Ex-policeman goes on trial in France over Rwanda genocide

·3-min read
The Rwandan genocide killed around 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, between April and July 1994
The Rwandan genocide killed around 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, between April and July 1994

A former Rwandan military policeman went on trial in France on Wednesday, charged with genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1994 slaughter in his home country.

Philippe Hategekimana fled to France after the genocide, obtaining refugee status and then French nationality under the name Philippe Manier.

The 66-year-old appeared in court Wednesday morning wearing tortoiseshell glasses and a suede jacket over a checked shirt.

"My name is Philippe Manier," he told the judge, when asked to confirm his identity.

Hategekimana's in-depth questioning in court is not scheduled before June 20.

Other witnesses, including Rwandan army officers, are to be heard from May 16.

It is the fifth such trial in France of an alleged participant in the massacres, in which around 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were slaughtered over 100 days.

Hategekimana is accused of involvement in the murder of hundreds of Tutsis while working as a senior police official in the southern provincial capital of Nyanza.

He is suspected in particular of being involved in the murder of the mayor of the town of Ntyazo who opposed the killings, and of a nun.

He is also accused of playing a role in the killing of 300 Tutsis on a hill called Nyamugari, and in an attack on another hill called Nyabubare in which around 1,000 civilians were slaughtered.

Plaintiffs have accused Hategekimana of "using the powers and military force conferred to him through his rank in order to... take part in the genocide."

He has denied the charges. He faces life in jail if found guilty.

- French life -

In 1999 Hategekimana arrived in France and obtained refugee status under his false identity.

He became a university security guard in the western city of Rennes, gaining French citizenship in 2005.

He fled France for the western African state of Cameroon in late 2017 after the press reported that the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), one of the plaintiffs in the trial this week, had filed a complaint against him.

He was arrested in the capital Yaounde in 2018 and extradited to France.

His trial is scheduled to run until June 30.

France, one of the top destinations for fugitives from the massacres, has tried and convicted a former spy chief, two ex-mayors, a former hotel chauffeur and an ex-top official in similar trials since 2014.

But it has generally refused requests to extradite suspects to Rwanda, prompting President Paul Kagame to accuse Paris of denying Rwanda jurisdiction.

Relations between both countries have however warmed considerably since a historians' report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron and released in 2021 recognised France's "overwhelming" responsibilities in failing to halt the massacres.

Macron also promised that "nobody suspected of genocidal crimes will be able to escape justice".

Another Rwandan, a doctor called Sosthene Munyemana who has been living in France since 1994, faces trial in Paris before the end of the year.