Bernard Ntuyahaga

31.05.2016 ( Last modified: 08.06.2016 )
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Bernard Ntuyahaga is believed to have been born in 1952 in Mabanza, Kibuye, Rwanda. In 1972, he attended the Kigali school for army officers. At the time of the alleged facts, he held the rank of major.

On 7 April 1994, on the day following the attack on President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane, soldiers of the Rwandan Armed Forces surrounded the residence of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Agathe Uwiligiyimana who was being protected by ten Belgian blue helmets and five Ghanaians.

Agathe Uwiligiyimana tried to escape, but was assassinated by the Rwandan soldiers who then captured the blue helmets. The Ghanaians were freed but the ten Belgians were reportedly led to the Kigali military camp where they were massacred in cold blood.

Fearing extradition to Rwanda, Major Ntuyahaga surrendered to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, in June 1998.

legal procedure

In June 1998, Mayor Bernard Ntuyahaga surrendered to the International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania.

In September 1998, the ICTR issued a bill of indictment against him with the following charges:
– conspiracy to commit genocide;
– genocide or complicity in genocide;
– war crimes;
– two counts of crimes against humanity.

On 13 November 1998, at his initial appearance before the ICTR, Bernard Ntuyahaga pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On 18 March 1999, the ICTR withdrew the charges against Ntuyahaga but the judges stated however, that they were unable, as requested by the prosecution, to hand him over to the Belgian judicial authorities, which wished to take up his case. Ntuyahaga was therefore released on 29 March but was rearrested the following day by the Tanzanian authorities and charged with entering the country illegally. Belgium and Rwanda both requested his extradition, but after a prolonged procedure, Tanzania rejected his extradition to Rwanda.

At the end of March 2004, on his own free will, Bernard Ntuyahaga, accompanied by a Belgian diplomat, flew to Brussels where he gave himself up and was placed in custody.

He was accused of handing over the Belgian soldiers to the Rwandan soldiers in the Kigali military camp of which he was an officer, without taking any measures to prevent their being massacred; of celebrating with the soldiers implicated in the massacres of the Kigali Tutsi civilian population, and of allowing these soldiers to use his residence as their headquarters. The indictment also referred to the existence of serious and corroborative grounds, for implicating Mayor Ntuyahaga in the crime of genocide, in crimes against humanity and in breaches of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions.

On 7 September 2006, the Belgian trial chamber decided to refer the case to the Cour d’assises in Brussels.

His trial began on 19 April 2007. On 5 July 2007 he was found guilty of murdering several peacekeepers and an undetermined number of Rwandan civilians and sentenced to 20 years in prison, and ordered to pay compensation to the families of the Belgian soldiers and the Rwandan civilians massacred under his orders.

Ntuyahaga appealed against the verdict on 23 July 2007, alleging that the trial process had not been fair and equitable during both the investigation phase and during the hearings and so requested a retrial.

On 12 December 2007 the Cour de cassation rejected Ntuyahaga’s appeal and confirmed the sentence handed down on 5 July 2007.


Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were outnumbered.


In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR. Some proceedings are however still ongoing.

The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.

Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the care and protection of witnesses.


In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.

These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.

According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.