New Rwandan rape charges against French troops

14th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

KIGALI, Dec 14, 2006 (AFP) - Two more female survivors of Rwanda's 1994 genocide on Thursday accused French troops of raping them, in new allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers that France had in the country at the time.

KIGALI, Dec 14, 2006 (AFP) - Two more female survivors of Rwanda's 1994 genocide on Thursday accused French troops of raping them, in new allegations of sexual abuse by peacekeepers that France had in the country at the time.

Testifying before a Rwandan government-appointed panel probing alleged French complicity in the mass killings, the women claimed in graphic detail how they been violated at the ages of 12 and 14 respectively.

Both witnesses were granted anonymity by the inquiry commission, which was forced to briefly suspend its fourth day of a second round of public hearings when one member collapsed in tears during the testimony of the then 14-year-old.

The woman, a member of Rwanda's Tutsi minority that made up the vast majority of the some 800,000 victims of the genocide, claimed she had been handed over to a French soldier by extremist Hutu militia in southwest Rwanda.

"I resisted when he tried to unzip my skirt," she said, sobbing continuously from behind an opaque screen as she recounted the alleged attack near the Nyarushishi refugee camp in the former Rwandan province of Gikongoro.

"He tore my skirt pushed me onto a mattress on the floor and then he forced my legs open," she said.

"I felt like I was dying," she said. "There was blood everywhere and I couldn't breathe. I spent the night in the bush because I couldn't walk back home. I prayed for death, that would have been much better."

The second female witness also claimed to have been raped by a French soldier after Hutu militiamen delivered her to a military base.

"They destroyed me," she said through tears. "They killed me. I thought the white men were going to save me."

Another witness, a soldier in the former French-backed Rwandan government's army, said he and colleagues had brought young Tutsi girls from Nyarushishi refugee camp and nearby hideouts to French troops in exchange for canned meals.

"On one occasion, they refused to pay me and my friends for a girl we were bringing them," he told the panel. "We threatened to kill her. They told us to go ahead. We did it before them."

Thursday's witness claims came just a day after two other women told the commission they had been raped by French troops and testimony from Hutu ex-militiamen that French soldiers had driven them to sites to massacre Tutsis.

Rwanda accuses France of complicity, if not direct involvement, in the genocide through its training of the country's former army and alleged support for the extremist Hutu Interahamwe militia.

France denies the charges and says its troops instead helped save Tutsis by running a UN-endorsed humanitarian mission in Rwanda at the height of the genocide.

France backed the Hutu-led government of the late Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination triggered the genocide, against Tutsi rebels headed by now President Paul Kagame.

Seething anger over France's alleged role and allegations by a French judge against Kagame and current senior Rwandan officials in Habyarimana's death led Kigali last month to sever diplomatic relations with Paris.

The inquiry panel, which wrapped up initial public hearings in October and resumed open sessions Monday, is charged with determining if there is enough evidence to file suit against France for damages at the world court.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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