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French prosecutors request judges drop case over Rwanda massacre

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Beatrice Munyenyezi, 51, who is the first high profile female genocide suspect deported to Rwanda from the US and being charged with seven crimes related to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, sits at the Kicukiro Primary Court in Kigali, Rwanda, on April 28, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

French prosecutors have asked judges to drop a case against five senior military officers accused of complicity in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, in which some 800,000 people from the ethnic Tutsi minority were massacred.

France's top prosecutor Remy Heitz said in a statement on Monday that investigations carried out by French authorities could not prove any complicity by French troops in the killings which were orchestrated by the extremist Hutu regime in the east-central African nation.

The inquiry did not confirm that there had been any "help or assistance from the French military forces during the carrying out of the atrocities,” Heitz said.

Nor did it establish that the French forces "refrained from intervening in the face of genocide or crimes against humanity due to a prior agreement," he added.

The call to drop the case came after Rwanda released a report last month in which it said France “bears significant responsibility” for enabling the 1994 genocide in the country.

The extensive 600-page report ordered in 2017 brands France a “collaborator” of the extremist Hutu regime that orchestrated the mass murder.

The Muse report by US law firm Levy Firestone Muse says France knew genocide was looming in Rwanda but remained “unwavering in its support” of its Rwandan allies, even when the ethnic cleansing of Tutsi minority was clear.

The genocide that took place between April and July of 1994 was triggered by the killing of Rwanda's Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana, a close ally of Paris, whose plane was shot down over Kigali.

France has long been accused of not doing enough to prevent the mass slaughter, which has led to strained ties between the two countries, who continue to be at loggerheads.

The French-government commissioned inquiry report, which was released last month, concluded that France bore “overwhelming responsibilities” over the genocide and acknowledged a “failure” on its part, but stopped short of accusing France of complicity in the genocide.

But Muse report lays the blame squarely on France, saying the French government report failed to explain what Paris was responsible for, and erred in concluding that it “remained blind” to the genocide.

The report further notes that France provided critical military and political support to the regime to protect its own strategic interests in Africa and ignored internal warnings of a looming slaughter.

It also accuses France of concealing documents, obstructing justice and spreading falsehoods about the genocide in a deliberate campaign to “bury its past in Rwanda”.

The criminal investigation into complicity in genocide had been opened by prosecutors in December 2005 after complaints filed by survivors and human rights groups.

The final decision over whether to press ahead with the case rests with the investigating magistrates.

The five French military officers targeted by the investigation have never been charged.

A source close to the probe, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the case is highly to be dropped unless any further investigation is ordered.


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