Sosthene Munyemana goes on trial in France over Rwanda genocide after 3-decade of investigation


Sosthene Munyemana – a sixty-eight-year-old Rwandan doctor – went on trial in France on Tuesday on charges of committing genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1994 massacres of Rwanda, after a three-decade investigation by French authorities.

According to the media reports, Sosthene Munyemana appeared before the Assize Court in Paris nearly 30 years after a complaint was made against him in Bordeaux, southern France, in 1995. He took the stand and offered sympathy for the victims’ families. He said, “This is the first opportunity I’ve had to speak publicly since the scandal began. It’s also a good time to remember these families.”

Munyemana, who rejects the charges, risks life in jail if found guilty. The trial, which is set to last five weeks, will be videotaped for historical purposes. It is predicted that about 70 witnesses will testify. According to UN calculations, roughly 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were massacred over 100 days by the Hutu army and extremist militias. This is the sixth prosecution in France of an alleged participant in the atrocities.

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Rachel Lindon, a lawyer representing 26 victims, said ahead of the trial, “We’re waiting for justice to be done at long last.” She said that as time passes, we have fewer witnesses. Judge Marc Sommerer attributed the investigation’s length to issues such as the need to conduct investigations abroad and the fact that France only established a crime against humanity unit in 2012.

Munyemana, who worked for a decade in a hospital in Villeneuve-sur-Lot, southwest France, applied for refuge in France in 2008. However, it also denied an extradition request from Rwanda in 2010, arguing that Munyemana would not receive a fair trial there. In 2011, a French court indicted the father of three with genocide participation in 1994. He was an ethnic Hutu who lived in Butare, Rwanda, at the time.

Munyemana was close to Jean Kambanda, the head of the temporary administration formed when a rocket shot down the plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994. Munyemana stated on Tuesday that he was unaware of his friend’s radicalization who lived in Kigali and whom he saw on occasion. We met more for family reasons, he explained. If he radicalized around the end of November 1993, I had no idea because we didn’t see each other again until June 19 of the following year, when Kambanda went to his house to check on him, he claimed.

France has been a popular destination for fugitives fleeing the Rwandan genocide. Rwandan President Paul Kagame has accused Paris of being unwilling to extradite or prosecute genocide criminals. France has tried and convicted six people since 2014, including a former espionage head, two ex-mayors, and a former hotel chauffeur.

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