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11 May, 2023 12:48

France puts former Rwandan policeman on trial over genocide

Philippe Hategekimana is accused of involvement in the massacre of hundreds of ethnic Tutsis in 1994
France puts former Rwandan policeman on trial over genocide

A former military police officer from Rwanda was put on trial in France on Wednesday, on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity for his alleged role in the 1994 massacre in his native country.

Philippe Hategekimana, 66, is said to have fled Rwanda after the genocide and assumed a new identity in France. He allegedly obtained refugee status and later French citizenship in 2005 using the name Philippe Manier, AFP news agency reported.

Hategekimana is accused of involvement in the murders of the mayor of Ntyazo and a nun at that time, while working as a high-ranking police officer in the southern provincial capital of Nyanza. According to the plaintiffs, he also played a part in the slaughter of 300 Tutsis on Nyamugari hill, as well as participating in an attack on Nyabubare hill, where approximately 1,000 civilians were killed during the 100-day genocide in Rwanda.

The defendant allegedly fled to Cameroon in 2017 following a complaint by the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda, one of the plaintiffs in the ongoing trial, and was subsequently arrested in Yaounde in 2018 and extradited to France.

Hategekimana denies all charges, but faces life in prison if found guilty. The trial is scheduled to run until the end of June.

This is the fifth trial in France of an alleged participant in the carnage. Another Rwandan, a doctor living in France since 1994, is set to face trial before the end of the year.

For many years, Kigali has accused Paris of offering protection to some perpetrators of the massacres and refusing to extradite them to Rwanda. In 2014, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said France directly participated in the genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered according to the UN. He told Jeune Afrique that France “didn’t do enough to save lives during the genocide.

The French government has denied being an accomplice in the killings, but has accepted “heavy and overwhelming responsibility" for not responding to the drift that led to the slaughter. In 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron asked the Central African country for forgiveness, promising that “nobody suspected of genocidal crimes will be able to escape justice.”