Questions arise on French indictments against Rwandan officials
Lawyers for the seven Rwandan nationals targeted by former French terror judge, Jean-Louis Bruguière, have called for the indictments to be lifted in light of a ruling by a Paris appeals court which dismissed the concerns of Rwanda’s ex-First Lady.
The investigative chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal ruled on Monday against Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of the former Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana.
Mrs Habayarimana had sought to throw out expert testimony released in January 2012 by Judges Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux about the April 1994 plane-crash that killed her husband and served as pretext for the Rwandan genocide. The experts’ report effectively exonerated the seven individuals subject to the Bruguière indictments, pointing instead at extremist ‘Hutu Power’ elements within the Habyarimana regime.
“This ruling by the Court of Appeal clears the way for Judges Trévidic and Poux to right the wrong committed during Judge Bruguière’s tenure — by finally lifting these noxious indictments,” the defense lawyers for the seven indicted parties said on Monday.
“Attempts by some civil parties to discredit and nullify the findings — and to further delay the Trévidic-Poux investigation — have unequivocally failed. There is no justification for further harm to come the way of our clients whose innocence is now crystal clear,” lawyers Léon Lef Forster and Bernard Maingain said.
In November 2006 Judge Bruguière released a report accusing the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of shooting down the plane carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira as it landed in Kigali on 6 April 1994.
The report, regarded in most circles as politically tainted and methodologically flawed, led to the indictment of nine senior Rwandan officials. In response, Rwanda severed diplomatic ties with France, which were subsequently re-established in 2009.