Ernest Gakwaya, Emmanuel Nkunduwimye and Fabien Neretse

23.04.2016 ( Last modified: 29.08.2019 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Facts

Ernest Gakwaya, Emmanuel Nkunduwimye and Fabien Neretse allegedly participate in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The genocide cost about 800,000 lives.

Ernest Gakwaya is accused of committing murders and rapes of Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the genoicde. Emmanuel Nkunduwimye allegedly committed murders, attempted murders amd rapes during the same period. They were allegedly members of Interahamwe (pro-Hutu militias, heavily implicated in the 1994 genoicde).

Fabien Neretse, originally from Ruhengeri, was an influential figure in the regime of Rwandan President Habyarimana. He is particularly suspected of murder of a Belgian citizen, Claire Beckers, as well as her Tutsi husband, Isaiah Bucyana, and their daughter Katia. They were killed on 9 April 1994 in Kigali.

Legal Procedure

Ernest Gakwaya and Emmanuel Nkunduwimye were arrested in March 2011 in Brussels. They denied having been members of the Interahamwe militia.

Fabien Neretse was arrested the same year in France.

The Brussels Assize Court set the beginning of a trial concerning the Rwandan accused for upcoming October. The jury draw will take place on 21 October 2019 and the trial will begin on 24 October 2019.

The three accused will be defended by the defence lawyers Dimitri de Béco, Jean-Pierre Jacques and Gilles Vanderbeck.

Many relatives of victims of the genocide will be represented by Michèle Hirsch, Eric Gillet, Maryse Alié and others.

Two other Rwandans currently charged with the same crimes and identified only by their initials – “Mr.B.” and “T.K.” should be the subject of another trial in Brussels.

Highlight

The trial of Gakwaya, Nkunduwimye and Neretse will be the fifth trial held in Brussels connected to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. These trials were particularly long due to the fact that there were many witnesses to be heard.

This is the first time that the Brussels Assize Court will have to directly deal with facts that qualify as genocide, according to the prosecution.

Context

1994, the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutus 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 largely outnumbered the genocidaires and the international community notoriously failed to respond otherwise at the relevant period.

THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA (ICTR)

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. The Resolution established the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function was to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in the territory of Rwanda, by Rwandan citizens and those committed in neighbouring states. During its existence, 93 persons have been indicted by the ICTR, the Tribunal was officially closed in 2015.

Some proceedings are however still ongoing before the so-called International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”). The Mechanism was established by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) and took over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism has been functioning since 1 July 2012 in parallel with the Tribunals and nowadays as an exclusive institution. It gradually took over the functions of the ICTR and 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 protection of witnesses.

THE GACACA COURTS

In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. Paul Kagame, 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 the 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.