Rwandan faces landmark French genocide trial

2014-02-04 08:54
File, AFP

File, AFP

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - A French court on Tuesday begins hearing the landmark trial of a former Rwandan army captain charged with complicity in the 1994 genocide that left 800 000 people dead.

Wheelchair-bound Pascal Simbikangwa, 54, goes on trial in France after being arrested in October 2008 on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, where he had been living in hiding for three years.

He is being tried under laws adopted in 1996 and 2010 that allow French courts to consider cases of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Rwanda and other countries.

The historic case is being watched closely in France, which was accused of failing to rein in the Rwandan regime at the time of the genocide and of later dragging its feet over the repatriation or prosecution of individuals suspected of involvement in crimes against humanity.

The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks and, in a rare situation for France, will be filmed for posterity, with recordings available once the case is concluded.

Simbikangwa, who has been a paraplegic since a car accident in 1986, is facing charges of complicity to commit genocide in connection with incidents in the capital Kigali and his native Gisenyi region in the northwest.

Simbikangwa, who denies all the charges against him, is accused of supplying arms, instructions and encouragement to Interahamwe Hutu militia who were manning road blocks and killing Tutsi men, women and children as they arrived.

Pressure on the judiciary

Simbikangwa acknowledges being close to the regime of Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination on 6 April 1994, unleashed the genocide, in which most of the victims were members of the minority Tutsi community.

But he denies participating in or organising massacres.

He was initially charged with genocide and crimes against humanity but the charges were downgraded to complicity.

A separate allegation of involvement in torture was dropped on statute of limitations grounds.

His lawyers have attacked the prosecution case as being based purely on unchallenged witness accounts.

They say his trial is the result of pressure on the judiciary against the background of a rapprochement between France and the current government in Rwanda following three years (2006-2009) during which diplomatic relations were broken off.

"There is pressure from the Rwanda authorities on France and monstrous pressure from the civil parties who initiated the case," the lawyers, Alexandra Bourgeot and Fabrice Epstein, said in a statement.

They said Simbikangwa was being made a "scapegoat" for the genocide on the approach of its 20th anniversary.

'Cog' in a genocidal machine

Prosecutors abandoned an attempt to also implicate Simbikangwa in an April 1994 massacre at Kesho Hill in Gisenyi province, because witness accounts of his role only came in years later and were marked by contradictions.

About 1 400 Tutsis were killed at Kesho, many of them in a church where women, children and the elderly had taken refuge.

Simon Foreman, a lawyer who represents civil parties in the case, said the charge of complicity "in no way diminishes the responsibility" of Simbikangwa, whom he described as "a cog in a mechanism operated by others".

Following Simbikangwa's arrest in Mayotte, France's courts refused - as they have done systematically - to extradite him to Rwanda for trial there.

Four NGOs are also civil parties to the case, but the only directly affected plaintiff, a Belgium-based Rwandan who holds Simbikangwa responsible for the massacre of her entire family, had her case rejected for lack of evidence.

"There could have been more effort made to find direct victims," said Patrick Baudoin, a lawyer and the chairman of one of the NGOs involved, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH).

But he welcomed the fact a trial is taking place, saying: "Finally France is meeting its obligations."

Read more on:    france  |  rwanda  |  east africa  |  1994 rwandan genocide
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

The ANC's election claims examined - Report

In the run-up to the 7 May election, the ANC says it has a “good story to tell” about its performance over that period. This is the first of two reports evaluating key claims.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Watch what happened when we blindfolded Helen Zille and asked her to eat random things
13 days to elections - news you need to know
11 Julius Malema quotes you'll never forget
DA won't get 30% - Zille
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Friday Newlands - 10:54 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    SLOW TRAFFIC on Wynberg Hill
  • Friday Cape Town - 09:50 AM
    Road name: N2 Westbound
    ROADWORKS - right lane closed at the Robert Sobukwe Road exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

24 hour sale- 30% off homeware & appliances

Today only get 30% off selected electric blankets, heaters, kettles, coffee machines & so much more. Offer expires midnight 25 April. While stocks last. Shop now!

Mother’s Day special offers!

Spoil mom with these awesome specials that will warm her heart. Shop now!

Twisp – the smoking alternative

Buy any 2 refills for R250 and save R149. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Mother’s Day specials on appliances

Browse our range of Mother’s Day appliances to spoil and pamper mom. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Samsung Galaxy Note 16GB

GALAXY Note combines the market's largest HD Super AMOLED display,...

From R3899.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Treat yourself to something beautiful. You tend to put so much energy in making everything around you work harmoniously, and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.