Attorney wants Belgian army answerable for ETO massacres

In an unprecedented case, a Belgian lawyer says her country’s United Nations peacekeeping troops are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Tutsi civilians who had sought shelter in a school the soldiers abandoned during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
A scene in a Genocide movie about the abandonment of refugees by Belgian UN peacekeepers. A Belgian lawyer has sued his country's army of  leaving Tutsis at the mercy of the Interahamwe militia.
A scene in a Genocide movie about the abandonment of refugees by Belgian UN peacekeepers. A Belgian lawyer has sued his country's army of leaving Tutsis at the mercy of the Interahamwe militia.

In an unprecedented case, a Belgian lawyer says her country’s United Nations peacekeeping troops are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Tutsi civilians who had sought shelter in a school the soldiers abandoned during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

This comes at the height of a pertinent trial in which the central question is whether the UN is responsible for the mass murders that took place in Rwanda in 1994, or if it is solely the national UN peacekeepers deployed there that are accountable.

Belgian lawyer Luc Walleyn is quoted telling Radio Netherlands that: “The Belgian troops did not ignore any explicit UN order but they failed to honour their UN mandate.”

“That mandate included the protection of the civilian population. But when the troops faced the threat of genocide, it was Belgium that decided to withdraw them towards the airport.”

Walleyn says the court has clearly stated that the responsible military were in a position to foresee the consequences.

“If peacekeepers commit crimes, it should be possible to hold someone responsible. 

“If one consciously decides to surrender 3,000 people to a group of murderers, I consider that at least as horrible as rape. A soldier bears responsibility for the civilian population.”

The Belgian judiciary is reportedly still considering how to proceed and an appeal has yet to be heard after a judge ruled in December 2010 that the soldiers could be held responsible for the death of Rwandans.

Thousands of people who were supposedly to be protected by the Belgian troops were killed, including the then prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana.

Belgium, a former Rwandan colonial master, lost 10 soldiers during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

A memorial site for the blue berets was later installed at Camp Kigali.

Senior officials of the Belgian military during the Genocide are facing prosecution for causing the deaths of thousands of Tutsis after they ordered a troop withdrawal.

Several Genocide survivors want Belgian officers and the State of Belgium to stand trial.

According to court documents, the Belgium government, through its military, withdrew their troops who were protecting over 2,000 people sheltered at ETO Kicukiro, now IPRC Kigali, in the Rwandan capital.

james.karuhanga@newtimes.co.rw

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