The trial of two Genocide suspects, expected to start today in France, must be expedited as there is ample and undisputable evidence against them, Ibuka president Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu has said.
The trial of Octavian Ngenzi, 58, and Tito Barahira, 64, former mayors of Kabarondo in eastern Rwanda, will be heard before Paris’ Cour d’Assises from today to July 1.
Ibuka is the umbrella of Genocide survivors associations.
Dusingizemungu said: “It has been so long since we requested that these men be brought before a court. And now that it is happening we request that the trial be expedited. There should be no reason for delays really, especially since evidence against them is more than enough.
“Also important is that the trial is conducted in a fair manner. These people shouldn’t be difficult to try. These are men who, being mayors, had they so wanted, no genocide would have happened in their areas of influence.”
The mayors of the former Kabarondo Commune (now Kayonza District) between 1977 and 1994 are accused of genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
They are accused of especially participating in the killings of Tutsi refugees at Kabarondo Catholic Church in April 1994.
Both fled Rwanda in 1994.
Ngenzi is particularly accused of supervising the killing of over 1,200 people in the church.
Before his arrest in April, 2013, Barahira disguised himself by changing his name to Barahirwa. Ngenzi was arrested in Mayotte islands in 2010. In 2013, the other was arrested in Toulouse, a city in southwestern France.
France is host to more known and indicted Genocide suspects than any other country in Europe, Justice minister Johnston Busingye said, admitting that putting “trust in the French justice on the issue of the Genocide is risky business.”
France habours such Genocide fugitives as Agathe Kanziga, widow of President Juvénal Habyarimana; Sosthène Munyemana, nicknamed “the Butcher of Tumba”; and Dr Eugène Rwamucyo, suspected of involvement in the Genocide in southern Rwanda.
“It’s too early to comment on this trial, it’s safer to watch what happens for now. It’s 22 years after the 1994 against the Tutsi, France is host, in fact safe haven, to more known and indicted Genocide suspects than any other country in Europe,” Busingye said.
“The snail pace of French justice system in bringing these suspects to justice and the strange application of law in the conduct of the drop in the ocean trials is a constant thorn in the flesh of the Genocide victims.”
In March 2014, French prosecutors sought life sentence for Pascal Simbikangwa – intelligence chief of Rwanda’s genocidal regime in 1994 – at the conclusion of his trial, the first of its kind in France.
Simbikangwa’s trial started on February 4, 2014.
He was handed a 25-year prison sentence for genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity but he appealed and the appeal hearing is set for October 25 through December 9 at the Cour d’Assises de Bobigny, in northeastern Paris.
Dusingizemungu also appealed for public support, especially financially, toward the efforts of groups such as France-based Collectif des Parties Civiles pours le Rwanda (CPCR), and the newly-formed and Rwanda-based non-governmental organisation, “Les Amis du CPCR,” (ACPCR) (Friends of CPCR).
CPCR has worked hard to see Genocide suspects living in France brought to book.
ACPCR was launched in March to help the Paris-based CPCR carry on with its protracted campaign against the fugitives.
The objective of ACPCR is to morally and financially support CPCR in court cases against people living in France and suspected of involvement in the Genocide.
CPCR has so far filed 28 complaints with the investigating judges of the “pôle crimes contre l’humanité” established in January 2012 in the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) of Paris to investigate cases of Rwandans implicated in the Genocide. But among other challenges, it has been running out of money, a necessity as the trials are costly and often lengthy.
A worrying ‘conscience clause’
CPCR, which has closely followed the development ahead of the trial recently, last week received an unforeseen blow.
The President of CPCR, Alain Gauthier, told The New Times that as they prepared to follow the trial, French prosecutor Aurelia Devos, head of a French unit specialised in crimes against humanity, including genocide, threw in the towel.
Devos previously travelled to Rwanda to investigate cases of Rwandans living in France and accused of participating in the Genocide and is well versed with the two suspects’ case file.
Surprisingly, Gauthier said, Devos, a record specialist designated as co-General Counsel, invoked the “conscience clause” to withdraw from the case.
“The problem is that we do not know the reasons behind this decision. This decision bothers us,” Gauthier said.
The “conscience clause,” Gauthier explained, normally applies when, at the end of trial, the General Counsel has made his submissions and his colleague realises that oral indictment does not conform to the written indictment.
“What is behind Devos’ decision? How is it that a few days ago, after her withdrawal, the defence gave up on calling nearly 10 witnesses?” Gauthier poses.
The president of CPCR added that given recent developments, the trial has thus not been prepared in serenity.
“We must be vigilant so that the trial is not preordained. We would not appreciate going to a programmed acquittal. It would be a denial of justice,” he said.
The New Times has since learnt that about 30 to 40 witnesses will, before long, be transported to France.
French investigators, with the help of the National Public Prosecution Authority, in the past listed people who will be witnesses in court and, those who cannot travel there, such as prisoners, can testify via video conference.