Monday, August 06, 2007

French judiciary liberates genocide suspects

Relations between France and Rwanda got even frostier recently when the French judiciary released from custody two prominent genocide suspects that Rwanda had been trying to extradite since 1995.

The Rwandan regime attacked the French decision, noting that the two were the subject of international arrest warrants.

Charles Murigande, Rwandan foreign minister, said that France has undermined the integrity of the International Criminal Court to which it is a signatory.

“We are shocked and displeased, of course, by this decision, but it is not surprising that all these people have been living unhindered in France, benefiting from the protection of France for the last 12 years. Let me tell you that before International Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) issued the international arrest warrants, we had done the same before. We had requested the extradition and all these efforts fell on deaf ears from France. So, it appears that it is the same old story of protecting people who are involved in genocide in Rwanda,” Murigande said.

He said France’s action smacks in the face of its espoused values.

“What may be shocking is to see France undermining an international tribunal that was put in place by the UN Security Council. And yet France is a permanent member of the Security Council,” he said.

Murigande added that if France did not want to extradite the pair two Rwanda, they could do so to the UN-run International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda based in Arusha, Tanzania.

The row came only a few months after a book revealed that France allegedly played a more active role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide than previously believed.

French troops advised Rwandan Hutu extremists how to hide their gruesome work from spy satellites, according to Andrew Wallis, author of the book Silent Witness.

Wallis said some troops became aggravated by corpses floating on rivers -- images picked up by spy satellites.

"So the French soldiers were telling them you have to slit off the bellies of these Tutsi that you kill so that they sink and satellites do not see them," Wallis told Reuters in Kigali.


Wallis said the French role went far beyond arms deals with the pro-Hutu government, saying that before and during the genocide, French special forces armed and trained soldiers who later become the militias that carried out most of the killing.

"Their role is fairly clearly marked, their role is that of accomplice to the genocide crime," Wallis said.

Rwanda broke diplomatic relations with France late last year when a French judge issued arrest warrants for nine aides of the current head of state, who were accused of killing the country's previous dictator.

So men accused of playing key roles in the genocide and deaths of hundreds (or more) of innocent people are free men. But the French judiciary is more concerned with guys who allegedly targeted a single dictator.

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