Belgium and UNAMIR Belgian Commander Luc Marshal dragged to court over Rwanda 1994 Genocide
Brussels – The commander of the Belgian forces during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis is facing prosecution for causing the deaths of 2000 Tutsis after he ordered his troops to withdraw – leaving the victims for dead.
In a landmark case which opened Wednesday in a Brussels court, several Genocide survivors including two renowned women want Belgian Colonel Luc Marchal and the State of Belgium to stand trial. Col Marchal is charged along with two other officers.
Among those who launched the suit in 2004 and then 2007 are: author Florida Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira (in Photo), the widow of ex-Rwandan Foreign Minister Boniface Ngulinzira, and Marie-Agnès Uwali.
Court documents before the judge alleged that on April 11, 1994, the Belgium government through Colonel Luc Marchal withdrew their troops which were protecting a technical school here in Kigali (ETO) where some 2000 Tutsis were taking refuge.
The refugees were taken up a hill, where “most of them were killed with machine guns and finished off with machetes shortly after the departure of the Belgians,” the attorney for the survivors, Eric Gillet, told the Brussels court.
The Belgians withdrew four days earlier after their 10 paratroopers were slaughtered along with ex-PM Agathe Uwiringiyimana.
By abandoning a people under threat from interahamwe militias, the plaintiffs argue, the Belgian State and the three officers are guilty to have ‘failed to act’ – which is prescribed under the Geneva Convention.
The plaintiffs reveal that the order to withdraw from ETO was given to Capt. Lemaire by Major Dewez – with accordance from Colonel Marchal.
However, the defense of the State and the officers argues that the 97 Belgian soldiers stationed at ETO and the entire contingent was under the UN – which apparently gave the pull-out order.
The ex-foreign minister Boniface Ngulinzira, the husband of Ngulinzira – one of the plaintiffs, a “Hutu” who backed the Arusha peace accord, was killed with others as they tried to escape, says the court documents.
The drama was the subject of the critically-acclaimed 2005 movie “Shooting Dogs”.
“I want to know why my husband, whose goal was peace between Rwandans, was abandoned by Blue Helmets whose mission was to protect him along with the other refugees,” the minister’s widow, Florida Ngulinzira, told reporters.
The plaintiffs accused the Belgian government and soldiers of “failing to act” to prevent or put an end to violations of international human rights, a crime recognised by Belgian law since 1993.
The defendant Col Luc Marchal told RFI earlier this year: “We were under critical circumstances, with inadequate weaponry.”
“Everybody was dispersed in the city so it was imperative to regroup. We really had no idea at that moment that the fate of the 2,000 refugees was going to be what it ended up being,” he said.
IBUKA head Theodore Simburudali warned Thursday that more mass suits are coming.
“If the Belgian state is declared criminally liable, all the people abandoned in this place on that day will file a civil suit,” he told AFP news agency.
Two women are behind the Brussels case including author Florida Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira, the widow of ex-Rwandan Foreign Minister Boniface Ngulinzira, and Marie-Agnès Uwali.
“The initiative of these two plaintiffs is a very good thing which we support very much. We ask that it should be supported right to the end,” said Simburudali.
“The role of Belgium and the United Nations no longer needs to be proven. Belgium had the best trained and best equipped force in UNAMIR (the UN mission in Rwanda.
“People pleaded in vain, asking the Belgian soldiers not to abandon them. They even asked in vain to be driven to the zone under the control of the FPR,” Simburudali added, referring to the Rwanda Patriotic Front rebels, which was fighting the government army and extremist militias.
The two plaintiffs accused the Belgian government and soldiers of “failing to act” to prevent or put an end to violations of international human rights, a crime recognised by Belgian law since 1993.
“The Belgian soldiers knew, when they left, that these people were going to be killed. It’s all the more serious when it’s the Belgian contingent that had the responsibility for ensuring safety in the capital,” Simburudali said.