The first sitting of a Trial Chamber was held today, 10 January 1996 at the seat of the Tribunal in Arusha. Three Judges: Judge William Hussein Sekule (presiding), Judge Yakov A. Ostrovsky and Judge Tafazzal Hossain Khan heard an application by the Prosecutor relating to investigations and proceedings against three persons currently detained in Belgium.
The Trial Chamber was requested to send a formal request to the Kingdom of Belgium asking that its courts defer to the Tribunal's competence in cases against EIie Ndayambaje, Joseph Kanyabashi and Alphonse Higaniro, three Rwandan citizens under the Criminal Law of Belgium for breaches of the Geneva conventions.
In this matter the Prosecutor acknowledges the full co-operation of the Kingdom of Belgium, which did not oppose the appIications, and he also recognises the important role which national courts must continue to play in bringing to justice those suspected of having played an active part in the horrendous crimes committed in Rwanda during 1994.
The focus of the work of the Prosecutor's office will continue to be on those prominent figures who planned, organised or led the mass killings of innocent civilians in Rwanda at both national and local level
The Three Belgian investigations relate to the prefecture of Butare, in the South of Rwanda: Elie Ndayambaje is alleged to be responsible for serious crimes, including mass killings when Burgomaster of Muganza; Joseph Kanyabasbi while Burgomaster of Ngoma; and Alphonse Higaniro is said to have been an influential political figure in the Butare region, also implicated in killings, all three have been in preventive detention in Belgium since mid-1995.
In today's proceedings no pronouncement was made about the guilt or innocence of the three persons charged. It is anticipated that the results of the Belgian investigations will shortly be forwarded to the Tribunal. The Prosecutor will then decide, if need be after further investigation by his own staff, whether indictments can be presented.
Andronico O. Adede, Registrar