French judges asked to annul Rwandan indictments

Lawyers for seven senior Rwandan officials indicted by former French terror judge Jean-Louis Bruguière have called for the indictments to be quashed following new developments in the case.
Agathe Habyarimana.  Net photo.
Agathe Habyarimana. Net photo.

Lawyers for seven senior Rwandan officials indicted by former French terror judge Jean-Louis Bruguière have called for the indictments to be quashed following new developments in the case.

The seven were among those accused by Bruguière of being part of a plot behind the shooting down of former President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane in 1994 that signalled the beginning of the Genocide against the Tutsi that claimed over a million lives.

In a statement released yesterday, Léon Lef Forster and Bernard Maingain, maintained that a recent decision by the Paris Court of Appeal, that threw out a petition by Habyarimana’s widow, Agathe Kanziga, challenging the results by ballistic experts commissioned by Bruguière’s successors; Judges Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux punched holes in the cases.

“Attempts by some civil parties to discredit and nullify the findings -- and to further delay the Trévidic-Poux investigation -- have unequivocally failed.  There is no justification for further harm to come the way of our clients whose innocence is now crystal clear,” Maingain and Forster said on Monday.

The experts concluded that the missiles that brought down the plane were fired from within Kanombe Military Barracks in Kigali, home of the elite Para Commando Battalion loyal to Habyarimana and, most importantly, the Anti ¬Aircraft Battalion.

Bruguière, without carrying out any on-the-ground investigations or auditioning the subjects of his accusations, had put the blame squarely on the laps of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) who, evidence showed, had no access to the launch site.

Many experts regarded Bruguière’s investigations as seriously flawed and politically motivated. In March 2009, journalist Christophe Boltanski, alleged that the French judge built his case under the shadow of the French secret service, DST, with which he had a cosy relationship that spanned over decades.

“He was the first judge to use the DST to carry out investigations for him instead of the criminal or judicial police,” he said, adding that the whole plot was hatched at the French Embassy in Kampala in 2003.

Bruguière’s case began to crumble in January 2009, when one of the people he had targeted, former Chief of State Protocol, Rose Kabuye, was arrested in Germany while on official duty and transfered to France.  By then, Bruguière had been replaced by Trévidic and Poux.

The arrest gave the defendants a chance to examine the charge sheet that had hitherto been kept away from them. The gaping holes began to appear and Kabuye was released. The new judges began from scratch and even came to Rwanda accompanied by various experts.

On the conclusions of the tour, a preliminary report pointed to the Habyarimana camp, who rushed to court to try and quash the findings.

The report was welcomed by the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR)

“The ICGLR would like to congratulate the Government of Rwanda in view of the fact that the side of the story which the Government had always credited has been confirmed by an independent reliable source,” a statement released shortly after the verdict reads in part.

While the final report is yet to be published, those who closely followed the case, say preliminary findings indicate that Judge Bruguière, for his own reasons, was searching for clues in the wrong place.

“This ruling by the Court of Appeal clears the way for Judges Trévidic and Poux to right the wrong committed during Judge Bruguière’s tenure – by finally lifting these noxious indictments,” the defence lawyers for the seven indicted parties said.

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