Rwanda has welcomed the “crucial move” by France to uphold the conviction of Genocide perpetrator Pascal Simbikangwa.
On May 24, Cour de Cassation – France’s court of final appeal, upheld Simbikangwa’s conviction saying he ‘willingly’ participated in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
Simbikangwa, 58, was sentenced to 25 years in 2014 in a trial that marked a turning point in France’s approach to Genocide suspects living on its soil.
Speaking to KT Press on Friday, the Executive Secretary of the national commission for the fight against genocide (CNLG) Dr. Jean Damascene Bizimana said the decision sends a signal that France is willing to try Genocide perpetrators.
“This is the first case concluded by French courts involving a Rwanda Genocide perpetrator. Simbikangwa actively participated in the Genocide. He was among the initiators of escadron de la mort,” Dr. Bizimana told KT Press.
Escadron de la mort was an armed group that conducted extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances of many Tutsi during the 1994 Genocide.
Bizimana said that together with the elite group attached to the former President Juvenal Habyarimana, Simbikangwa’s Escadron de la mort targeted Tutsi and politicians who opposed the regime.
“Simbikangwa started killings as early as 1990. To us, this is a good step for French Courts to have convicted such a genocide perpetrator who killed and fled the country,” Bizimana said adding that the development is a lesson to all perpetrators around the world that Genocide crimes cannot phase-out.
“There are more than 20 arrest warrants submitted to French courts. We call up these courts to speed up trial of these perpetrators such as Sosthène Munyemana. He participated in the killing of many Tutsi at a hospital in Butare. His case has been in French courts since 1995,” Dr. Bizimana told KT Press.
Munyemana, 63, was an obstetrician gynecologist in Tumba. During the Genocide, he reportedly took part in the attacks and mass killings of many Tutsi especially his former colleagues.
According to Dr. Bizimana, “We need a similar step taken by France to work on other pending cases. At some point, these perpetrators die while their cases are pending.
An example is that of Claver Kamana who died last year. He was involved in killings in the former Runda and Taba communes. He died when his case has been in French courts for more than 10 years,” Dr. Bizimana said.
Meanwhile, Simbikangwa, a former presidential guard member had already lost an appeal against his conviction for crimes against humanity and Genocide in 2016.
Other cases in France involving Rwandans accused of committing Genocide who have appealed include former mayors Octavien Ngenzi and Tito Barahira.
They were prosecuted over the Genocide crimes and have appealed life sentences they were handed in 2016.
Both were former Bourgmesters of Commune Kabarondo between 1977 and 1994. They are accused of giving orders to kill more than 3500 Tutsi that had sought refuge at Kabarondo Parish in Eastern Province, crimes against humanity and intent to exterminate the Tutsi.