He arrived in the courtroom in a wheelchair. A tall, thin, 78-year-old man in a beige suit who sat down in front of his lawyers. “Given your health problems, do you want to express yourself standing up or sitting down? », asks the president. ” Stay seated “, responds Laurent Bucyibaruta whose voice, despite the microphone, remains difficult to hear. It is therefore in this big blue seat that, for two months, this former Rwandan prefect will explain his involvement in the massacres that took place in his region in the summer of 2014 during the genocide perpetrated in 1994 in Rwanda, at the instigation of the Hutu extremist regime.
→ CONTEXT. Genocide in Rwanda, a former prefect before French justice
Laurent Bucyibaruta appears before this court to “genocide”, “complicity in genocide” and “complicity in crimes against humanity”. Serious accusations related to the role that the prosecution attributes to the one who, in 1994, was at the head of Gikongoro, a region south of the capital Kigali. In the weeks following the start of the genocide, Laurent Bucyibaruta encouraged the Tutsi population to take refuge in several parishes or an old school. Refuges which, in fact, turned out to be traps, sorts of traps where men, women and children were attacked by Hutu militiamen. And victims of large-scale killings. “On the site of the Murambi technical school, between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m., nearly 40,000 people were executed,” explained, a few hours before the start of the hearing, Alain Gauthier¸ president of the Collective of civil parties for Rwanda (CPCR).
The defendant maintains his innocence
For the survivors and the families of the victims, the senior official encouraged these Tutsis to find refuge in these parishes or this school in full knowledge of the facts, knowing the fate which would be reserved for them. An assertion disputed by the accused, who has been claiming his innocence since his indictment.
→ TESTIMONIALS. In Rwanda, accusations of rape by French soldiers resurface
But this Monday, May 9, it is another argument that the defense puts forward: the “unreasonable delay” put by justice to make appear the former prefect, indicted twenty-two years ago. “The judicial institution was failing”, says Mand Jean-Marie Biju-Duval, by denouncing a “unfair and unfair trial”not allowing his client, in very fragile health, to fully defend himself.
Testimonials by videoconference
The lawyer adds that several witnesses “keys” facts will not be able to come and testify at the hearing because they are now deceased. This justifies, for the defense, the cancellation of the prosecution. A scenario impossible to imagine for Mand Simon Foreman, SCRC attorney. “If Laurent Bucyibaruta had not fled his country for France, he would have been tried long ago in Rwanda”, he says, adding that the accused also refused in 2007 to appear before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
If the Assize Court dismisses this request for cancellation, the trial can start on Tuesday. With, within ten days, the testimonies of civil parties. Some will be heard by videoconference from Rwanda. “But many will come to Paris to testify at the hearing, explains Alain Gauthier. It is of course a test for these civil parties, because it is not easy to testify at the assizes. Some will do it a bit reluctantly, still wanting justice to be done. Others are very determined. A civil party who had to speak by video told us that she absolutely wanted to be there. At the bar of the Assize Court. »