Global Policy Forum

Rwanda 'Shock' As Genocide Suspects Freed


By Arthur Asiimwe

August 3, 2007

Rwanda is shocked by a French appeals court ruling that freed two Rwandans indicted by Kigali and an international court over the country's 1994 genocide, and its foreign minister has called the decision absurd. Rwanda had sought the extradition of Roman Catholic priest Wenceslas Munyeshyaka and another man, Laurent Bucyibaruta. But the court ruled on Wednesday the indictments violated the presumption of innocence. "They claim the warrants had defects in writing, but we believe they should have held them while the mistakes in the warrants were sorted out," Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande told Reuters. The two suspects had lived in France for years.

They were detained last month because of the indictments from Rwanda and the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is prosecuting top architects of the genocide. Their release came shortly after French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he would probably visit Rwanda "very soon" in a move that would signal a thaw in relations after Kigali cancelled diplomatic ties with Paris last year. The French Foreign Ministry said it hoped the ruling would not damage improving relations between the two countries. "We hope that the rapprochement between Paris and Kigali, which is something we want to see, and which apparently the Rwandan authorities also want, is not put into question," a foreign ministry spokesman said.


The Rwandan move to cut ties followed a French judge's call for President Paul Kagame to be charged with the death of his predecessor in April 1994, an event that unleashed the genocide in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus died. Former rebel leader Kagame and other critics accuse France of covering up its role in training troops who carried out the massacres in the central African country and propping up the Hutu political leaders who deployed them. France denies the charge and says its forces helped protect people during a UN-sanctioned mission in Rwanda at the time. The Rwandan representative at the ICTR was quoted by the BBC as saying the French court's decision could have been politically motivated.

"There is lots of politicking about genocide cases," the BBC quoted Aloys Mutabingwa as saying. Mr Kagame's Tutsi-led Rwandan Government wants Mr Munyeshyaka to be sent to Rwanda to serve a life sentence after he was tried and sentenced in absentia. It wanted Mr Bucyibaruta to stand trial. The ICTR has charged Mr Bucyibaruta, a former top local official in Gikongoro district, with genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination, murder and rape. Mr Munyeshyaka, former head of the Sainte-Famille parish in Kigali, was sentenced in absentia to life in jail in November by a military tribunal for complicity in genocide and rape.

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