5 Rwandans to stand trial in Belgium for 1994 genocide

A Rwandan refugee girl stares at a mass grave where dozens of bodies have been laid to rest outside Kigali in this July 20, 1994 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 12 December 2018

5 Rwandans to stand trial in Belgium for 1994 genocide

  • Four trials linked to the massacres in Rwanda were held in Belgium between 2001 and 2009

BRUSSELS: Five Rwandans will go on trial in Belgium over their alleged role in war crimes and genocide in Rwanda in 1994, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
“This is the first time that a Belgian (criminal court) will have to deal with facts qualified as genocide crimes,” the prosecutor’s office said.
Four trials linked to the massacres in Rwanda were held in Belgium between 2001 and 2009, although the defendants faced only charges of war crimes.
But the prosecutor’s office said the criminal court in Brussels will “also have to rule on the crime of genocide” in the new cases.
“The five accused still benefit from the presumption of innocence,” it said in a statement.
It said pre-trial authorities last week ruled that the five appear in the criminal court “for acts committed in 1994 in Rwanda in connection with the genocide of Tutsis and the massacre of moderate Hutus.”
The five were divided into two cases.
In the first, one defendant is referred to the court for murders and rapes; another for murders, attempted murders and rape; and a third for murders and attempted murders.
In the second case, one individual is referred for murders, and another for murders and attempted murders.
All the defendants are only identified by their initials.
In 1993, a law was adopted that allows courts in Belgium — the former colonial power in Rwanda — to try Belgian residents, whatever their nationality, for crimes allegedly committed abroad.
In 2001, four Rwandans, including two nuns, were convicted by a Brussels court.
In 2005, a Brussels court sentenced two Rwandan businessmen to 10-12 years in prison after they were found guilty of war crimes and murder linked to the genocide.
Then, in 2007, a former Rwandan army commander, ex-major, Bernard Ntuyahaga, was also convicted.
In 2009 a Brussels court sentenced Rwandan Ephrem Nkezabera, dubbed the “genocide banker,” to 30 years in prison for war crimes including murders and rapes during the bloodbath.
UN figures said 800,000 people were killed, most of them from the Tutsi minority.
Trials have also been held in other European countries like Sweden, the Netherlands, Finaland, and Norway as well as in Canada and Rwanda itself.
Cases have also been heard in Tanzania, whose northern city of Arusha hosts the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.