For Immediate Release
February 13, 2003
ISRAELI CIVIL RIGHTS GROUP DEMANDS THAT ATTORNEY GENERAL PROSECUTE FORMER
BELGIUM OFFICIALS FOR MURDER OF AFRICAN LEADER
Shurat HaDin - Israel Law Center, an Israeli civil rights organization has
written Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein today demanding that his office
file a criminal indictment against several former Belgian officials who
were responsible for the assassination of the leader of the Republic of the
Congo, Patrice Lumumba, in 1961.
Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin, has written on
behalf of the organization, that the State of Israel has universal
jurisdiction to prosecute the Belgian leaders involved in the killing. The
Israeli Penal Code in section 16 vests the State of Israel with universal
jurisdiction over offenses against the "law of nations," including crimes
perpetrated by non-Israeli citizens and those committed beyond Israel's
borders. The letter notes that no individual nor official of Belgium has
ever been prosecuted for his role in the brutal murder of Lumumba.
Background: The Kingdom of Belgium occupied the territory of the Congo as a
colony, starting in the late 19th Century. In the decades that followed,
the government of Belgium was responsible for the murders of millions of
African residents of the Congo. Belgian mining companies competed in the
region's for the Congo's rich supply of precious metals and natural
resources, leaving the native residents economically impoverished. In 1960,
the people of the Congo won independence from Belgium, and elected Patrice
Lumumba as their first Prime Minister. Lumumba ran an election campaign
pledging full economic and political independence from Brussels. Fearful
of losing its lucrative investments in Africa, Belgium decided to
eliminate Lumumba and other officials of his party.
Belgium provoked a civil revolt against Lumumba's rule and provided arms to
his political opposition. In December 1960, Belgian back forces arrested
Lumumba and transferred him to a jail in the province of Katanga. On January
17, 1961, Lumumba was dragged from his cell and brutally tortured by Belgian
police officials. In the evening he was brought, along with two other
members of his party, before a police firing squad and executed.
Days later, a Belgian police officer was ordered to exhume Lumumba's body,
dismembered it with a hacksaw and dissolved all traces of it with sulfuric
acid. Recently, Belgian historian, Ludo de Witte, discovered documents that
were sent by the, then, Belgian Minister for African Affairs, Harold
Aspermont Lynen, ordering the assassination of the Congo leader: "The main
objective to pursue, in the interests of the Congo, Katanga and Belgium, is
clearly the elimination of Lumumba."
In response to this revelation, Brussels appointed a governmental commission
to investigate Belgium's role in the murder of Lumumba. The Commission found
that Belgium was indeed responsible for the African leader's killing in
1961. The Government of Belgium offered an official apology to the Lumumba
family, but no individuals were prosecuted for the crime.
The former Belgian officials who it is alleged were involved in the
conspiracy to murder Lumumba are: Pierre Wigny, Harold Aspremont Lynden,
Gerard Soete, Franz Verscheure, Julien Gat, Piet Van der Meersh, Jean Louis
Drugmand, Louis Marliere, Claude Grandelet and Gabriel Michelsa. Members of
the Belgian Royal also played a role in the conspiracy.
"The government of Belgium murdered millions of Africans during its decades
of occupation and economic rape of the Congo," stated attorney
Darshan-Leitner, "The Belgian officials who assassinated Lumumba have never
been indicted nor punished in any manner for this loathsome murder. Given
Belgium's new found interest in international law enforcement, Israel
should indict all the former Belgian officials involved and commence a
criminal prosecution of Lumumba's murder in Jerusalem."