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France orders first trial of Rwandan over genocide

A French court has for the first time ordered a Rwandan to face trial over the country's 1994 genocide, judicial sources told the AFP news agency on Monday.

France orders first trial of Rwandan over genocide
The Genocide Memorial in Rwanda: Photo: configmanager/flickr

Pascal Simbikangwa, a former Rwandan army captain arrested on the French island of Mayotte in 2008, is facing charges of complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity but can still appeal the decision in an attempt to avoid the trial.

It was not immediately clear if his lawyers would file an appeal.

Simbikangwa, a former intelligence officer under Rwanda's Hutu government, was arrested under an international arrest warrant for his alleged involvement in the genocide, which killed some 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, over three months.

France in early 2010 set up a new unit to try cases of genocide and crimes against humanity involving suspects detained in France.

Two investigating magistrates from the unit ordered the trial on Friday following a request from prosecutors in early March.

France has repeatedly refused to extradite genocide suspects to Rwanda, fearing they would be denied a fair trial, but has sent some to Tanzania to face trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Simbikangwa, born in 1959, is accused of being a member of the Akazu, an informal organisation of Hutu extremists believe to have planned and
implemented the genocide.

A former member of Rwanda's presidential guard, Simbikangwa is accused of having armed the Interahamwe Hutu militia and encouraged them to massacre minority Tutsis. He is a paraplegic following a traffic accident in 1986.

Simbikangwa is facing trial in France following a complaint filed by the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda, known by its French acronym CPCR.

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RWANDA

Macron proposes day of commemoration for Rwanda genocide

French President Emmanuel Macron proposed an annual day of commemoration for the Rwanda genocide on Sunday as the African nation marked 25 years since the massacres of the minority Tutsi community.

Macron proposes day of commemoration for Rwanda genocide
African Union chief Moussa Faki, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at 25th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide in Kigali, Rwanda on April 7. Photo: Y
The French leader expressed his “solidarity with the Rwandan people and his compassion for the victims and their families” in a statement that proposed April 7 as an annual remembrance day in France.
 
Macron drew criticism from some activists for failing to attend the start of commemoration events in Rwanda on Sunday, instead sending a personal envoy, a Rwandan-born MP Herve Berville who was orphaned in the 1993 violence.
 
A Rwandan victims' group, Ibuka France, hailed Macron's announcement of a national Rwanda genocide day and said it had suggested the idea during a meeting with the 41-year-old leader last week.
 
“My reaction is one of satisfaction,” the head of the group, Marcel Kabanda, said before adding that he hoped France would now introspect more about its role in the massacres.
 
“It's not the French population fundamentally, but the political elite that needs to talk about it more. It will take time but it's a new phase,” he told AFP.
 
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The genocide has cast a long shadow over Franco-Rwandan relations. Rwanda's current President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, accuses France of having supported the ethnic Hutu forces behind most of the slaughter and of helping some of the perpetrators to escape.
 
On Friday, Macron announced the creation of a commission of historians and researchers that will delve into the French state's archives in a move intended to set the historical record straight.
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