National Commission Against the Genocide (CNLG) has welcomed the verdict of Brussels Assize Court which convicted Fabien Neretse of genocide and war crimes last Thursday and sentenced him to 25 years in jail.
“Neretse’s sentencing verdict is a triumph against impunity and the culture of hate,” stated CNLG in a press release.
“Several people resisted the threatening defence arguments, and the pressure from Neretse and his pressure agents at his home in Mataba. We thank the examining magistrates, the court, witnesses, and the lawyers for the civil parties at the heart of this trial. All of them have done remarkable work for the preservation of memory and justice,” CNLG commented on the witnesses heard in the court about bribery to and threats against some witnesses by the defendants.
“CNLG denounces the practice of bribery of witnesses, which is becoming a practice before national and international courts. This was the case during the request for review of the Augustin Ngirabatware trial before the Mechanism of the International Criminal Tribunals, where a group of five people were arrested for trying to bribe and intimidate witnesses. This practice is a threat to the quality of justice, a strategy of genocidaires to escape justice,” the statement reads in part.
“Preventive measures must be taken, including the incarceration in prison of those suspected of genocide that are under investigation during an investigation.”
CNLG added in the statement released on Friday that “Twenty-five years after the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi, this trial shows that the crime of genocide is imprescriptible, and that wherever genocidal suspects hide they must be arrested and tried.”
CNLG said Neretse’s conviction is a landmark decision for several reasons.
“First, it is the first time in Belgium that a criminal prosecution and conviction have been based on a law punishing genocide. Indeed, other convictions of Rwandans had been made on the basis of the law punishing crimes against humanity and war crimes. This first case law in Belgium of recognition of the genocide committed against Tutsi Rwandans is for Belgian deniers a failure and an honour given to the victims. This trial is highly symbolic for other trials to come,” the statement added.
Neretse was prosecuted for genocide and war crimes committed in Nyamirambo where he resided and Mataba his native region, as well as connections elsewhere in Rwanda between April 6, 1994 and July 14, 1994.
The accused was found guilty of role in the murder of 9 persons murdered in Kigali on April 9, 1994 including Isaïe Bucyana, his Belgian wife Claire Beckers and their daughter Katia Bucyana. Others are Colette Sisi, Lily Umubyeyi, Grace Tangimpundu, Jean de Dieu Sambili, Julienne Mukayumba and Inès Gakwaya.
In his native place of Mataba in the former Ruhengeri Prefecture, currently in Gakenke District, Neretse played role in the murder of Joseph Mpendwanzi on June 19, 1994 and of Anastase Nzamwita who was his former workmate at GBK and OCIR Café
He is also guilty of attempted murder of other people including Bucyana’s nephews Régine Bategure and Emmanuel Nkaka, and Marie-Antoinette Umurungi.
However, the jury acquitted him of the murder of Ildephonse Ngarambe and Sixbert Rutonesha who were mentioned by the Federal Magistrate, Arnaud d’Oultremont, in his indictment.
Defence lawyer Jean Jacques criticised the jury for not considering the defence points in the verdict.
“It is a decision on crimes charged on our client that has been decided by 12 jury members. They did great job in reviewing the testimonies of many witnesses heard in the last six weeks but we don’t see the case the same way. We have our proofs we presented to the court but the jury has ignored them in their explanation on this verdict,” he said.
Neretse has always said in the court that he is an innocent man who loved the Tutsi people, the position he emphasized at the conclusion of the hearings early this week, saying that he is and will always be innocent.
Arrest, trial proceedings
Rwandan prosecution indicted Fabien Neretse on six counts including genocide and criminal conspiracy on August 8, 2007 and the arrest warrant was addressed to France requesting for Neretse extradition.
On the complaint of Belgian Martine Beckers, sister of Claire Beckers who was murdered with her Rwanda husband Bucyana and daughter Katia in Kigali in 1994, Judge Jean Coumans issued a separate European arrest warrant against Fabien for the death of Claire Beckers and her family on June 24, 2011.
The French authorities arrested Neretse on June 29, 2011 and handed him over two months later to Belgium where the criminal investigations were at a more advanced stage. He was remanded in custody and subsequently released.
Martine Beckers kept pushing for justice and Neretse was summoned to appear before the Belgian Council Chamber on June 29, 2017 and the Federal Prosecutor asked for the correctionalization of Neretse case with cases of other two Rwandan men Ernest Gakwaya and Emmanuel Nkunduwimye who are also accused of genocide. The correctionalization of cases was rejected on October 20, 2017, setting Fabien Neretse on a separate trial.
Neretse trial opened on November 4, 2019 with the vote of 24 jury members including 12 who try the case and their replacements. The hearings started on November 7 and took six weeks during which over 100 witnesses testified and more testimonies of the people who died after testifying during the 2011 investigations were read in the court.