The sentence was heavy. For having “participated in the genocidal policy by adhering to it, but also by taking an active part in it intellectually and materially”, according to the deliberations of the president of the Paris Assize Court, Sosthène Munyemana, 68, was sentenced , on December 20, 2023, to twenty-four years of criminal imprisonment with a security period of eight years.

Since 1995 he lived as a doctor in the southwest of France. From October 1 to 25, another Rwandan is expected to appear before the same court. Eugène Rwamucyo, a doctor from northern France this time, is suspected of having directed body burial operations during the 1994 massacres. He faces life imprisonment.

Six men have already been convicted in France for their participation in the Tutsi genocide with sentences ranging from fourteen years of imprisonment to life in prison. Two of them must still be judged on appeal, and another, the former Rwandan prefect Laurent Bucyibaruta, sentenced at first instance to twenty years of criminal imprisonment for complicity in genocide, died in December 2023.

These men arrived on French territory, sometimes taking winding paths. At the beginning of July 1994, they fled the arrival of troops from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a politico-military movement composed mainly of Tutsi exiled in Uganda, who put an end to the mass massacres that had taken place until to one million deaths in three months, according to the United Nations.

The “crime of crimes”

By the hundreds of thousands, soldiers of the Rwandan Armed Forces, Interahamwe militiamen, members of the interim government but also Hutu civilians having murdered their Tutsi neighbors or even simple Hutu citizens fearing reprisals, then left for neighboring countries and majority towards Zaire (current Democratic Republic of Congo).

Many returned to Rwanda where they were tried by gacaca, the popular courts. As for the majority of senior leaders of the genocide, they appeared, between 1995 and 2012 in Arusha (Tanzania), before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) created by the United Nations. Other suspected genocidaires now live discreetly in the DRC, Kenya, but also in Belgium and France. The facts with which they are accused being linked to the “crime of crimes”, they are imprescriptible.

“Around a hundred people linked, to varying degrees, to the genocide are currently living on French territory,” estimates Alain Gauthier, president of the Collective for Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR). They settled there at the end of the 1990s thanks to mutual aid networks and Rwandan associations established in the regions of Rouen and Toulouse in particular.

One of its networks originated in Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle, where a former refugee worked as a Kinyarwanda translator in the airport waiting area. His job hid another “mission”: to adapt the story of these people suspected of genocide so that they obtain the right to asylum in France.

A congestion in the offices

The first complaint against an alleged genocide resident in France was filed by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Survie association in 1995. Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a Rwandan priest who officiated in Ardèche, was accused of having delivered Tutsi to Hutu militia in his church in Kigali. Two years after the genocide, France adopted universal jurisdiction, based on the idea that the fight against impunity has no borders. Concretely, a Rwandan who has committed acts of genocide or crimes against humanity in his country can be tried in France if he lives on French territory.

At the end of the 1990s, complaints against Rwandans accumulated. As the cases were handled by ordinary judges, they were added to their usual files. This resulted in congestion in the offices. The investigation against Wenceslas Munyeshyaka was so long that France was condemned in June 2004 by the European Court of Human Rights for violating the right to a trial “within a reasonable time.”

“The charges against the Rwandans were extremely serious, so voices were raised within the justice system to encourage the creation of a specialized unit to handle this type of case,” recalls Aurélia Devos, prosecutor of the Crimes Against Humanity unit. of the Paris High Court, created in December 2011. As France did not extradite to Rwanda [because of the death penalty which was in force in the country until 2007], it became the only possibility to render justice. » Subsequently, the Central Office for the Fight against Crimes Against Humanity (OCLCH) was created in 2013.

“We can consider that it is the armed arm allowing magistrates to continue their investigations and open others,” says Eric Emeraux, head of the OCLCH from 2017 to 2022. It was made up of a group of investigators from the Paris research brigade who notably participated in the hunt for [the former militia leader during the occupation] Paul Touvier. » The motto of this office is explicit: “Hora Fugit, Stat Jus”, time passes but justice remains.

In France, the first trial took place in 2014, twenty years after the genocide. The former captain of the presidential guard, Pascal Simbikangwa, was sentenced to twenty-five years of criminal imprisonment. Since its creation, the CPCR has launched thirty-five procedures in France.

At the rate of two trials per year, as Emmanuel Macron wished during his visit to Kigali in May 2021, not all suspected genocidaires will be tried. Especially since the Rwandan files have piled up in the OCLCH offices with cases linked to Syria, Ukraine… “Justice is too slow,” deplores Alain Gauthier. Witnesses disappear, defendants die. Others, like Félicien Kabuga [accused of being the financier of the genocide by international justice] have become unfit to appear. »