The Hague, 18 November 2011 (FH) - The District Court in The Hague, on Thursday, ruled that genocide suspect Yvonne Ntacyobatabara (Basebya) should remain in custody while investigations in her case are still ongoing. Three judges ruled during a pre-trial hearing that the "charges against her are the gravest in international law," and that they therefore could not grant her temporary release to celebrate Christmas. The trial is scheduled to start next April.

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Some 40 family members and friends lamented the court's decision. Basebya's lawyers had argued that the 64-year-old's 18 months of pre-trial detention violated her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (article 5).

This was the sixth pre-trial hearing since Yvonne Basebya was arrested in June 2010. Thursday's hearing followed a visit of a rogatory commission and Dutch police investigators to Kigali last week. Additional witnesses in the case are scheduled to be heard in Kigali in December.

Yvonne Ntacyobatabara Basebya is said to have led a group of Impuzamugambi and Interahamwe militias who killed Tutsis in Gikondo (Kigali) in 1994. She faces charges of genocide, attempt to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, murder and war crimes crimes.

The investigation into the role of Yvonne's husband, Augustin Basebya, who had been an investigator in Juvenal Kajelijeli's defence team at the ICTR, led to Yvonne. There was not enough evidence to pursue Augustin Basebya, who was sitting in the public gallery on Thursday.

Dutch prosecutors claim that Yvonne  Ntacyobatabara was a high ranking member of the extremist political party CDR. She is alleged to have had an influential position in Gikondo, where she allegedly incited hatred and violence (muder and rape) against Tutsis.

Ntacyobatabara Basebya's lawyer, Victor Koppe, said the case was very weak. Among others, he argued that there were no records that she was a high ranking figure in the CDR. Instead, Koppe claimed that Ntacyobatabara Basebya saved several Tutsis during the 1994 massacres in Gikondo. In two weeks from now, the defense team will hear former Mille Collines Hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina as a witness in the case.   

Evidence against Ntacyobatabara Basebya includes documents discovered during her residence search, telephone records, witness testimony and her gacaca file. She was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia by a gacaca court in Gikondo in 2007. Dutch investigations into her case have been going on for four years.

The case against Ntacyobatabara Basebya is the second Rwanda case in the Netherlands. In July, the Hague Appeals Court sentenced Joseph Mpambara to life imprisonment for war crimes committed in Mogonero.

Being a foreigner, Mpambara could not be tried for genocide, since the man lived here as an asylum seeker without a Dutch passport. Yvonne, however received a Dutch passport in 2004 (she has been living in the Netherlands since 1998) and can therefore be tried for crimes of genocide, the first such case since the Netherlands ratified the Genocide Convention in 1966.

At present, the Netherlands has sufficient jurisdiction to prosecute foreigners suspected of international crimes, including genocide. But that law applies only to crimes committed after 1 October 2003. For older cases, the Dutch Genocide Convention Implementation Act applies, whose jurisdiction is limited. Dutch parliament approved, last week, a bill that will extend the possibility of detecting and prosecuting genocide. The bill - which will now go to the Senate - allows the Netherlands to better address genocide and war crimes suspects retroactively and to work closer with international criminal courts, including the ICTR and ICC.


© Hirondelle News Agency