On April 6, 1994, the aeroplane carrying Juvénal Habyarimana, the President of Rwanda, and Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Hutu President of Burundi, was shot down as it prepared to land at Kigali. Both presidents were killed in the crash. Even before that, violent incidents had occurred over the years between the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda: Hutus and Tutsis. The shooting down of the president's plane triggered the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people - mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus - were killed within the space of just three months. Atrocities were committed on a huge scale, openly encouraged by the authorities through, for instance, hate propaganda on Radio RTLM. In July 1994, the RPF (Front Patriotique Rwandais), the Tutsi army headed by General Paul Kagame, succeeded in putting a stop to the genocide.
Three cases were tried in the Netherlands that involved genocide, war crimes, and torture committed in Rwanda in 1994.
Case against Venant R.
The Rwandan Authorities have requested the extradition of Venant R. He is suspected to have been involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. At that time, R. was regional director of ISAR Rubona, an agricultural institute outside the southern city of Butare, in Rwanda. When in April 1994 the killing and raping of Tutsis began, more than a thousand Tutsi men, women and children fled to the ISAR Rubona terrain. The Rwandan Authorities suspect R. to have led Rwandan militaries and militias to ISAR Rubona, who then killed the Tutsi refugees. The International Crime Unit of the Dutch National Police arrested R. in March 2019.
The Hague District Court decided on 23 May 2019 that there are no grounds to refuse the extradition of Venant R. to Rwanda. R. has appealed the Court's decision.
The Rwandan Authorities have requested the extradition of Jean-Claude I. in October 2013. He is suspected of Genocide and attempted Genocide. I. allegedly took part in attacks on Tutsis as a leader of an Interahamwe militia during the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
The extradition-request is based on information from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and from Rwanda itself. Jean-Claude I. was arrested by the Netherlands Police in July 2013 and has been in provisional custody since then.
The Hague Court of First Instance decided on 20 December 2013 that there are no grounds to refuse the extradition of Jean-Claude I. to Rwanda.
I. argued that his political beliefs and activities are the reason for his prosecution for Genocide in Rwanda. The Court decided that there are no grounds for finding that statement plausible.
Jean-Claude I. has appealed the Court's decision. On 17 June 2014, the Supreme Court dismissed the case. By decision of 29 April 2015, the Minister of Security and Justice allowed the extradition of I. to Rwanda.I. appealed to this decision. On 27 November 2015, the The Hague municipal court decided that extradition to Rwanda would be in contravention of article 6 ECHR (right to a fair trial). One of the court’s main considerations in not allowing extradition was the expected quality of defense counsel in Rwanda. The Dutch government appealed against this decision and on 5 July 2016, the The Hague Court of Appeal decided in last instance that I. may be extradited to Rwanda. The court considered in its decision that there are no sufficient grounds to the conclusion that accused of war crimes in Rwanda will not have access to adequate judicial counsel.
The Hague District Court, 20 December 2013, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2013:18505 (en français)
Advice to the Minister of Security and Justice, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2013:18560
Supreme Court of the Netherlands, 17 June 2014, ECLI:NL:HR:2014:1441
The Hague Court of Appeal, 5 July 2016, ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2016:1924
Case against Jean Baptiste M.
The Rwandan authorities requested the extradition of Jean Baptiste M. M. is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. As leader of an extremist political party, he is accused of being involved in producing ‘kill-lists’, providing weapons and being involved in the attacks on Tutsi’s around Kigali in 1994. M. was arrested in January 2014.
On 11 July 2014, the The Hague Court of First Instance decided that there are no grounds to refuse the extradition of M. to Rwanda. On 16 December 2014, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands confirmed the judgment. The Minister of Security and Justice subsequently allowed the extradition of M. to Rwanda. M. appealed to this decision. On 27 November 2015, the The Hague municipal court decided that extradition to Rwanda would be in contravention of article 6 ECHR (right to a fair trial). One of the court’s main considerations in not allowing extradition was the expected quality of defense counsel in Rwanda. The Dutch government appealed against this decision and on 5 July 2016, the The Hague Court of Appeal decided in last instance that M. may be extradited to Rwanda. The court considered in its decision that there are no sufficient grounds to the conclusion that accused of war crimes in Rwanda will not have access to adequate judicial counsel.
On 12 November 2016 M. was extradited to Rwanda.
The Hague District Court, 11 July 2014, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2014:8484
Advice to the Minister of Security and Justice, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2014:8485
The Hague District Court, 27 November 2015, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2015:13904
The Hague Court of Appeal, 5 July 2016, ECLI:NL:GHDHA:2016:1925
Case against Yvonne B., a.k.a. Yvonne N.
Yvonne B. came to the Netherlands on grounds of family reunification in 1998, and has had Dutch nationality since 2004. She was suspected of having been a prominent extremist in her neighbourhood in Kigali between 1990 and 1994, and of having formed a militia, together with other extremists from the neighbourhood, that was responsible for the murder of, and other serious crimes against, Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Yvonne B. was arrested in June 2010 in Reuver, where she was then living.
On 1 March 2013, the District Court in The Hague convicted Yvonne B. of incitement to genocide. The court concluded that Yvonne B. had recruited underprivileged young people and incited them to the genocide of Tutsis in that part of Kigali, for the purpose of exterminating the Tutsis in her neighbourhood. The court ruled that this incitement constituted a significant link in the events that ended in genocide. B. was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of six years and eight months. This was the maximum sentence that could be imposed for this offence committed in 1994. The current maximum sentence for this offence is thirty years' imprisonment.
No appeal was brought against the District Court's ruling.
"I can't tell you any more about what happened. It was so horrific. If I tell you what happened, I will live through it all again. (...) It is over twelve years ago now that the genocide took place. Life has gone on, but I have never again been happy since the genocide. I think about it every day. There where I walk, where I know people, there is nobody left alive. I feel like a prisoner. My friends are no longer there. My colleagues are no longer there, my neighbours, my peer group. They're not there any more. In the past, we were all happy together. But now everyone is dead. - (Quotation from a witness statement in the case against Joseph M.)
Joseph M. applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 1998, but his application was refused on the grounds of Article 1F of the Geneva Convention on Refugees. The Dutch immigration authorities had serious reasons to consider that he and his brother had played a major role in the violent incidents that had taken place at a road block in his home town. A criminal investigation was launched. This revealed that M., a highly educated man, was actively involved in the commission of the atrocities in his region during the genocide in 1994. Among other things, he was suspected of participating in the murder of hundreds of people who had sought refuge in a hospital complex. He was also alleged to have been involved in the murder of two mothers and their young children who were trying to escape in an ambulance. M. was arrested in Amsterdam on 7 August 2006.
The court of first instance sentenced Joseph M. to twenty years' imprisonment. On appeal, the sentence was increased to lifelong imprisonment. This was the first time an investigation by the International Crimes Team had led to a sentence to lifelong imprisonment. In its deliberations, the Court of Appeal judged that the crimes in question ‘must be reckoned among the most serious crimes tried before a Dutch court since World War II'. The Supreme Court confirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal in November 2013.
The Hague Court of Appeal, 7 July 2011, ECLI:NL:GHSGR:2011:BR0686
Supreme Court, 26 November 2013, ECLI:NL:HR:2013:1420
Case against Ephrem S.
In 1994, Ephrem S. was a colonel in the Rwandan army. In that capacity, he was a leader not only in the army, but also of the presidential guard, the Interahamwe, and the Amahindure militias. Charges were brought against Ephrem S. at the Rwanda Tribunal, where he was accused of incitement to genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. On the basis of the Rwanda Tribunal's request for extradition, Ephrem S. was arrested in Amsterdam on 25 February 2004, and extradited to the Tribunal on 11 May 2004. On 25 February 2012, Ephrem S. was sentenced to twenty-five years' imprisonment for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. This sentence was confirmed on appeal.
The Hague District Court, 11 May 2004, Public Prosecutor's Office number UTL-I-2004.004.402.
ICTR Trial Chamber I, Ephrem Setako, 25 February 2010, Case No. ICTR-04-81-T. Can be found at http://www.ictr.org.
ICTR Appeals Chamber, Ephrem Setako, 28 September 2011, Case No. ICTR-04-81-A. Can be found at http://www.ictr.org.
Case against Michel B.
On 13 April 2007, the Trial Chamber of the Rwanda Tribunal handed over the prosecution of Michel B., a Dutch resident, to the Dutch courts. Until July 1994, B. was the General Manager of OCIR-Thé, a Rwandan government authority that managed eleven tea factories. He was alleged to have been an important member of the local Hutu militia and to have played an important role in the atrocities in the Rwandan genocide. The Rwanda Tribunal (ICTR) suspected B. of involvement in genocide and war crimes.
On 27 July 2007, the District Court in The Hague ruled that the International Crimes Act could not be applied with retroactive effect. This meant that the Netherlands had no jurisdiction over genocide with respect to Michel B. The Genocide Convention Implementation Act in force at that time did not provide universal jurisdiction for genocide, so B., as a non-Dutch citizen, could not be prosecuted under Dutch law. The prosecutor of the ICTR then submitted a request for Michel B. to be prosecuted by the ICTR after all, and this request was granted. On 5 November 2009, the ICTR sentenced Michel B. to eight years' imprisonment for participation in genocide.
The Hague District Court, 21 March 2008, ECLI:NL:RBSGR:2008:BC7362
For the case against Michel B. at the ICTR, see: The Prosecutor v. Michel Bagaragaza, Case No. ICTR-2005-86-S, which can be found at http://www.ictr.org/.
Case against Simon B.
Simon B. applied for asylum in the Netherlands in 2000. On 9 July 2001, the Rwanda Tribunal requested the Netherlands to arrest him on suspicion of involvement in genocide and crimes against humanity. In Rwanda, Simon B. was a popular singer, whose songs could frequently be heard on the Rwandan airways, on Radio-Télévision Libre des Milles Collines. His songs included strong anti-Tutsi propaganda.
On 12 July 2001, Simon B. was arrested in Leiden in response to an extradition request. He applied for preliminary relief proceedings to stop his extradition, but the court ruled it admissible. B. was handed over to the Rwanda Tribunal, and on 2 December 2008 he was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment for ‘direct and public incitement to commit genocide'. This judgment was confirmed in its entirety on appeal.
The Hague District Court, 14 February 2002, LJN:AD9260
ICTR Trial Chamber III, Simon Bikindi, 2 December 2008, Case No. ICTR-01-72-T. Can be found at http://www.ictr.org/.