Samuel Ndashyikirwa

09.12.2011 ( Last modified: 10.06.2016 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

facts

Samuel Ndashyikirwa was born in 1960.

At the time of the alleged incidents, he was a small business owner in the Kibungo prefecture in the south-east of Rwanda. Around 50,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in this prefecture between 6 and 22 April 1994. Ndashyikirwa is the half-brother of Etienne Nzabonimana, also accused in the same affair.

According to the indictment, Samuel Ndashykirwa owned two drinks stores in Kirwa, a village located half an hour by dirt track from Kibungo where he also ran a small taxi-bus operation. The act of indictment refers to overwhelming evidence concerning his direct involvement in various murders committed in April 1994, especially in Kirwa, his birthplace, where he was a leading citizen.

Several witnesses pointed out that he was involved in the preparation of the genocide in Kirwa and that he provided support to the militias over which, according to the witnesses, he had a powerful influence. Many of these witnesses testified that they had seen him at the scene of the massacres at the very moment they were being carried out. He vehemently denied this but his explanations were discordant. After having at first held the same position as his half brother, he went on to explain that he had been present only to try to put a stop to the killings.

He was arrested on 4 December 2002 in Antwerp, where he had been living after acquiring refugee status under the assumed name of Samuel Manzi.

legal procedure

Samuel Ndashyikirwa was arrested on 4 December 2002 in Antwerp, where he had been living after acquiring refugee status.

Both he and Etienne Nzabonimana were the subject of legal complaints filed in Belgium.

Some 170 witnesses were called to testify, including a large number of Rwandans who made the journey to Brussels especially for this purpose.

The trial opened on 9 May 2005 before the Brussels “Cour d’assises”. Nzabonimana and Ndashyikirwa both pleaded not guilty.

On June 28, 2005, after almost two months of trial, Ndashyikirwa was found guilty on almost all counts of the indictment.

The following day, the court sentenced Samuel Ndashyikirwa to 10 years in jail.

spotlight

The trial of Samuel Ndashyikirwa and Etienne Nzabonimana was the second to be held in Belgium for the crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994.

The first trial, that of Alphonse Higaniro, Julienne Mukabutera, Consolata Mukangango and Vincent Ntezimana resulted in guilty verdicts against the four accused, who received prison sentences of 20, 12, 15 and 12 years, respectively (see their “related cases” profiles in Trial Watch).

Since Ndashyikirwa’s trial, Belgium also condemned Ephrem Nkezabera for his participation in the genocide (see “related cases”).

context

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.

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, 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.

THE GACACA COURTS

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 Kagameannounced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.