A France-based rights group that has over the years worked tirelessly to see Genocide suspects living in the European country brought to book has petitioned newly-sworn in President Emmanuel Macron to not permit mass murderers roam freely in the country.
Alain Gauthier, president of Collectif des Parties Civiles pours le Rwanda (CPCR), said in a petition published Sunday that earlier during the French presidential campaigns they addressed a similar open letter to all candidates but only one responded.
The petition partly titled, “Strike while the iron is hot,” indicates that in the previous letter the CPCR posed three questions to the candidates, one asking them if they approved of French courts continuously snubbing efforts to have genocide suspects in France extradited to Rwanda where they committed the crime of genocide.
“How long will it take, Mr President, to ensure that all the complaints we have filed are processed? How long will it take for individuals to be brought before the courts of this country? Not to mention all those we are likely to file again,” Gauthier’s letter reads in part.
“For, as you know, the prosecutor’s office, to date, has never prosecuted any person suspected of having participated in the Genocide against the Tutsi. Without the hard work of associations such as ours, no one would talk about the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda 23 years ago.”
Gauthier further asked what measures the new French leader will take to ensure that the sluggishness of French justice in these cases stops; and what additional means he proposes to take to allow the “pôle crimes contre l’humanité” [special unit] established in January 2012 in the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI) of Paris to investigate Rwandan genocide suspects to function more effectively.
He informed President Macron that since 1994, about 30 complaints have been filed in France for genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity, including 25 by the CPCR, and only three in the name of universal jurisdiction.
The three are the trial and conviction of Captain Pascal Simbikangwa (conviction confirmed on appeal in December 2016), and that of two former mayors, Octavian Ngenzi and Tito Barahira, who were both sentenced in July to life in prison by the Paris’ Cour d’Assises, in France. They appealed.
CPCR reiterates that French authorities never wanted to acknowledge the slightest responsibility of the politicians in the 90s in the commission of the genocide.
“We continue to denounce the military, diplomatic and financial complicity of the French state in 1994 with the Rwandan authorities, President Habyarimana until April 1994 at first, the genocidal government that masterminded the massacres, from April 7 to July 4, 1994 on the second phase.”
Mend relations with Rwanda
What the CPCR also wishes to know from the new leadership in France is whether the latter intends to improve the lukewarm diplomatic relations with Rwanda.
“For several years indeed, at the Quai d’Orsay, it seems that Rwanda no longer exists,” their petition states, further asking if the influence of Hubert Védrine and Alain Juppé, two former French foreign ministers still dominates.
Rights activists have in the past pointed to deliberate obstruction of justice in France because if justice was done, there would be dangerous connections to some French politicians who supported the genocidal regime in Rwanda.
Former top French politicians linked to the 1994 Genocide – such as Juppé who was foreign minister in 1994, and later prime minister, are still influential.
Tom Ndahiro, a genocide researcher, said: “It is too early to be pessimistic. The choice of his new close aides and cabinet will signal the look of Macron’s presidency and its character. If he brings in old guards like Juppe, then you know there won’t be any change.”
“But if he gets the young and dynamic folks on board it will be brilliant. We can then hope to hear condemnation of genocide and may be expression of contrition for France’s role in the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda. If he condemned colonialism as a crime against humanity, why not the 1994 Genocide?”