a Franco-Rwandan ex-driver tried in Paris for "complicity"

Published on : 22/11/2021 – 17:56

A Franco-Rwandan ex-driver, an “ordinary” citizen accused of knowingly aiding killers during the genocide of the Tutsi in 1994 in Rwanda, is tried from Monday for “complicity” in genocide, third trial in France for crimes linked to one of the worst tragedies of the twentieth century.

A new trial around the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda opened on Monday, November 22. A former Franco-Rwandan driver is tried by French justice for “complicity” in genocide. This citizen, who held no military or political office, is accused of knowingly aiding genocidaires during what is one of the worst tragedies of the twentieth century.

Claude Muhayimana, 60, was in 1994 the driver of the Guest House hotel in Kibuye, on the shores of Lake Kivu.

He is accused of “complicity” in genocide and crimes against humanity for having “knowingly helped and assisted” militiamen by repeatedly ensuring their transport to the sites of massacres in the prefecture of Kibuye, the hills of Karongi, Gitwa and Bisesero (West), where tens of thousands of people were exterminated in appalling conditions.

These militiamen, armed with machetes, clubs, hoes and called “Interahamwe” (“those who work together” in Kinyarwanda) were the main armed arms of the genocide against the Tutsi minority, orchestrated by the extremist Hutu regime. More than 800,000 people died from April to July 1994.

A “lambda” citizen refugee in France

Claude Muhayimana, who faces life imprisonment, is a refugee in France, where he obtained his nationality in 2010. A cantonnier by profession, he lives in Rouen (North West), where he was arrested in 2014, one year after the opening of an investigation initiated by a complaint from the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), which fights against impunity and the presence in France of suspected Rwandan genocidaires.

The trial, which opened on Monday before the Paris Assize Court at 1:30 p.m. GMT (2:30 p.m. Paris time) after ten years of proceedings and two postponements due to the health crisis, will last nearly a month. About fifty witnesses are scheduled to take the stand, of which about fifteen will come from Rwanda.

Its singularity is that it judges an ordinary citizen, and not a personality having had political, administrative or military functions during the killings. The two previous trials saw the life sentences of two former mayors and 25 years in prison of a former army captain.

“We are dealing with a very ordinary average citizen who had no authority over anyone,” Me Philippe Meilhac, one of the accused’s lawyers, told AFP. “He will explain himself up and down and across. He is a man who has been waiting for 10 years.”

An ambiguous personality

Alain Gauthier, co-founder of the CPCR, “refuses” for his part to “talk about big or small fish”. “We are in the case of a genocide, we are not talking about little fish.”

The speeches of the accused, who remained very discreet, are eagerly awaited. The investigation evoked an ambiguous personality, witnesses testifying that he saved Tutsis by hiding them at his home or by providing them with canoes to flee to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The debates will focus on the fact that the accused denies having been present at the scene of the massacres and on the contradictions between his statements and those of witnesses, in particular his ex-wife. He also lied and tried to pressure witnesses, according to the prosecution.

“There are dozens of corroborating testimonies on his transport to the scene of the massacres,” notes Alexandre Kiabski, lawyer for the CPCR.

Forced to transport militiamen?

The defense, for its part, points to the contradictions and shortcomings of the testimony, “which include a lot of imprecision on the places, the dates”, according to Meilhac, who will also plead the argument of the constraint.

“It is not impossible that he was forced (to transport the militiamen, editor’s note); but even if it is true, he had the choice to flee,” said Gauthier. “We don’t go to a crime scene for free.”

Ibuka France, an association supporting genocide survivors and civil parties alongside the CPCR, said she was “satisfied” in a press release that the trial could “finally be held after ten years of legal proceedings strewn with pitfalls”.

“This shows that despite time and pandemics, justice is doing its work (…). The alleged genocidaires and their accomplices – because each level in the genocidal machine has counted – must know that they will be prosecuted in France and elsewhere , in order to be brought to justice for the crimes they have committed, “said the association.

With AFP

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