Rwanda: Anger As France Delays Trial of Genocide Suspect Muhayimana

Mourners at a commemoration event at Murambi Genocide Memorial (file photo).
19 January 2021

France-based Collectif des parties civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR), which works to see Genocide suspects living in France brought to book, has expressed anger and shock after a trial that was supposed to be held there next month has been postponed.

The trial of Claude Muhayimana, a Genocide suspect living in France, earlier scheduled to run from September 29 to October 23, 2020 was last September pushed to February 2 to 26, 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

But now, just about two weeks before it was set to start, the CPCR learns from its lawyers that there has been another postponement.

Reacting to what he called a "last-minute" postponement of the trial to a later date, Alain Gauthier, the CPCR president, on Tuesday, January 19, told The New Times that the new development is a "huge disappointment."

Clearly, Gauthier noted, time is playing in favor of the mass killers. This latest postponement, he said, creates immense disappointment among the rights activists and the families of the Genocide victims.

Gauthier then showed the disappointing message his lawyers received.

It indicates that the president of the Paris Cours d'Assises - where Genocide cases are heard - has just signed a referral order regarding Muhayimana's trial.

"Indeed the measures relating to the conditions of access to French territory for travelers coming from countries outside the European Union applying to Rwandan nationals and these being required not only to present a negative PCR test, but also to undertake to respect seven days (of quarantine) on their arrival in France, this constraint causes unforeseen difficulties and nullifies the plan of the schedule of the hearing," reads part of the lawyers' memo.

"Moreover, as it is difficult to envisage, both for the good conduct of the proceedings and to avoid a problematic extension of the duration of the trial, to proceed with the hearing of all the witnesses residing in Rwanda by videoconference, the president was forced to order the referral of this file to a later session."

No date was given when the trial will be held.

"The CPCR can only take note of this decision and express the wish that the trial can proceed as quickly as possible," Gauthier said.

Muhayimana has been a naturalized French citizen since 2010. The CPCR accuses him of having regularly transported Interahamwe militia to the hills of Karongi and Bisesero where they murdered people en-mass.

Muhayimana now resides in Rouen, capital of the northern French region of Normandy, according to sources.

If he is eventually brought before court for trial, he will be the third person to be tried for the Genocide against the Tutsi in France.

The other two trials that have taken place in France include that of Pascal Simbikangwa, former senior intelligence officer who was given a 25-year sentence in 2014.

In 2016, Octavien Ngenzi and Tito Barahira, two former mayors in eastern Rwanda, were given life sentences.

One of the top Interahamwe leaders in Kibuye

According to the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), Muhayimana was one of the top Interahamwe leaders in Kibuye town who played a big role, as a driver, while transporting killers to places where they massacred people during the Genocide.

Besides transporting the killers, the accused also killed people in the area.

Muhayimana faces charges of complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity through aiding and assisting such crimes.

In 2014, he was arrested in France's northern city of Rouen after a year-long investigation triggered by a complaint by the CPCR.

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