France took part in 1994 Rwandan genocide

6th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

A report by the Rwandan government names 13 French political figures as having an active role in the Rwandan genocides.

6 August 2008

KIGALI - France played an active role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, a report unveiled Tuesday by the Rwandan government said, naming French political and military officials it says should be prosecuted.

The damning report accused a raft of top French politicians of involvement in the massacres, threatening to further mar relations between the two countries, which severed diplomatic ties in November 2006.

"French forces directly assassinated Tutsis and Hutus accused of hiding Tutsis... French forces committed several rapes on Tutsi survivors," said a justice ministry statement released after the report was presented in Kigali.

The 500-page report alleged that France was aware of preparations for the genocide, contributed to planning the massacres and actively took part in the killing.

It named former French prime minister Edouard Balladur, former foreign minister Alain Juppe and then-president Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996, among 13 French politicians accused of playing a role in the massacres.

Dominique de Villepin, who was then Juppe's top aide and later became prime minister, was also among those listed in the Rwandan report.

The report names 20 military officials as being responsible.

France refused to comment directly on the report's findings, saying the inquiry had lacked legitimacy or impartiality.

A Defence Ministry spokesman instead referred reporters to the government's position as set out in a statement from February 2007.

That original statement declared that the Rwandan inquiry had no "independence or impartiality" because its stated remit was to "gather evidence of the involvement of the French state" in the Rwandan genocide.

The inquiry, it stated, had neither legitimacy nor competence" to conduct interviews on French soil because it had broken off diplomatic relations with France in November 2006.

France has acknowledged making "mistakes" in Rwanda but denies any responsibility for the killing spree.

The 1994 genocide in the central African nation left around 800,000 people - mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus - dead, according to the United Nations.

"The overwhelming nature of France's support to the Rwandan policy of massacres... shows the complicity of French political and military officials in the preparation and execution of the genocide," the statement said.

Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama presented the report to the press in Kigali, more than two years after a special commission tasked with probing France's role in the genocide began its work.

The statement said the military and humanitarian Operation Turquoise carried out by the French in Rwanda between June and August 1994 abetted the killings perpetrated by the extremist Interahamwe Hutu militia.

The French military "did not challenge the infrastructure of genocide, notably the checkpoints manned by the Interahamwes”.

"They clearly requested that the Interahamwes continue to man those checkpoints and kill Tutsis attempting to flee," the statement added.

"Considering the seriousness of the alleged crimes, the Rwandan government has urged the relevant authorities to bring the accused French politicians and military officials to justice," the statement said.

Karugarama hinted that Rwanda could launch a legal challenge against some of the officials named in the report.

The release of the report comes against a backdrop of tense relations between France and Rwanda.

Kigali severed diplomatic ties with France after French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere accused Kagame and his entourage of involvement in the death of the then president, Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu.

Habyarimana's plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994, sparking the genocide.

In July, Kagame had threatened to indict French nationals over the genocide if European courts did not withdraw arrest warrants issued against Rwandan officials.

[AFP / Expatica]

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