Rwanda: opening of the trial of Claude Muhayimana for “complicity” in genocide

A third trial will open in France for facts related to the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda. Twenty-seven years after the tragedy which killed nearly a million people in the spring of 1994, Claude Muhayimana, former driver of the Guest House establishment in Kibuye (West), is due to appear Monday, November 22 before the Assize Court of Paris for “complicity” in genocide and crimes against humanity “by aid and assistance”. He is accused of having transported Interahamwe (Hutu) militiamen responsible for numerous massacres to the hills of Karongi or Bisesero, localities located near Lake Kivu.

An arrest warrant was issued by the Rwandan authorities against Claude Muhayimana in December 2011. A few months later, the Rouen Court of Appeal, where he resides, gave a favorable opinion on his extradition, before the Court of cassation does not overrule this decision. This refusal was reiterated in 2014, following a favorable opinion from the Paris Court of Appeal.

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In June 2013, the Collectif des parties civililes pour le Rwanda (CPCR), without waiting for the decision on this extradition, lodged a complaint and became a civil party against the Franco-Rwandan, who was placed in pre-trial detention for one year in 2014. . “Militiamen or survivors saw Claude Muhayimana driving a car crossing the town of Kibuye with Interahamwe, and heading towards the hills where massacres were to be carried out”, explains Alain Gauthier, co-founder with his wife, Dafroza, of the CPCR, an association that has been tracking suspected genocidaires in France and Rwanda since 2001.

Neither politician, nor religious, nor soldier

“But Claude Muhayimana could not be considered an authority at the time, answers Philippe Meilhac, his lawyer. He was neither a politician, nor a religious, nor even a soldier in 1994, unlike most of the men who have been prosecuted in this type of case. My client was a driver, an ordinary guy, whom men picked up from his home to transport militiamen. The issue of coercion will be at the heart of this trial. “

The charges against Claude Muhayimana concerning his presence during the massacres at the Kibuye church on April 17, 1994 – where nearly 2,000 Tutsi were killed -, then at the Gatwaro stadium the next day – 11,400 victims -, have been abandoned by the French examining magistrates. They were also for the murders of his colleagues at Guest House, the accused having proved in all cases that he was at the same time in Ruhengeri, in the north of the country, at the funeral of a gendarme. He is now being prosecuted for “complicity”, “aid and assistance” to genocidaires, as a driver.

At the end of the 1990s, Claude Muhayimana moved to France, where his request for asylum as a political refugee was refused by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra). “He then settled in Rouen, where a network of associations and mutual aid of people linked to the Tutsi genocide was set up”, says Alain Gauthier. In 2010, he acquired French nationality and became a municipal employee.

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Its hearing was initially scheduled to be held in September 2020, before being postponed to February because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But the tightening of entry conditions into France from the “land of a thousand hills” (negative PCR test and seven-day isolation) then forced the president of the Assize Court to order a new dismissal. The first week of this trial-river should be devoted to the Rwandan context of 1994 and the events that occurred. in the Kibuye region. The following two weeks will allow the hearing of the hundred or so witnesses, part of which will be heard by videoconference from Kigali because they are considered “vulnerable” to Covid-19. The last week will be that of oral argument. The judgment is expected around December 17th.

No acceleration in procedures

Two trials related to the Tutsi genocide have already been held in France: in 2014, the former presidential guard officer Pascal Simbikangwa was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment, a sentence confirmed on appeal. Octavien Ngenzi and Tito Barahira, former mayors in eastern Rwanda, were sentenced to life imprisonment and their sentences were confirmed on appeal. Other hearings are planned, including that of the former prefect Laurent Bucyibaruta in May 2022. Refugee in France for twenty-five years, the latter is “Made complicit in a massive and systematic practice of summary executions”, according to an investigating judge at the Paris court.

During his visit to Rwanda in May, as part of a normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries after years of tension because of the role played by France in 1994, Emmanuel Macron was committed “That no person suspected of crimes of genocide can escape justice”.

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“On the territory, there are currently a hundred people who are closely or remotely linked to acts committed in Rwanda in 1994, says Alain Gauthier. I have not noticed any acceleration in the procedures in recent months. Admittedly, today there is a liaison officer at the French embassy in Kigali, but more investigating judges are needed within the crimes against humanity division. The SCRC continues to file complaints [une trentaine actuellement], but the twenty-seven years lost because of the slowness of justice will not be made up. “

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Rwanda: opening of the trial of Claude Muhayimana for “complicity” in genocide