French court sentences Rwandan mayors to life in prison for 1994 genocide

PARIS, July 7 (UPI) — Two former Rwandan mayors received life imprisonment sentences Thursday for their roles in a 1994 genocide in which they were found to be responsible for the deaths of 2,000 people.

Tito Barahira, 65, and Octavien Ngenzi, 58, each a former mayor of Kabarondo, Rwanda, heard their sentences announced in Paris’ Cour D’Assises. The ruling followed an eight-week trial on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Each denied the charges.

The men were accused of organizing a massacre, by Hutu tribe extremists, of members of the Tutsi tribe, who sought refuge in a Kabarondo church. Survivors of the assault testified at the trial, with stories of killings by machetes and guns.

More than 800,000 people died in Rwanda during the genocide.

The French activist group Collectif des Parties Civiles, a non-governmental organization also identified as CPCR, pushed for the trial.

Johnston Busingye, Rwandan Justice Minister, praised the decision but told the Rwandan newspaper New Times, “The context makes us choose a cautious welcome.

“It’s 22 years after the genocide, 39 indictments seated in France, 15 extradition applications systematically denied on a strange brand of legal reasoning, 28 cases are pending before French courts, all initiated by the CPCR, not French prosecution. The rate of three trials in 22 years seems to be a French-specific phenomenon. France shelters probably the highest concentration, per capita, of genocidaires than any other country in Europe and the French state is itself yet to come to terms with the sad reality of its role in the genocide.”

France supported Rwanda’s Hutu-led government against the primarily Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front during insurrections beginning in 1990. After the fighting, French troops were deployed to establish a buffer zone, which allowed many Hutus who participated in the 100-day genocide to escape to Zaire; some eventually settled in France.

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