Rwanda has welcomed a guilty ruling by a Belgian court in the case of genocide suspect Fabien Neretse on Thursday describing it as a landmark decision.
Neretse is the first person to be convicted in Belgium on charges of genocide and war crimes in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The 71-year-old agricultural scientist was also convicted of “war crimes” for 11 killings in Rwanda, under Belgium’s code of universal jurisdiction for the most serious offence and is likely to get a life sentence.
The National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) said that the Thursday ruling by the Brussels Assize Court sets a precedent for many genocide suspects in Belgian and Europe who need to be tried in courts of law.
“Neretse Fabien was prosecuted for the crime of genocide and war crimes committed in Nyamirambo where he resided and Mataba his native region; as well as connections elsewhere in Rwanda, between April 6, 1994 and July 14, 1994,”
“Neretse called the army to proceed with the execution of several families, that is 13 dead, in total in Kigali. Neretse had created an Interahamwe militia of Mataba to which he had distributed weapons before the attacks, and paid for it,” CNLG said.
CNLG said Neretse’s conviction is a landmark decision for several reasons given that it is the first time in Belgium that a criminal prosecution and conviction have been based on a law punishing genocide.
“Indeed, other convictions of Rwandans had been made on the basis of the law punishing crimes against humanity and war crimes. This first case law in Belgium of recognition of the genocide committed against Tutsi Rwandans is for Belgian deniers a failure and an honor given to the victims,” the commission said.
CNLG said it is necessary to underline another dimension of the Neretse trial which showed a negationist defense, in particular in the person of the lawyer Jean Flamme, throughout the trial, who was very virulent with regard to the Prosecutor and the civil parties.
For the first time in Belgium, the denial of the genocide committed against the Tutsi was used as the main means of defense, thereby tending to obscure the responsibility of the accused.
Finally, as soon as the Neretse trial was announced, the latter set up a team to bribe witnesses. In-kind donations were distributed to witnesses including cash and field land to encourage them to exonerate him.