Sun, Jul 20, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Belgium to allow war crimes trial of Rwandans to go on


Belgian judicial officials plan to present evidence against two Rwandan genocide suspects, a spokeswoman said on Friday, despite government plans to make it harder to bring lawsuits against those accused of such crimes.

Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt wants to scrap a controversial law that gives the courts universal jurisdiction to try cases of genocide and other war crimes because it has caused Belgium a huge diplomatic headache.

But he has allowed some outstanding investigations to continue.

A spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor's office confirmed that these included some 10 Rwandan cases, as well as others in Guatemala and Chad.

"We still have investigations going on in Rwanda," she said.

The spokeswoman said an examining magistrate would set out next Friday the results of a probe into allegations that two suspects helped incite killings in Rwanda's Kibongo prefecture in April 1994.

The suspects -- half-brothers -- were living in Belgium when police arrested them late last year, she said.

The case sprang from the landmark 2001 trial and imprisonment of four Rwandans for war crimes committed during the African country's 1994 genocide, the official said.

The 2001 trial of the four Rwandans was the first to apply a controversial law that gave the courts the power to try foreigners for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

It unleashed a torrent of lawsuits that swamped the country's courts as victims and relatives of victims of similar crimes hoped to find justice in Brussels.

The law sank Belgium into a diplomatic, as well as a legal, quagmire as lawsuits were filed against US President George W. Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and other leaders.

As he begins his second term in office, Verhofstadt has put the problem at the top of his agenda.

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