The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda Considers Legal Action Against France Over Fugitives

Photo: News of Rwanda
Burial for genocide victims (file photo).

Rwanda may drag France to court over the latter's reluctance to help bring to book top Genocide fugitives on her territory, it has emerged.

In an interview with The New Times, Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga said, "After almost two decades of giving them benefit of the doubt, it is now clear to us that French authorities are unwilling to deliver justice in Genocide cases.

France's most recent controversial decisions related to Genocide fugitives include a case in which a judge ruled that former First Lady, Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana, be given permanent residence; and the blocking of the extradition to Rwanda of Hyacinthe Rafiki Nsengiyumva, a former minister in the genocidal regime.

And last week, the same court of Paris rejected the extradition to Rwanda of Vénuste Nyombayire, a former senior official with SOS, a child support NGO.

"We have to rethink the strategy, we have to look around for more actions that may include taking legal action at the international level, or invoking different international conventions that may bind France and force them to take action," Ngoga said.

He added, "There's an obligation on states to act on fugitives of serious crimes like genocide, this could be possible under domestic mechanisms or international mechanisms."

There cannot be a situation where a country is permitted under international legal order to act with indifference on a serious problem like this one, added the prosecutor general.

France, a country which maintained close ties with the genocidal regime of Juvenal Habaryimana, is home to at least 21 indicted Genocide fugitives, according to the National Public Procurement Authority.

Several of these fugitives have previously been arrested on Rwanda's request, only to be released shortly after.

"I do not have any specific option that I would prefer now but we are challenged as Rwandans to think about what to do," Ngoga noted.

"The French courts have gone to the extent of branding our indictments as politically motivated. What they need to know is that we are not doing politics when we issue indictments," he explained.

He added, "We are just pursuing suspects who stand accused of murdering our people. This bunch of fugitives do not constitute political constituency the French want them to look like".

Most of the suspects fled to France in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed the lives of at least a million people in a record a 100 days.

"There cannot be any other logical explanation to this indifference other than France's own role in support of the genocidal government. By asking France to act on suspects we are peddling against the tide," the prosecutor general said.

Ngoga said Rwanda has repeatedly asked France to try these fugitives in their own courts if they were not comfortable with extraditing them. These wanted suspects are also on Interpol red notice.

Among these suspects are Laurent Bucyibaruta, former prefet of the former Gikongoro prefecture, and Father Wenceslas Muyeshyaka, a former catholic priest at St Famille parish in Kigali, whose cases were transferred to France by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

"They have had these cases for the last five years and have done nothing about them at all. These are cases they were referred there by a UN court. Assuming our indictments are political, what have they done on the indictments from ICTR?" Ngoga posed.

ICTR has transferred cases and suspects to Rwanda after it was satisfied the country's justice system was in position to render fair justice.

Canada and the US are among other jurisdictions which have referred suspects to Rwanda in recent years.

The top European court of human rights has also endorsed extraditions to Rwanda.

Some French political and military officials are accused of directly participating in the Genocide and, Ngoga said, this is something Kigali takes seriously.

"We also have to look into individual roles of French citizens who were implicated in the Genocide to bring more clarity on what could be happening behind the scenes. It is imperative to us that sooner or later these must also be made to account."

Other Genocide fugitives on French soil include, Dr Sosthene Munyemana, a former lecturer at the National University of Rwanda (NUR); Lt. Col. Marcel Bivugabagabo, former director of operations in the former prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi; Eugene Rwamucyo, a former lecturer at NUR; and Felicien Barigira, who headed the communal development fund.

Others include, Claver Kamana, a former businessman and president of MRND (the then ruling party) in the former Gitarama prefecture; Pierre Tegera, who worked with the National Programme for Potato Improvement (PNAP) in Kinigi and served as an honorary president of the Interahamwe Genocide militia in Kibilira commune; Alphonse Ntilivamunda, formerly a director in the Ministry of Public Service; and Enoch Kanyondo alias Pheneas Gakumba, who was a football referee and an active member of MRND.

They also include Callixte Mbarushimana, a former UNDP in Kigali, who currently serves as the Secretary General of the Congo-based FDLR militia; Stanislas Mbonampeka, a lawyer; and Isaac Kamali, who was the director in the Ministry of Public Service in charge of Kigali City.

Several reports have documented the role of France in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

A report by a Rwandan inquiry concluded that French soldiers took part in rape, sexual harassment and torturing of Tutsi women during the Genocide.

The French soldiers were part of the so-called Operation Tourquoise, which had been deployed in western Rwanda under the guise of protecting civilians, but instead provided a corridor for the Genocidal machinery to flee into the Congo - as the country fell to the RPA soldiers who would stop the Genocide.

Witness accounts from the report indicate that in some cases, some French solders misled the unsuspecting refugees to come out of their hiding saying they had come to their rescue only to hand them to the militia upon getting out of their hiding.

Notable among such incidents was in Bisesero in Kibuye where Tutsis had mounted a resistance against the marauding Interahamwe militia and government troops, thanks largely to the hills of Bisesero, but more than 50,000 of them would later be killed after the French soldiers lured them out of the hills.

The Mucyo Report, as it is popularly known - released in 2008 - pointed an accusing finger at 33 French political and military officials for having directly or indirectly supported the Genocide against the Tutsi.

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Burial for genocide victims (file photo).

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