France brings former Rwandan official Bucyibaruta to justice for genocide | Genocide News
Laurent Bucyibaruta is the highest placed figure in court in France for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
A former senior Rwandan official has stood trial in Paris accused of complicity in the African nation’s genocide, the highest-ranking official to date in France for the 1994 massacres.
Laurent Bucyibaruta’s trial, which opened on Monday, is expected to last two months and bring together more than 100 witnesses, including survivors from Rwanda who have flown over or will appear by videoconference.
The Bucyibaruta case is the fourth in the Rwandan genocide to come to court in France, which has long been under pressure from activists to act against alleged perpetrators who had taken refuge on French soil.
An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in 100 days of massacre in 1994 during which Hutu militiamen massacred Tutsis hiding in churches and schools.
On trial for genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity, Bucyibaruta, 78, faces a life sentence if convicted.
At the heart of the case are several “security” meetings, either ordered by Bucyibaruta or in which he participated. The prosecution says they were in session to plan the massacre.
The former prefect of the southern province of Gikongoro is notably accused of having persuaded thousands of people to take refuge in the technical school of Murambi, promising them food and water – and protection.
But a few days later, in the early hours of April 21, tens of thousands of Tutsis were massacred in one of the darkest episodes of the genocide.
The court will also discuss Bucyibaruta’s responsibility for the massacre of around 90 Tutsi students at the Marie Merci school in Kibeho on May 7 and the execution of Tutsi prisoners – including three priests – at Gikongoro prison.
Denying the charges
Bucyibaruta denies the charges and refutes any involvement in the killings.
His lawyers will first request the dismissal for unreasonable delays, the procedure having started 22 years ago. But if that fails, Bucyibaruta’s defense told AFP they would seek his acquittal.
Bucyibaruta, who has been in France since 1997 and under judicial supervision, suffers from a myriad of health problems that are expected to limit hearings to seven hours a day.
Four people in three cases have already been sentenced by French courts for genocide: a former hotel driver sentenced to 14 years in prison, an army officer sentenced to 25 years in prison and two mayors sentenced to life imprisonment.