Rwanda: France Denies Delaying Trial for Genocide Suspects

France has denied delaying to dispense justice to genocide fugitives on its soil, arguing that the halting of diplomatic relations between the two countries from 2006-2009 played a role in French courts not speeding up the process of trying the suspects.

Rwanda's National Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga recently told this magazine that his office was weighing up the option of advising government to sue France for failing to extradite over 20 genocide fugitives or trying them.

Although French Ambassador to Rwanda Michel Flesch admitted some delay in trying some genocide suspects, he reasons that the breakdown in diplomatic relations seriously affected the follow up of some genocide cases.

"First of all France is a country that respects the rule of law and abides with the principle of separation of powers which of course Rwanda does," he said in a recent exclusive interview.

"We agree that there are delays in bringing justice to genocide fugitives whose dossiers are over 20 years old but not all genocide suspects' dossiers have delayed because some were made known to the French justice much later," Ambassador Flesch further explained.

The Ambassador who is two months old in the job gives an example of Innocent Musabyimana,a genocide fugitive who was arrested in Dijon eastern France on January 22, less than two months after Ngoga had sent official papers showing that he is a wanted genocide fugitive in Rwanda.

"As you can see, we don't sweep such cases under the carpet. But after arresting him, the Dijon court will take a decision, we cannot pressurise them because as I told you there is separation of powers," Flesch said.

In September last year, the French government set up a special chamber to handle crimes against humanity including genocide, crimes of war, and acts of torture but there has been reluctance to open the genocide cases.

According to the ambassador since then three judges, a deputy prosecutor and French judicial police have been working solely on the 28 genocide suspects and have been to Rwanda twice since the special chamber was set up to carry out investigations.

Who are the suspects?

Many of the suspects are elites who held influential positions in the genocidal government of former President Juvenal Habyarimana.

They include Laurent Bucyibaruta, former prefect of the former Gikongoro prefecture, and Father Wenceslas Muyeshyaka, a former Catholic priest at St Famille parish in Kigali.

Others are Dr Sosthene Munyemana and Eugene Rwamucyo, former lecturers at the National University of Rwanda (NUR); Lt. Col. Marcel Bivugabagabo, former director of operations in the former prefectures of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi; and Felicien Barigira, who headed the communal development fund.

The list also includes Claver Kamana, a former businessman and president of the then ruling party National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) 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 employee of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Kigali, who currently serves as the Secretary General of the Congo-based Forces for Liberation of Rwanda(FDLR) militia; Stanislas Mbonampeka, a lawyer; and Isaac Kamali, who was the director in the Ministry of Public Service in charge of Kigali City.

Prosecution not convinced

Despite France's continued assurance that it will bring justice to the suspects, Martin Ngoga says his office has done everything to facilitate the French government and courts in apprehending and trying the genocide suspects on its soil.

"We have communicated to France countless times and provided them with whatever is needed to bring those fugitives to justice; French judges and investigators have been to Rwanda many times but nothing has come out of it," Ngoga said.

He said that although the Rwandan government has not considered the option to take a legal action against France; his office may challenge it to consider options that would help to pursue justice.

"My office in its attribution to deal with fugitives is considering giving government some options on what to do with a country which does not take seriously individuals indicted of heinous crimes on its territory," says Ngoga.

Last month Ngoga also criticised the French Appeal Court's rejection of the extradition requests for Hyacinthe Rafiki Nsengiyumva, a former Rwandan minister, and Vénuste Nyombayire, both accused of involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Ngoga says that there is need to rethink "our strategy as France, the country that supported the Genocide, cannot be the one to dispense justice."

Many countries that include Belgium, Rwanda's former colonial master, The Netherlands, U.S.A, Finland and Sweden have all co-operated in sending genocide fugitives to stand trial in Rwanda or tried them in their own jurisdictions expect France.

Declining Private French investments and Aid to Rwanda

The difficult relations between the two countries also affected the aid level and economic ties between the countries.

From being one of the country's biggest aid donors before 1994 and having many French private investments in the country, France now gives just 3-4 million Euros as aid which largely go to scholarships and other non budget support sectors and only a handful of French private investments exist in the country.

The French Ambassador admits that the French private investments have declined but says the French government cannot force private companies to come and invest in Rwanda.

"What we need to do is to inform and help the private sector of France and Rwanda to get in touch and explore ways of working together. I think this is a responbility for both the government of Rwanda and France, "Ambassador Flesch said.



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