Rwanda: Rape as a war crime highlighted at the trial of two alleged genocidaires in Brussels

In Belgium, in the trial of two alleged Rwandan genocidaires, it was time for the closing arguments of the civil parties on Wednesday. As a reminder, Séraphin Twahirwa is accused of having been an Interahamwe militia leader in Kigali, and Pierre Basabose a financier of the massacres. They are being prosecuted for war crimes and genocide, among other charges. On Wednesday, Michèle Hirsch, a leading figure in the Brussels Bar who has represented victims in the 6 genocide trials held so far in Belgium, made rape as a war crime the main issue in this case.

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Defendant Séraphin Twahirwa sits in the courtroom of the Brussels Assize Court, October 9, 2023. AFP - SIMON WOHLFAHRT

By: RFI Follow


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With our correspondent in Brussels, Laure Broulard

Michèle Hirsch focused on the case of Séraphin Twahirwa, who is being prosecuted for the rapes of at least twelve women, but also of an unknown number of other unidentified Tutsi women. Rapes committed by him or by militiamen under his command between January and June 1994, according to the indictment. Rape as a "mass crime", as a "genocidal weapon" for the lawyer for the civil parties, who believes that it is a first in the context of a trial of universal jurisdiction on the genocide of the Tutsis in Belgium.

« There was previously an offence of rape as a war crime in the trial of Ephrem Nkezabera (nicknamed the Genocide Banker) in 2009. But the victims did not testify. That was the case here. The court heard from many rape victims, sometimes in open court, but more often behind closed doors. By raping, the accused was in fact carrying out a kind of ethnic cleansing. »

The lawyer places the facts in the context of the racist propaganda of the 1990s in Rwanda, which presented Tutsi women as hypersexualized spies in the service of their community, that of the RPF rebels, but also of the Tutsi enemy from within. In the room, the atmosphere is heavy, several genocide survivors have tears in their eyes.

Félicité Lyamukuru attended the oral argument. "Given the way Tutsi women have been portrayed, it is very important that today, in a trial like this, we can understand how she was demonized, humiliated, destroyed in her womb... And it leaves you speechless.


For his part, Séraphin Twahirwa denies the charges against him. His lawyers question the credibility of the witnesses and the fairness of the proceedings.

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