30 June 2017

Rwanda: Genocide - Fresh Bid for Inquiry Into France's Role Ahead of UN Review

Photo: New Times
Family and friends lay wreaths on the graves of victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi at a commemoration event (file photo).

Genocide survivors and a France-based civil society organisation, Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR), have separately asked the UN to examine France's role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The two submissions were handed over this week to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council ahead of France's Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which takes place in January 2018.

The Genocide survivors made their submission through their umbrella association, Ibuka.

In a statement released Wednesday, CPCR, which has spent nearly two decades advocating for the prosecution of suspected génocidaires residing in France, maintains that its sole goal is to obtain the truth and seek justice for the victims of the Genocide.

CPCR, a non-governmental organisation based in Reims, France, was established in 2001 with the aim of ensuring justice and accountability for victims of the 1994 Genocide.

According to CPCR president Alain Gauthier, their submission is focused on the refusal by France to acknowledge its role in the Genocide, in which more than a million were slaughtered between April and July 1994.

"France has persistently chosen to deny and minimise its own role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. By choosing not to extradite or in delaying the prosecution of suspected génocidaires residing in France, France has blocked efforts to establish the truth and bring about justice," Gauthier said.

CPCR denounces the systematic refusal by France to extradite suspected génocidaires to Rwanda to face trial, he said.

The rights group says that 30 individual extradition requests have been rejected by France's Cour de Cassation.

CPCR also questions the deliberate delays of French justice to prosecute Genocide suspects on its soil. These failures, it says, amount to a breach of international law by France.

Gauthier describes the decision to step the campaign at the UN as timely and necessary, as France continues to perpetuate injustices committed as part of the Genocide.

"For years we have endeavoured to engage with the French government, exhausting all political and legal avenues to find justice for the victims.

"But after years of denial and complicity, it is timely and necessary to refer these failings to the United Nations, in the hope that the UPR process will finally help to reveal the truth about France's historic role in the atrocities of 1994," Gauthier added.

The UPR is a process that involves periodic review of the human rights records of all the 193 UN members. It was established in 2006 and is based on equal treatment for all countries.

In a statement released Thursday, Ibuka said that it shares, supports and endorses the concerns raised by CPCR. Ibuka, in its own submission to the UNHRC, appeals the UN Human Rights Council and all UN member states to give the concerns raised due consideration and take all the necessary action in regards to the CPCR recommendations.

Ibuka president Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu said yesterday, "We call upon the UN Human Rights Council and all UN member states to acknowledge the role of French officials in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and to take appropriate steps in accordance with national and international legal frameworks.

"In addition, we call upon the country to either extradite to Rwanda or prosecute all the alleged génocidaires to whom it continues to provide a safe haven."

Prominent genocidaires in France

In its submission, CPCR specifically recommends that France prosecute two Genocide suspects Wenceslas Munyeshyaka and Laurent Bucyibaruta, as France was obliged to do when it accepted the transfer of the case files from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2007.

In the Munyeshyaka case, the French investigating judges dismissed the case in October 2015, but the civil parties who appealed this judgment still await the decision of the French courts.

For Bucyibaruta, despite the closure of investigations into his involvement in the Genocide, a final decision as to whether he will be brought to justice is yet to be made.

CPCR pointed out that the failure to prosecute those accused of genocide is in direct conflict with international human rights obligations.

The National Commission for the fight against Genocide (CNLG) welcomed the submission from the two organisations.

In a statement released Thursday, the Executive Secretary of CNLG, Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana, said; "CNLG is grateful to CPCR and Ibuka for sharing copies of their submissions and welcomes these valuable contributions to the ongoing fight for truth and justice."

Meanwhile, further evidence of France's role in the Genocide continues to emerge, with French media this week reporting about its government's role as well as the financing of arms purchases by a French bank.

"Recent revelations in the French media about the French Government's decision to re-arm the genocidal forces and the role of French bank BNP Paribas in financing arms purchases underscore the critical importance of Ibuka and CPCR's call for the French Government to immediately declassify and release all documentation related to France's role in the Genocide," Bizimana added.

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