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Belgium pursues case against ex-minister before ICJ

Belgium asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Thursday to rule on the legality of an arrest warrant for former Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) foreign minister Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi, wanted on charges of war crimes and genocide, AFP reported. Belgium also asked the court to rule against Kinshasa's argument that Ndombasi had immunity as a serving minister in 1998 when he made remarks that allegedly incited racial hatred against ethnic Tutsis at the start of a Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebellion in the DRC. Ndombasi issued a public appeal for the "eradication and the crushing of the Rwandan and Ugandan invaders", whom he described as "microbes", AFP reported. The Rwandan government and army are dominated by minority Tutsis, and ethnic hatred against Tutsis was at a fever pitch in Kinshasa. Many Rwandan Tutsis and DRC Tutsis, known as Banyamulenge, were burned alive in the streets of the capital, according to testimony from victims' families. Ndombasi has denied the allegations, saying his statements were aimed at "the aggressors (from Rwanda), and not a particular ethnic group." DRC Justice Minister Antoine Deogratias Ngele Masudi told the court that "the Belgian arrest warrant is internationally illegal and causes a prejudice in [DR] Congo that must be rectified." Pleading Belgium's side, Daniel Betlehem said that Ndombasi "no longer occupies a ministerial function. There is therefore no more dispute". Law professor Eric David told the court the arrest warrant was legal because it conformed to international law, and ministerial immunity did not protect the perpetrator of crimes from international law. Belgium passed a law in 1993 under which it can prosecute heads of state and ministers, regardless of their nationality or where the crimes were committed. The ICJ, the highest judicial body of the UN, has the final word in disputes among states and is due to release its verdict in four to six months.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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