 2008 (FH) - The Court Chambers of Brussels decided Wednesday to transfer to the Assize Court Ephrem Nkezabera, a former leader of the Interamhamwe militia, accused of crimes committed during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

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For the first time in Belgium, the prevention of "crimes of genocide" is retained, in addition to those of "war crimes" and "crimes of international humanitarian law" already used against convicts of the three
preceding "Rwanda trials (2001, 2005 and 2007)''.

Nkezabera, 55, was in 1994 president of the commission for economic and financial affairs within the national committee of the Interamhamwe, the main militia that committed the slaughters which resulted in more than 800 000 deaths, according to the UN, mainly ethnic Tutsis.

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

The former official of the Commercial Bank of Rwanda has acknowledged to have armed and financed the Interahamwe, and to have publicly "encouraged" the militiamen to commit massacres at a public meeting in 1993.

He also admits to having taken part in the financing of the Radio Mille Collines (RTLM), created the same year, which openly supported the genocide on its airwaves. However, he has rejected the charge of rape.

The magistrates of the court chambers followed in their order the arguments of the federal prosecutor Michel Yernaux.

According to them, although the crime of genocide was not in Belgian law before 1999, the Belgian judicial system implicitly recognized it under the terms of the International Conventions signed by Belgium and
international law.

Gilles Vanderbeck, Nkezabera‘s lawyer, supported, on the contrary, that the facts charged to his client having been committed in 1994, the law of 1999 could not be retroactive.

According to law experts, this criminal charge could give to the federal prosecutor a stronger position to request a life sentence, already a requested sentence but never obtained during the other trials.

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

The court of criminal appeal should confirm the transfer in the weeks to come and schedule a date for a trial before the end of the year.