Ibuka, an umbrella organisation of associations of Genocide survivors, has welcomed the latest move by French judiciary to try Philippe Hategekimana, who faces charges of masterminding the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The trial started on Wednesday, May, 10 and it is expected to last until June 30.
Hategekimana, 66, who fled to France five years after the Genocide had started a new life under a false identity, and had obtained refugee status under a fake name.
He became a university security guard in the city of Rennes and eventually gained French citizenship in 2005.
According to media reports, the fugitive had fled France for Cameroon in late 2017 after the press reported that the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda, an organisation that works to bring to book genocide fugitives, had filed a complaint against him.
He was arrested in the capital, Yaoundé, in 2018 and extradited to France.
“The arrest of Hategekimana was delayed because he had hidden his identity. We appreciate France’s step and efforts in the recent years that have led to the trial of this genocide perpetrator. We now see political will to deliver justice for the victims of 1994 genocide against the Tutsi,” noted Naphtal Ahishakiye, the Executive Secretary of Ibuka.
Hategekimana is charged with masterminding the murder of Tutsis and setting up roadblocks to stop Tutsis who would then be killed in and around the present-day Nyanza district where he worked as a senior police officer.
“He led killings on the hills of Nyamure and Nyabubare and former Ntyazo, Nyabisindu and Rusatira communes,” Ahishakiye said. All these areas are in southern Rwanda.
He is suspected of killing a nun and Tharcisse Nyagasaza, the then mayor of Ntyazo, who opposed the genocide against the Tutsi.
“The decision to try Hategekimana restores hope amongst genocide survivors who have demanded justice for long. It creates hope that more genocide fugitives will be brought to book. This step should be a lesson to genocide perpetrators on the run that they will be eventually arrested and tried,” he said.
He added that although there is a big number of genocide fugitives in France, there is assurance of trying many considering that a lot of files have been put together waiting for action.
Over 40 genocide fugitives are still roaming in France.
“Tangible efforts have been observed in recent years,” he said.
The case which begun on Wednesday is the fifth trial in France of a genocide fugitive, after years of tensions between Paris and Kigali over the role played by France before and during the killings.
Rwanda accused France of not doing enough to halt the genocide, and later of not doing enough for the justice process.
For years, Rwanda accused France – which is one of the top hosts for fugitives from the genocide – of shielding genocide suspects.
The first genocide trial in France took place in 2014 when Pascal Simbikangwa, a former spy chief was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the Genocide.
According to statistics from the National Public Prosecution Authority, over 1,000 Genocide suspects are still at large trying to elude justice, 29 years later. They live in different countries all over the world.