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Belgium Jails Rwandan For Life Over 1994 Genocide

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A Rwandan former militia leader was given a life sentence by a Belgian court on Friday for his involvement in numerous killings and rapes that occurred during the 1994 genocide.

Seraphin Twarhirwa, 66, was found guilty of directly taking part in or supervising the crimes committed 30 years ago in Kigali by Hutu Interahamwe militiamen against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Former President Juvenal Habyarimana’s close friend and co-defendant Pierre Basabose was also found guilty of “genocide” and “war crimes” for his support of the militia.

However, due to health issues, the 76-year-old, who has irreversible senile dementia and was unable to attend sessions, was saved from jail.

The six-trial related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide took place in Belgium in 2020, when the two men were apprehended while residing there as refugees.

During the colonial era, Belgium ruled over what is now modern-day Rwanda and is home to a sizable Rwandan diaspora.

Following the downing of Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994, there were 100 days of mass killings that resulted in the estimated 800,000 deaths of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The former doctor Sosthene Munyemana was sentenced to 24 years in prison by a court in neighboring France on Wednesday for his role in the genocide. This was followed by the punishment in Belgium.

Both Twarhirwa and Basabose contested the accusations during their two-month trial.

Lawyers for both men said they would appeal.

The guilty verdict was welcomed by Michele Hirsch, a lawyer who represented relatives of victims at the trial.

“The judges considered that the mass rapes perpetrated by Twarhirwa were part of the genocide,” she told AFP.

However, defense attorney Vincent Lurquin stated that there were significant concerns raised by the trial regarding Belgium’s legal cooperation with President Paul Kagame’s “authoritarian regime” in Rwanda.

He added that in a procedure started in Kigali by Rwandan authorities in the early 2000s, Belgian investigators had depended on re-examining witnesses.

Written by PH

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