The Netherlands: Public Prosecutor demands life sentence for BasebyaJane Nishimwe | Category: News
This afternoon the 29th of November at the Dutch District Court in The Hague, the Public Prosecutor demanded a life sentence against Basebya for crimes of genocide. Basebya is charged with being a co-perpetrator of genocide crimes, inciting hate against the Tutsi people, conspiracy with other local leaders for the execution of the genocide, abetting to threaten Tutsis and assaulting the personal dignities of several victims. She is said to be responsible for giving militias orders for multiple killings, mutilations and rapes that happened in Gikondo (Kigali) in 1994.
‘The defendant sat between the high walls of her home as a commandant waiting for her boys to do the dirty job’, declared the Public Prosecutor. ‘She acted as a real perpetrator and should therefore get the sentence of a real perpetrator. Basebya was well-off and enjoyed a lot of respect and prestige in the neighbourhood. She conveyed a message of hate, fear and violence, and sowed death and ruins among the Tutsis in her neighbourhood. The sentence should serve as an effective warning to other genocidaires. They should know that they won’t get any lenience anywhere in the world, and especially not in The Netherlands’, she said. The Public Prosecutor went on to say that furthermore, Basebya has not shown any remorse or insight in the court and has consistently been calling prosecution witnesses ‘liars’ or ‘conspirators’.
The demand comes after three days of the requisition, in which the Public Prosecutor has been demonstrating and commenting on the evidence they gathered for the past four years in several countries worldwide, including video material showing members of the CDR [a political party] manifesting, several witness testimonies and satellite photos of the area in Gikondo where Basebya lived and where the alleged crimes took place.
In these three days, several paragraphs of witness’ testimonies were removed from the case as the Public Prosecutor refused to read these to the court, claiming that ‘they weren’t relevant to the case’. Unusual scenes occurred on Monday the 26th of November as the judge asked the Public Prosecutor to read out entire testimonies and not just several selected paragraphs and the Public Prosecutor refused. Furthermore, the Public Prosecutor also claimed that the witness of the defense were all ‘unreliable’ because they all have a close relationship with the defendant. ‘They are either family, or friends, or friends of friends, or even suspects of genocide crimes themselves’, said the Public Prosecutor.
Witness’ demand of 2500€ in advance
Two weeks before the Public Prosecutor’s demand, on Thursday the 15th and Friday the 16th of November, the Dutch district court heard the first, and perhaps the key witness, in the case against Basebya. In a controversial testimony, prosecution witness E.M. accused Basebya of animating and encouraging an angry mob of CDR’s young men on the 22nd of February 1994 and giving them orders to kill her and her husband.
After two days of interrogation, E.M. was given the opportunity to give a victim declaration in which she explained what happened to her in the genocide and how this still affects her daily life. She described how she goes through life as a ‘living dead (mort vivant) who is still breathing and who has a tongue to shout and speak of the horror’. The prosecution witness went on to say that the 1994 ‘genocidaires’, whom she described as a ‘monstrous and killing machines’, are living freely in Europe and none of them regret the crimes they committed. She added that she’s afraid of being killed for speaking about the genocide.
After this declaration, E.M.’s lawyer made a demand of an advance of 2500€ for the ‘immaterial damage’ that has been invoked to her client, who has been allegedly victimized by the defendant. As it was difficult to express E.’s misery in a certain amount of money, the lawyer was now asking for a ‘symbolic advance’ until the actual damages of the claim could be determined. The verdict on this claim is yet to be issued.
E.M. gave her testimony in a separate room that only allowed her lawyer, the defendant and her lawyers, the Public Prosecutor and a handful of press. The rest of the audience, including Basebya’s family, was given a different room in which they could follow the trial through video and audio connections. This setting followed a decision made by the judge on Monday the 12th of November in which the Public Prosecutor asked the interrogation to be held ‘behind closed doors’ because otherwise it could undermine the ‘wellbeing of the witness, her emotional state and the way in which she tells her story.’ The Public Prosecutor argued that in a public setting where ‘all eyes are directed at the witness’, she could feel less at ease and refrain from going into the details of her testimony, which in return could undermine an adequate administration of justice.
In E.M.’s testimony, she said that Basebya was a ‘leading figure in the Coalition pour la Défense de la République (CDR)’ and that she saw her in the ‘violent demonstrations’ of the political party that is regarded as being composed out of Hutu extremists who incited the genocide. She also heard from different neighbours and Gacaca hearings that Basebya was involved in the killing of her husband and that she was the one who sent an angry mob of CDR’s young men with machetes and bats to her house. Furthermore, E.M. precised that she saw Basebya wearing the CDR uniform as she stood in front of a crowd of CDR young men from the neighbourhood with her hands on her thighs as a ‘commandante’. ‘She would march standing and make noises to animate and encourage, and the young men would imitate her’, E.M. pointed out. She said that it looked as if Basebya was ‘charging a group of bulls before unleashing them.’
More than 18 years ago, she also claimed to have seen Basebya in the same CDR setting dancing on the street after the death of Rwigema, a prominent RPF member, while singing ‘Muze twishime nshuti, dore Inyenzi zashize, Imana ntirenganya’ which could be translated into ‘Come friends, let us rejoice for the cockroaches have been exterminated, God is righteous’. E.M. pointed out that this song can also be found in the archives of the RTLM radio that broadcasted it in 1994.
However, when the judge pointed out that Rwigema died in 1990 and that the CDR was founded in 1992, E.M. said that she knew nothing about the chronology of events and that she was only telling the court what she saw and what she heard.
Basebya is the first Dutch citizen to be trialed on crimes of genocide by the Dutch district court. She was first arrested in June 2010 and spent two years in pre-arrest until the judge decided for her release in June 2012. The trial officially started in October this year and the court has reserved 8 weeks for it. E.M. was the first witness to be interrogated and sources say that it’s uncertain whether more witnesses will follow. This is remarkable in a case where the Public Prosecutor is said to have interviewed over 70 witnesses all around the world. The demand of a life sentence is according to the Public Prosecutor in accordance with the ‘great number of victims and severe sorrow caused’.
The next hearing is scheduled for the 6th of December and the verdict is expected in February 2013.