Former official faces life sentence for 1994 Rwanda genocide


Former Rwandan official Fabien Neretse is found guilty by a Belgian court on Thursday of genocide and war crimes during the massacres in his country in 1994 for ordering nine murders in Rwanda in April and July of the same year.

The 71-year-old agricultural scientist will soon be handed his sentence by the court in Brussels. He now faces a possible life sentence.

He reportedly maintained his innocence throughout the trial.

But prosecutors said that he had been living a lie for a quarter of a century, the AFP news agency reported.

The prosecution also showed that he had attended public rallies encouraging fellow members of the Hutu ethnic group to slaughter the minority Tutsi community, reported Deutsche Welle news site.

Belgium has already held four trials and condemned eight perpetrators of killings in its former colony, but Neretse is the first defendant to be specifically convicted of the most grave charge – genocide.

Neretse was a farming expert who founded a college in his home district Mataba, in the north of Rwanda.

Between 1989 and 1992 he was director of the national coffee promoter, OCIR-Café, a key post in one of Rwanda’s main export sectors.

He was seen as a local kingpin in Mataba, and a cadre in the former MRND ruling party of late president Juvenal Habyarimana.

But at trial he insisted he was an inactive party member and a friend to Tutsis.

“I will never stop insisting that I neither planned nor took part in the genocide,” he insisted on Tuesday, before the jury retired to contemplate its verdict.

He was arrested in 2011 in France, where he had rebuilt a professional life as a refugee, and he has spent only a few months in protective pre-trial custody.

Under a 1993 law, Belgian courts enjoy universal jurisdiction to prosecute genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity wherever they took place. (Source: BBC/CNA)