The District Court in The Hague on Monday 'paused' the pre-trial detention of Yvonne Basebya (65) until the start of her trial in October 2012. “Although she is accused of the most serious crimes in Dutch law,” said the court, her preventive imprisonment simply “has taken too long”.
ByThijs Bouwknegt, The Hague
“À demain” – or “until tomorrow” – chanted Basebya’s more than 30 family members and friends who attended her tenth pre-trial hearing. They were all dressed in pink, the colour of prison dresses in Rwanda, as a protest.
Basebya was arrested on 21 June 2010 on allegations that in 1994, she spurred Hutu militias to seek out and kill Tutsis in Kigali’s suburb of Gikondo.
Song, dance and murder
Prosecution witnesses say that Basebya led gatherings of the extremist Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR) Hutu party in Gikondo, singing patriotic songs and dancing with murderous militias while issuing execution orders.
The Dutch International Crimes Unit has been working on the case for the past four years, and according to the prosecution, new evidence is still emerging against Basebya.
Their file, codenamed “Fox”, describes a bloody history between February and April 1994: genocide, war crimes, incitement, murder and rape. The evidence: eyewitness accounts, phone taps and files from gacaca, the country’s community courts.
A sinking ship
But according to Basebya’s lawyer, Victor Koppe, the prosecution case is like “an orchestra on the Titanic. It is heading towards a judicial disaster and it is an example of extreme tunnel vision.”
The defence lawyer says the prosecution case is based on false accusations levelled by a small group of Rwandans who are after the property of the Basebya family in Gikondo through Gacaca proceedings.
“There is much corruption in gacaca when it comes to land ownership of Rwandans who fled the country,” Koppe warned judges.
In 2009, a gacaca court sentenced Basebya to life imprisonment for her role during the genocide while she was already living in the Netherlands and carrying a Dutch passport. In 2011, another gacaca court ordered Basebya –and others – to pay a fine for 1992-1993 plundering charges.
All in the family?
Basebya only came to the attention of the Dutch criminal investigation department during a probe into the activities of her husband Augustin Basebya – a former defence investigator at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
But suspicion quickly turned away from him and fell on Yvonne.