''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XI No 1

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Tuesday February 4, 2014 - Landmark case opens in France as genocide suspect Pascal Simbikangwa has his day in court. It's all being filmed for posterity as France tries to shake off a reputation linked to covering up/protecting perpetrators of human rights abuses involving Africans against Africans. The wheels of justice may move sometimes too slowly for victims and survivors, but they do get there in the end.Rwanda genocide suspect Pascal Simbikangwa

A French court has started hearing a case in which, for the first time, a Rwandan genocide suspect is having his day in a court in France twenty years after the 1994 genocide that could well have killed close to a million Tutsis and less hard line Hutus who did not go the way of the murderous gangs of mainly Hutu killers.

France has often been accused of providing protection, using one form of legal cover or the other, steadfastly refusing to extradite Rwandan genocide suspects as well as others associated with mass murder in other African countries like Sierra Leone. Critics of the French administration's attitude to deaths involving Africans say the country has never shown interest in bringing to justice anyone accused of having a hand in mass murder, human rights abuses, abductions and rape.

The latest demonstration of this is depicted in a recent incident in the conflict-ravaged Central African Republic, the CAR, where within the reach of French peace keepers murderous gangs were allowed to get away with the mutilation of two dead victims who had been freshly butchered persons thought to be Muslims allegedly by Christian vengeful mobs.

Pascal Simbikangwa, a former intelligence officer carrying the rank of captain in the government of the time is accused of playing a key role in the murderous campaigns launched by Hutu killer mobs in an organised orgy of mass murder and he appears to have got into the spotlight in 2008 after he was arrested in a collection of French-controlled islands known as Mayotte. One report states this of Pascal Simbikangwa -

Simbikangwa was born in 1959 in Rambura, in northwestern Rwanda. The former intelligence officer has said he is related to Juvénal Habyarimana, the Hutu president whose 1994 assassination sparked the genocide. For Rwandan legal authorities, who called for his extradition before France decided to bring him to trial, Simbikwanga is one of the organisers of the genocide.

He has rejected the allegation.

Wheelchair-bound since a car accident in 1986, Simbikangwa was a proponent of “Hutu Power”, an ideology promoted by Hutu extremists, and was in charge of spying on the opposition’s press outlets. He also contributed to the creation of “Radio Mille Collines”, where, for years, he voiced virulent anti-Tutsi propaganda on the air, encouraging those who would carry out the massacre against Tutsi “cockroaches”.

Pascal Simbikangwa faces the somewhat lesser charge of genocide and instead is accused of complicity - a charge that carries a life in jail if found guilty and the court so decides. One report gives this narrative as to how Pascal Simbikangwa got in court -

In July 1994, when the Hutu Power movement was ousted by Tutsi rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Simbikangwa fled with his family, heading for the Democratic Republic of Congo. His mother and his wife died in a refugee camp near the Rwandan border; he continued on to Kenya and Cameroon, eventually sneaking into the French Indian Ocean territory of Mayotte in 2005, where he tried to blend in with the many Rwandans living in the capital, Mamoudzou. In 2008, Simbikangwa was arrested by French border police for involvement in trafficking fake identity papers. The former captain was accused of fabricating more than 3,000 documents and pocketing 80,000 euros. Soon enough, the police found out who exactly they had taken into custody. In 2009, Mayotte’s attorney general called for a formal investigation into Simbikangwa for homicide. He was subsequently transferred to a prison in mainland France.

The BBC has this on its website -

Many of the victims' families have been eagerly awaiting the trial.

Dafroza Gauthier, who lost more than 80 members of her family in the genocide, has been working for the past 12 years with her husband, Alain, to build the case against Pascal Simbikangwa. She told reporters the trial was "an important moment for the victims who have been waiting for this trial for 20 years - for them, for their families, but also for French people who were certainly misinformed at the time of the events during the genocide". Rwandan Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said the start of the trial was a "good sign".

A lawyer working with the prosecution, Clemence Bectarte, told the BBC many of the suspects of the Rwandan genocide "have lived in total impunity" after seeking refuge in France in the late 1990s. "Of course it is late, but it's never too late," she said.

The trial is expected to last seven weeks.

France has been accused of not doing enough to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and of delaying the extradition of genocide suspects.

The BBC's Kigali correspondent Prudent Nsengiyumva adds -

Although Pascal Simbikangwa only had the rank of captain, as head of the country's secret service he is accused of being one of the most significant people in organising the genocide. He is accused of drawing up lists of high-profile Tutsis and Hutus opposed to the government to be killed in the capital, Kigali. He then allegedly instructed the soldiers and militia on how they should carry out the slaughter. He denies all the charges. He lost his legs in a car accident in 1986 and has used a wheelchair ever since. As he could no longer fight in the army, he joined the secret service. He is accused of personally torturing people from his wheelchair. Rwanda's government has long accused France of having supported the genocidal regime. Paris denies this but the two countries have fallen out. This trial has been well received in Kigali and may lead to a diplomatic rapprochement.

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