The life sentence given to two Rwandan Genocide convicts by a French court in 2016 should be upheld for justice to prevail for both the victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi, and the survivors who want to see justice done.
The appeal case of Octavian Ngenzi and Tito Barahira, who were successive mayors (bourgmestres) of then Kabarondo Commune which is part of the current Kayonza District, is set to start today, May 2, as they challenge the life sentence before the Paris Cour d’Assises.
They were two years ago sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Speaking to The New Times, Alain Gauthier, president of Collectif des Parties Civiles pours le Rwanda (CPCR), which has for nearly two decades worked to bring Genocide suspects living in France to book, said that starting Tuesday, people from his group including himself will be in Paris, until July 6.
Gauthier said: “Sentenced to life imprisonment on first instance, Ngenzi and Barahira appealed and changed their lawyers, taking up those who defended (Pascal) Simbikangwa. We hope that at the end of this trial the accused will again be given the same sentence.”
Simbikangwa is a former intelligence chief in the genocidal government who was arrested in 2008 while living under an assumed name on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte.
In December 2016, a French court upheld his 25-year jail sentence despite his appeal, after being found guilty of committing genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity.
“We do not know the new line of defence that will be adopted by the convicts, but they have so much lies in the first instance that we are curious to know what posture they will take.”
Meanwhile, in an earlier statement, CPCR had prayed that the trial takes place in serenity and dignity.
“The experience of the previous three trials has shown us that this was not always the case, witnesses from Rwanda (mainly Genocide survivors) were not spared by the defence,” reads part of a CPCR statement.
The duo was accused of genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi; especially participating in killings of Tutsi refugees at Kabarondo Catholic Church in April 1994, where over 1,200 Tutsis were killed.
Prof. Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, president of Ibuka, the umbrella body of Genocide survivors’ associations, said “let’s hope France will not continue playing with the blood of more than one million Tutsi who were killed in the Genocide against the Tutsi.”
“They often play with that blood when they impede justice when it comes to the crimes of Genocide. We request that there be a clear step made in these cases.”
In the appeal trial, just like in the first instance, Gauthier’s group and several other parties participating in it will be assisted by a team of lawyers – Michel Laval, Sophie Dechaumet and Kevin Charrier of ML&A Avocats.
Other associations including Survie, the Fédération Internationale des Droits de l'Homme (FIDH) and the Ligue des Droits de l'Homme (LDH), the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), Ibuka France and the Rwandan community in France will be backing CPCR in various ways.
France remains with the biggest number of indicted genocide fugitives where some have openly continued to enjoy their freedom despite the serious crime of genocide that remains hanging on their necks.