Belgians accused of war crimes in killing of Congo leader Lumumba

A son of Congo's first democratically-elected leader, Patrice Lumumba, is to seek the prosecution for war crimes of 12 Belgian officials suspected of aiding his father's assassination in 1961.

Lawyers for Francois Lumumba said on Tuesday that they planned to file the complaint at a Brussels court in October – a week before the Democratic Republic of Congo celebrates 50 years of independence from its former colonial master, Belgium.

"I want to know how he died. There are many books I can read and everything has been said, but there is no justice," said Guy Lumumba, the leader's youngest son, at a news conference at which Francois was not present.

The complaint will assert that the Belgian government and military officials were involved in transferring Mr Lumumba Snr from captivity in the capital, Léopoldville, to the region of Katanga, and that they failed to prevent him being tortured and killed.

Patrice Lumumba came to power after the Congo won independence from Belgium in 1960. His government was overthrown in a coup led by the young head of the Congolese army, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu.

Mr Lumumba, who was mistrusted by Washington because of his close ties to the Soviet Union, escaped house arrest in January 1961 only to be recaptured, beaten and killed by Mobutu's soldiers with the assistance of Belgian officers, the legal documents will say.

A Belgian parliamentary investigation in 2001 found that Belgium was "morally responsible" for the murder of Mr Lumumba. Belgium has since officially apologised for its role.

"Belgium was party to the conflict in Congo at the time," said Christophe Marchand, a lawyer for the Lumumba family. "A conflict between several sovereign states – Belgium and Congo – which makes this an armed international conflict during which war crimes were committed."

He declined to disclose the names of the 12 potential defendants, saying only that they were all in Congo at the time of Mr Lumumba's death. Under the Mobutu regime, the central African country was plagued by corruption.

The Belgian government's decision to accept an invitation to Congo's independence day celebrations next Wedneesday has stirred controversy because of tense relations between Brussels and its former colony. King Albert will be the first Belgian monarch to visit the country in 25 years. "This is a symbolic moment," Mr Marchand added. "Fifty years of independence is a good thing but we need to make clear that justice has not yet been done in the murder of Lumumba."

Comments