25 February 2008

Rwanda: Genocide Survivor Wants to Sue Belgium

Brussels — A Rwandan genocide survivor has filed a suit in a civil court to prosecute the Belgian state and is also seeking for compensation estimated at 100, 000 Euros for death of her relatives during the 1994 genocide, according to "Le Soir" Belgium daily newspaper.

The financial compensation is sought on grounds that the Belgium peace keeping force failed to protect her sister, brother-in-law and their children on April 11, 1994 at the height of the slaughter.

The summon underlines responsibility of Belgium soldiers in the massacre of approximately 2, 000 Rwandans who had placed themselves under the protection of the peacekeepers at the Official Technical School (ETO) Don Bosco, situated in Kicukiro. The ETO was at the time one of the main barracks, nicknamed "Beverly Hills", of the Belgian battalion of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) headquartered in Kigali.

The plaintiff and her family had found refuge there on 8 April, just two days after the bloodbath began on April 6 following assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.

"It was decided by Colonel Marchal, then head of the Belgian battalion KIBAT of the UNAMIR to withdraw during the afternoon of 11 April 1994 peacekeepers(92) from ETO," claimed the summon.

It added:" By abandoning Rwandan refugees who were there and the fact that the site was encircled by armed militiamen (Interahamwe) of which everyone, including the Belgian soldiers knew that they [Interahamwe] were going to proceed to commit the massacres."

Belgium decided to withdraw its contingent of UNAMIR peacekeepers following the assassination of ten of its soldiers on 7 April 1994.

However, the plaintiff has wished to remain anonymous at this stage.

Her lawyers, Luc Walleyn and Philippe Lardinois, claimed that the Belgian troops should have protected the refugees and could have considered some sort of evacuation, as the airport was located just some few kilometers away.

The summon is also supported by testimonies of Romeo Dallaire, high ranking Canadian officer who commanded the UNAMIR soldiers and those made by Belgian military and political authorities in the Senatorial report and during the trial of Bernard Ntuyahaga, a senior army officer, before the Assize court of Brussels in 2007.

According to plaintiff's lawyers, the charge against the Belgian state would be based on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948 and the Belgian civil code.

They further added that the Belgian soldiers would be guilty of non-assistance to someone in danger thus having committed serious violation of international humanitarian law, in particular, murder, extermination of a group of civilians and persecution of a group or identifiable community for racial and ethnic reasons and the omission to act.

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