Fabien Neretse

27.04.2016 ( Last modified: 07.04.2021 )
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Fabien Neretse was born in Ruhengeri, Rwanda, in 1957. Influential businessman and bureaucrat during the regime of Habyarimana – the Rwandan President whose murder on 6 April 1994 is usually indicated as the official start of the Rwandan genocide – Neretse was, from 1989 to 1991, the Head of the Rwandan Authority for Coffee (OCIR-Café), the governmental office in charge of the coffee exportations. He was also a member of the former Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-FAR), with the rank of Lieutenant.

According to the allegations against him, Neretse is one of the founders of the Interahamwe, the pro-Hutu militia which was very much involved in the massacres in Rwanda. He would have provided them with weapons, means of transportation and money to finance the genocide.

He is suspected of having directly participated in the genocide campaign, particularly in the planning of the massacres committed on the Mataba hill, and in actions perpetrated in the provinces of Ruhengeri, Gisenyi and Ndiza.

Neretse is also suspected of having denounced several Tutsi families trying to escape from Rwanda in the early days of the genocide, so determining their capture and subsequent execution. According to some witnesses, he was present when the executions were carried out. He is in particular accused of having caused the death of a Belgian national, Claire Beckers, who on 9 April 1994 was trying to escape from Kigali with her husband Isaïe Bucyana and her daughter Katia. Upon information allegedly provided by Neretse, the Belgian-Rwandan family was arrested at a roadblock and summarily executed. The sister of Claire Beckers filed on the same year a complaint in Belgium against persons unknown.

After the end of the genocide Neretse fled to France where, in order not to be recognized, he used a fake name. He settled in Angouleme, where he lived quietly as Fabien Nsabimana until 2011. He become actively involved in the social life of his neighborhood, and he addressed to the Prefect of the town a report containing some proposals to solve the problem of juvenile delinquency.

The “Collectif des parties civiles pour le Rwanda” (CPCR), a French NGO, filed a complaint against him already in 2000, but the subsequent investigations were discontinued because he was not found on the French territory.

On 8 August 2007 Martin Ngoga, Attorney General of the Republic of Rwanda, indicted Neretse on six counts, including genocide and criminal conspiracy. He addressed the indictment and an arrest warrant to France, requesting Neretse extradition. The arrest warrant was also circulated through Interpol.


legal procedure

On 8 August 2007 Martin Ngoga, Attorney General of the Republic of Rwanda, indicted Neretse on six counts, including genocide and criminal conspiracy. He addressed the indictment and an arrest warrant to France, requesting Neretse extradition. The arrest warrant was also circulated through Interpol.

The “Collectif des parties civiles pour le Rwanda” (CPCR) filed on 2008 a new complaint against Neretse in Paris. A criminal file was then opened against him also in France.

On 24 June 2011, the Belgian Judge Jean Coumans issued a separate European arrest warrant against Fabien Neretse for the death of Claire Beckers and her family.

On 29 June 2011 the French authorities arrested Neretse. On 30 June 2011, due to a cooperation agreement between France and Belgium, two Belgian investigators went to Angouleme in order to question him.

On 30 August 2011 the French Judges in charge of the case decided to hand over Neretse to Belgium, where the criminal investigations were at a more advanced stage. The trial against him is supposed to start in 2013.

The trial of Neretsé started on 4 November 2019 with the composition of the jury and the hearings on the merits began on 7 November 2019. Neretsé was on trial for genocide and the war crime of murder, including the murder of Belgium citizen Claire Beckers and her family and other attempted murders.

On 19 December 2019, the Brussels Criminal Court found Neretsé guilty of genocide and war crimes and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. On 27 May 2020, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment.


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.


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