Rwandan convicted of genocide faces 30-year jail term

AFP – Belgian prosecutors urged a court yesterday to impose a 30-year jail term on a former Rwandan official convicted of genocide for his part in his country’s 1994 massacres.

Fabien Neretse, a 71-year-old agricultural engineer, was arrested in France in 2011 and was found guilty of genocide and war crimes on Thursday after a trial in the Brussels high court.

“Bear in mind the extreme gravity of the facts… this will to exterminate the other,” prosecutor Arnaud D’Oultremont told the jury, branding Neretse “pitiless” in his targeting of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority.

Neretse, who protested his innocence throughout the trial, is the first person to be convicted in Belgium on a genocide charge.

He was also convicted of war crimes for 11 killings in Rwanda, under Belgium’s code of universal jurisdiction for the most serious offences.

Fabien Neretse. photo: AFP

Neretse remained passive in the dock as the verdict was being delivered on Thursday, but many had a chance to speak during yesterday sentencing hearing.

His defence hung on questioning the credibility of the multiple witnesses called against him – but prosecutors managed to prove that the exile has been living a lie for a quarter of a century.

Belgium has already held four trials and condemned eight perpetrators of killings in its former colony, but Neretse is the first defendant to be specifically convicted of the most grave charge – genocide.

During the trial, Neretse was accused of having ordered the murder of 11 identified civilians in Kigali and two in a rural area north of the capital in April and July 1994.

The jury cleared him of two of the Kigali killings, but found him guilty of 11 war crimes.

To demonstrate the more serious charge of genocide, the prosecutor cited Neretse’s appearance at public rallies urging fellow members of the Hutu ethnic group to slaughter the minority Tutsi community.