At the launch of the Judicial Year recently, the outgoing Prosecutor-General, in his presentation, said, rather to my exasperation, that the French judiciary intended to conduct one trial of an unnamed suspect which will symbolise the 20th commemoration of the Genocide that will be marked next year.
Like any other Rwandan, I was taken aback but not totally surprised by this, because the French have been at it for years.
Hardly a week after the former Prosecutor’s revelation, last week, a court in Northern France gave yet another preposterous reason in setting free Col. Laurent Serubuga, a former deputy army chief of the genocidal government, who had been apprehended on an international arrest warrant issued by Rwanda.
The reason, as reported by numerous media outlets, was that at the time of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, there was no law criminalising genocide or the crimes against humanity he stands accused of, so he could not be tried retrospectively!
He was subsequently set free after just over two months in custody.
This is definitely another indication that Genocide suspects will continue to enjoy their freedom in France because of the precedent set in this case against the man said to be a core member of the 11 ‘Comrades of July 5’ who orchestrated the coup that would enthrone former President Juvenal Habyarimana.
That the man was called out of retirement to head the army during the 100-day mayhem that would claim more than a million innocent lives tells a lot about his credentials, especially by virtue of the then government army’s role in the Genocide.
Of course, this new precedent, ridiculous as it is, even to my limited knowledge of the criminal law, only came up after the “no fair trial is guaranteed in Rwanda” excuse was invalidated by far superior jurisdictions, including the European Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights.
The European court, which ironically sits in the French city of Strasbourg, and its appellate chamber, both ruled last year that Rwandan judiciary was competent enough to impartially try suspects of international crimes.
These decisions, backed by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, punched holes in the hogwash that Rwanda’s legal jurisprudence was wanting.
Getting back to the symbolic trial, of which I have very limited knowledge, one can do nothing but wonder how a developed judicial system can dramatise a crime of genocide, and continue being a safe haven for perpetrators of the Genocide for nearly two decades.
And this is not the first time we have seen these kinds of drama because, almost every year, toward the month of April, conveniently toward the time Rwandans commemorate the Genocide, a Genocide suspect is arrested in France, only for them to be set free almost immediately.
So, much as I would not want to speculate about the outcome of this mock trial, truth is that they are premeditated, because the French judicial system has been at it for years and for those who had little hope that justice will prevail at least in the case of one suspect, it will most likely not.
Currently, there are more than 21 people indicted by the Rwandan prosecution through the Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit, who are roaming freely in France. Most of them are key masterminds of the Genocide, including the former First Lady Agathe Habyarimana, who was herself temporarily arrested in 2010, only to be released after a few weeks.
The indifference and inconsiderate stance by the French courts is not only toward suspects indicted by Rwanda.
Two suspects indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda were five years ago, referred to the European country as part of the tribunal’s completion strategy.
Ever since, nothing has been done and allegedly, one of the two men, Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a catholic priest, has never stopped his pastoral duties, despite the thousands of his congregation whose killing he instigated.
France’s insolence is, therefore, a case of insincerity by maintaining a cocoon of war drums for Syria under the gambit of offering “protection to innocent civilians” allegedly gassed by the regime, when in its backyard fundraiser dinners for terror groups like the FDLR take place with no trepidation by participants of any form of reproach by the host government.
The author is a journalist.