BRAZZAVILLE, 20 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Some of the Republic of Congo (ROC)'s highest-ranking security officials were put on trial in the capital, Brazzaville, on Tuesday to face charges of killing 353 returning refugees.
The 16 indictees in the long-awaited trail known as the 'Beach' case are accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and assassinations.
Among those indicted are the inspector general of the country's armed forces, Gen. Norbert Dabira; the current commander of the Brazzaville military region, Blaise Adoua; and director general of police, Jean François Ndenguet.
The refugees were allegedly killed in 1999 as they returned from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where they had fled in 1998 to escape ROC's civil war.
When the returning refugees arrived at Brazzaville's river port known as Le Beach they were arrested on suspicion of being supporters of a militia known as the Ninjas. They were never seen in public again.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the governments of the ROC and the DRC had signed an agreement in May 1999 guaranteeing the safety of returning Congolese refugees.
Some groups are now complaining that the indictees are being given preferential treatment and that they have not under arrest.
"Legally, the accused must be arrested 48 hours before the opening of a [criminal] trail and detained during the entire process," Herve Malonga, a lawyer representing the country's civil society groups, said.
The government's spokesman and minister of communication, Alain Akouala, said, "The judiciary will be transparent and the truth will be told on this matter, even though it has been politicised by some Congolese living abroad."
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