- Two Rwandan citizens accused of participating in the 1994 genocide and residing in France have finally been detained and will be tried by the special Rwandan genocide court in Arusha, shortly before that court's time is running out. The French judiciary has resisted their arrest since 1995.
Wenceslas Munyeshyaka - a Catholic priest - and Laurent Bucyibaruta today finally were arrested in France. The two are accused of grave crimes against humanity during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where an estimated 900,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered. The two Rwandan nationals have been living and working in France since 1995.
Father Munyeshyaka has been wanted since 1995, when accusations against him surfaced among genocide survivors. A military tribunal in Rwanda in November last year convicted Mr Munyeshyaka in absentia to life in prison after having found him guilty of having delivered hundreds of adults and children to the genocidal militias, which brutally slaughtered them. He was also found guilty of raping several young girls and women before handing them over to their henchmen.
Mr Bucyibaruta, for his sake, served as Prefect in Rwanda's Gikongoro province. As the prefecture's top leader, he is accused of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, genocide, complicity to extermination and murders constituting crimes against humanity.
The two had been wanted by the Rwandan judiciary for ten years, and also in France, genocide survivors filed cases against the two. But the poor relations between France and Rwanda's post-genocide regime, in addition to the widespread noting that France had assisted the genocidal regime, politicised the cases of Father Munyeshyaka, Mr Bucyibaruta and two other Rwandans accused of crimes against humanity.
In June 2004, the European Court of Human Rights slammed the French judiciary for using unreasonable long time in proceeding against the genocide accused Rwandans. The Strasbourg-based court in an unanimous ruling found that French courts were retarding these processes and ordered faster action.
But not even the Strasbourg ruling helped thawing the "certain coolness by French judiciary authorities" towards the Rwandan genocide cases that was noted by the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Several initiatives by FIDH and the French League of Human Rights (LDH) gave no results.
The French government and judiciary have also been totally passive towards several official requests from Rwanda to have genocide suspects extradited, despite international laws obliging France to act in cases of crimes against humanity. A further cooling of Rwandan-French ties over the last year has not helped the cases.
The turning point came one month ago, on 20 June, when the Arusha-based and UN backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) asked the French government to seek and arrest Father Munyeshyaka, Mr Bucyibaruta and Dominique Ntawukuriryayo, and keep them under detention until the ICTR consents to the request to transfer their cases to France.
The ICTR approval and request in turn led to the delivery of arrest warrants for the two in France. But in a new display of the French judiciary's "coolness" towards the Rwandan genocide cases, it took a month before the two finally were detained today.
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