Rwanda accuses French judge of gamesmanship

21st November 2006, Comments 0 comments

KIGALI, Nov 21, 2006 (AFP) - Rwanda on Tuesday rejected calls by a French judge to indict President Paul Kagame over his alleged involvement in the death of the country's former leader that sparked the 1994 genocide.

KIGALI, Nov 21, 2006 (AFP) - Rwanda on Tuesday rejected calls by a French judge to indict President Paul Kagame over his alleged involvement in the death of the country's former leader that sparked the 1994 genocide.

"The allegations are totally unfounded. The judge is acting on the basis of gossip and rumours," Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama said.

Karugarama accused the judge, Jean-Louis Bruguière, of playing political games over the allegations that will further worsen the already frosty relations between Kigali and Paris.

"These are political games rather than a judicial process," he said.

On Monday, Bruguière said Kagame should face prosecution for war crimes before the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) because of his "suspected involvement" in the death of then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana.

But Rwanda has accused France of abetting the genocide, in which around 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were slaughtered by Hutu extremists during a 100-day killing spree between April and July 1994.

Paris has adamantly denied the allegation but Kigali has charged a commission with determining whether there is evidence to file a suit against France for damages at the world court.

The Rwandan minister said his government would not respond to Bruguière's allegations by seeking to indict French President Jacques Chirac over the genocide.

Kigali would avoid "a sad situation where we would also engage in similar games by indicting Chirac or other senior French officials," Karugarama said.

The ICTR, where Bruguière said Kagame should be arraigned, is currently hearing the case of several former high-ranking Rwandan army officers accused of genocide.

The tribunal's defence attorneys hailed the prosecution call, saying it would eventually see the real genocide perpetrators face justice.

"Finally there was a serious investigation that resulted in a serious outcome regarding the disaster that befell Rwanda," said John Philpot, the defence attorney representing Habyarimana's brother-in-law Protais Zigiranyirazo.

"We are relieved to see that the real perpetrators of this tragedy will somehow be brought to justice," Philpot told AFP.

"This is very positive even if it may seem as a tit-for-tat reaction," said Raphael Constant, who represents Theoneste Bagosora, the man believed to be the "brains" behind the genocide.

Formed in late 1994, the court has so far tried 31 suspects, convicting 26 and acquitting five. Twenty-five trials are now in progress, with 12 awaiting their start.

The tribunal last month turned down a request to consider an earlier report from Bruguière into the killing of Habyarimana which reportedly named Kagame as the main decision-maker behind the April 6, 1994 attack.

The downing of Habyarimana's aircraft, in which Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira and a four-man French crew were also killed, sparked off the mass slaughter.

Kagame, who headed the Tutsi rebel force that took power in Kigali in July 1994, ending the genocide, has always denied any involvement in the attack on the aircraft carrying the Hutu heads of state.

French courts also called Monday for international arrest warrants to be served against nine of Kagame's aides in relation to the plane attack, including James Kabarebe, or Kabare, a senior officer in the Rwandan army.

Before allegations of Kagame's involvement, which surfaced in unofficial UN documents, it was widely assumed that Habyarimana was killed by Hutu extremists in his own entourage opposed to power-sharing arrangements with Kagame's mainly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

A confidential memorandum written by a UN investigator in 1997 and implicating Kagame is under seal at the ICTR, which has refused to give a copy to Bruguiere.

The ICTR chief prosecutor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow of Gambia, has said that the attack against Habyarimana is outside his mandate. The UN Security Council created the court to investigate, indict and put on trial the main suspects in the Rwandan genocide.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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