KIGALI - A woman suspected of involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, yesterday appeared before judges in The Hague, Netherlands.
Yvonne Ntacyobatabara, 63, who is said to have led a group of militias in mass massacres of Tutsis in Gikondo, Nyenyeri area, in Kigali, in 1994, denied all the charges.
A former member of the extremist party the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), Ntacyobatabara moved to the Netherlands in 1998 and obtained Dutch citizenship in 2004.
She was later sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment by a local Gacaca court in Gikondo.The session is only the formal start of the case; preliminary investigations by the public prosecutor continue.
The judges will decide whether Ntacyobatabara, who was arrested in June by the Netherlands National Police, will be released on bail or not.
Before her arrest, the suspect lived in the village of Reuver in the southern province of Limburg.
According to reports from Holland, Dutch police investigating the case have already questioned witnesses in Gikondo area, where she lived at the time of the Genocide.
Investigations into her case have been going on for more than a year now.
She is the second person to be charged in The Netherlands. In March 2009 ,a court in The Hague sentenced Joseph Mpambara to twenty years in jail for the torture of a German doctor and his wife during the Genocide.
Reacting to the news, the Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama said that the move was a positive one and a sign of cooperation the country is receiving from European countries in apprehending criminals.
“Countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Germany have really cooperated with us in apprehending and trying criminals who have cases to answer. It’s a positive development and we commend that,” Karugarama said.
He added that the Netherlands and Rwanda have developed good relations in the area of justice among others.
Ntacyobatabara’s husband, Augustin Basebya, is also being investigated for crimes committed during the Genocide.
Basebya, a former Member of Parliament, worked with former Mayor Juvenal Kajelijeli, who was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and sentenced to life imprisonment..
As the new case takes shape, the Dutch parliament is considering extending war crimes legislation to include Genocide crimes committed up to 40 years ago and war crimes in a non-armed conflict.
At present, the Netherlands has sufficient jurisdiction to prosecute aliens suspected of international crimes, including genocide. But that law applies only to crimes committed after 1 October 2003. For older cases, the Dutch Genocide Convention Implementation Act applies, but jurisdiction is limited.
The arrest and trial of Ntacyobatabara comes at a time when Netherlands and Rwanda have concluded talks for a possible extradition treaty to extradite war crimes and genocide suspects to Rwanda.
The Dutch Justice Minister, Ernst Hirsch Balling, was in the country in June on an official visit during which he agreed on closer cooperation with his Rwandan counterpart, Tharcisse Karugarama.