Friday, September 10, 2010

Rwanda: Belgium Sued Over Kicukiro Massacres

Relatives of victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi may sue the Belgian government for having withdrawn its peacekeeping troops from Rwanda at the peak of the Genocide.
In 1994, over 2000 Tutsi refugees camped at ETO Kicukiro under the protection of the Belgian troops were massacred after the troops withdrew leaving them at the mercy of the Interahamwe militia. Some of the survivors of Kicukiro massacre filed a lawsuit against the Belgian government in Brussels.

In an Interview with The New Times, the President of IBUKA, the umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors' associations, Theodore Simburudari, said that the Brussels case would determine whether all families of the deceased could sue Belgium.

"If the court in Brussels rules in favour of two survivors who filled a lawsuit, relatives of those who had camped in ETO Kicukiro will automatically apply for compensation," said Simburudare.

The charge was made at the opening of a civil trial in Brussels brought by two genocide survivors against the Belgian state and three Belgian peacekeepers for having failed to protect the refugees and abandoned them.

In 1994, the Belgian contingent formed the backbone of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). The troops pulled out of Rwanda on April 11, 1994 following the murder of ten Belgian soldier by Interahamwe. 97 Belgian Peacekeepers who were based at ETO Kicukiro were ordered to fly back home leaving over 2,000 refugees without protection.

Immediately after the troops left, government soldiers and Interahamwe attacked the refugees, took them to Nyanza-Kicukiro and ruthlessly massacred them.

Speaking to the press in Brussels, Florida Ngulinzira said that; "I want to know why my husband, whose goal was peace between Rwandans, was abandoned by the Blue Helmets whose mission was to protect him along with the other refugees."

She was married to the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Boniface Ngulinzira, who had sought refuge at ETO Kicukiro and was killed together with other refugees. The defendants include Major Luc Marchal, who headed the Belgian contingent in Kigali in April 1994.

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