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Friday, 8 December, 2000, 23:58 GMT
Arrest warrant for minister upheld
Tutsi refugees in eastern DRC
Testimonies of surviving Tutsis prompted allegations
By Geraldine Coughlin in The Hague

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has temporarily upheld an international arrest warrant issued by Belgium against a government minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi allegedly incited massacres of ethnic Tutsis at the start of the Congolese rebellion two years ago.

Abdoulaye Yerodia
Abdoulaye Yerodia said he was referring to aggressors in general

The court is to rule in the coming months on the legal basis for the warrant.

Congo had asked for an emergency order to block Mr Yerodia's arrest if he travels abroad. The court refused this, but during the next few months will consider whether the warrant violates international law.

Courts in Belgium can, under a 1993 law, try foreigners for crimes against humanity allegedly committed in their own countries.

'Anti-Tutsi' statements

Mr Yerodia was indicted by Belgian prosecutors in April for inciting racial hatred against ethnic Tutsis because of statements he made after the outbreak of the Tutsi-led rebellion in 1998, when he headed the cabinet of President Laurent Kabila.

President Laurent Kabila
Congo's President Kabila: Unhappy with Belgium's stand

The Congolese minister denies the charges, but now risks arrest and deportation to Belgium if he leaves Congo.

Belgium argues that as a suspected perpetrator of mass atrocities, Yerodia Ndombasi is not entitled to diplomatic immunity.

But in a setback for Belgium, the judges refused to dismiss Congo's protest against the warrant outright. The 15-judge panel has yet to rule on whether it has jurisdiction in the matter.

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See also:

30 Jun 00 | Africa
Timeline: DR Congo conflict
30 Jun 00 | Africa
Congo's unhappy birthday
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