French troops abetted killing of Tutsis: witness

19th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

KIGALI, Dec 18, 2006 (AFP) - French troops deployed in Rwanda at the height of the country's 1994 genocide lured thousands of minority Tutsis from their hideouts to be killed by extremist militia, a witness told an enquiry Monday.

KIGALI, Dec 18, 2006 (AFP) - French troops deployed in Rwanda at the height of the country's 1994 genocide lured thousands of minority Tutsis from their hideouts to be killed by extremist militia, a witness told an enquiry Monday.

The witness before a government-appointed panel investigating France's alleged complicity in Rwanda's mass slaughter said the troops duped the Tutsis with evacuation promises only to be left in the hands of the extremist militia.

"The French told us they were going to pick up weapons and more soldiers to come and protect us," said the witness, only identified as "witness four on day six."

"We all came out of our hideouts in the mountains and assembled in open areas from where we waited for French soldiers to rescue us," he told the panel at the end of the second phase of public hearings.

"This exposed us to militias who thought they had finished us off after previous attacks."

The hideout mountains of Bisesero were part of 'Zone Turquoise', the name given a southwestern region protected by French troops sent on a humanitarian assistance operation to create a "safe" zone at the height of the genocide.

Pointing at scars on his right leg from what he said were severe injuries sustained during the attacks, the witness said that the French troops never returned and the "killings intensified".

Last week, a former primary school teacher told the probe team that as an interpreter he had accompanied a French contingent to the Tutsi enclave to deliver the evacuation promise.

A former Belgian military officer on Monday told investigators that days after the genocide started, French troops refused to evacuate hundreds of Rwandans and other Africans who had sneaked into evacuation convoys.

"They were sending back these people on only the basis of what appeared to be their colour," said Lieutenant Colonel Jean Loup.

"They (French troops) were pushing these people in the direction of a road block at the entrance of the airport. We tried to convince them to take these people as well but they couldn't hear," Loup said.

In one of the longest testimonies heard by the panel, Loup also spoke of a close relationship between the French troops and then Rwandan government soldiers.

He said that some of his colleagues suspected the French soldiers directly aided the command structures of the army accused of playing a major role in the massacres that claimed some 800,000 lives in a span of 100 days.

The public sessions that began in October have heard witnesses accusing French troops of crimes ranging from training and arming militias to rape, but Paris has dismissed the process as biased and unproven.

"These accusations are being made without a shadow of proof, for purely political motives," French defence ministry spokesman Jean-Francois Bureau said Friday, predicting that the panel "will do all it can to bring charges against the French army."

"We think we have learnt a lot of things that will help us to uncover the truth in this process," Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the panel's head told AFP. The panel is charged with determining if there is enough evidence to file suit against France for damages at the world court.

Worsening ties between Kigali and Paris snapped last month when Rwanda expelled the French ambassador after a French judge called for the prosecution of President Paul Kagame in connection with the killing of late president Juvenal Habyarimana, which is believed to have triggered the genocide.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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