Global Policy Forum

France Slammed for Checking


By Rainer Chr. Hennig

afrol News
June 10, 2004

The European Court of Human Rights has slammed the French judiciary for using unreasonable long time in proceeding against a Rwandan clergyman, who was charged with genocide compliancy nine years ago. Human rights groups hold that French courts have been unwilling to abide by its obligation to try suspected perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

In June and July 1995 a number of criminal complaints lodged in France alleged that a Catholic clergyman - a Rwandan citizen who at the time was residing in France and serving as a curate - had taken part in acts of genocide in his former parish in Kigali. A judicial investigation was opened into offences of genocide and torture in particular. The judicial investigation is however still pending.

Yvonne Mutimura, a French national of Rwandan descent, is one of the many individuals being a civil party in the proceeding against the Rwandan curate. After years of inactivity by the French judiciary, Ms Mutimura filed a complaint against the French government to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, claiming her right to a hearing within a reasonable time and her right to an effective remedy had been violated.

In a landmark ruling, the Strasbourg court yesterday sided with Ms Mutimura in all points. The court seldom moves against a state regarding the "reasonable time" of a court case, and its ruling thus is seen as a strong criticism against the French judiciary's performance in issues relating to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

According to the unanimous ruling of the human rights court, the circumstances of the case against the Rwandan clergyman could not justify that, after more than eight years and eight months, the case was still pending before the investigating judge. The Strasbourg judges "considered that that length did not satisfy the 'reasonable time' requirement" in European Convention on Human Rights, according to a press release by the Court.

Yesterday's ruling in Strasbourg today was celebrated by human rights groups, who have been sceptical towards the French judiciary's treatment of Rwandan genocide cases. The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) today said that the court's decision "gives a renewed unquestionable hope for Rwandan victims that are waiting for justice to be done in France."

FIDH noted that the great majority of Rwandan genocide victims filing cases in France indeed had been made waiting too long and that none of them had succeeded to date. Cases related to the Rwandan genocide had in general been met by "a certain coolness by French judiciary authorities," the human rights grouping said.

This "coolness" by French courts on several occasions has been seen in relationship to the coolness experienced between the Paris government and present authorities in Rwanda - although this allegation is not sustained by French authorities.

The non-regarding of a "reasonable time" to pursue Rwandan genocidal crimes in French courts is also seen against the stark contrast of the French judiciary's efforts to put Rwanda's President Paul Kagame in connection with a 1994 rocket attack on an aircraft in Kigali, killing the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and setting off the genocide.

The prominent French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguií¨re has led "investigations" into the 1994 Kigali attack and, according to the French daily 'Le Monde', in a not published report found President Kagame responsible for the attack and the UN responsible of covering up the incident. Mr Kagame at that time led the RPF rebels, who freed Rwanda from the French-backed regime organising the genocide.

The accusations by judge Bruguií¨re have been forcefully rejected by Rwandan authorities and the UN. Earlier this week, the UN presented an aircraft's "black box" that had been put in connection with the 1994 Kigali incident by the French judge, documenting that this evidence recording instrument had nothing to do with the said incident.

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