A great victory for the victims of the Rwandan genocide and for universal justice
After six weeks of hearings, the Criminal Court in Paris handed down an historic verdict today, convicting Pascal Simbikangwa of genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity for his actions in Rwanda between April and July 1994, the period of the genocide. Simbikangwa was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
“ Today’s historic verdict is a landmark moment for the victims of the Rwandan genocide, who have fought tirelessly for this trial to be held. They have waited so many years to see France uphold its obligation to bring persons suspected of genocide and resident in this country to justice ” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.
“The debates which have taken place over the last six weeks, in light of testimonies heard from almost 40 witnesses and expert witnesses, have ensured a fair trial which respected the rights of the defendant. This is what we, as civil parties, had hoped for, and today, we are satisfied”, said Michel Tubiana, lawyer and LDH Honorary President.
“This verdict, delivered at the end of an exemplary trial, is evidence to the critics of universal jurisdiction that it is not only possible but indispensable that trials be held on the basis of universal justice, even 20 years after the events and thousands of kilometers from the place where the crimes were committed,” said Patrick Baudouin, lawyer representing FIDH in the trial and FIDH Honorary President. “This is particularly important because the Simbikangwa trial will be followed by many others. Investigations in 25 cases relating to the genocide in Rwanda, as well as crimes committed in Algeria, Congo-Brazzaville, and also Libya and Syria are ongoing. We expect the the same diligence on the part of the French judicial authorities in pursuing these cases.”
Pascal Simbikangwa was accused of genocide and complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1994 Rwandan genocide for supplying weapons and giving orders to barrier guards in Kigali at the beginning of the genocide, actions which led to the massacre of a significant number of Tutsis (see FIDH and LDH press kit on this case in French).
At the end of the proceedings, which the five NGO civil parties actively contributed to, the Public Prosecutor requested that the charge against the accused be changed from ’complicity in genocide’ to ’genocide’, arguing that the defendant’s role, as described by witnesses during the trial, was more one of direct contribution rather than complicity in crimes committed by others.The Public Prosecutor called for a sentence of life imprisonment, the maximum sentence for the crimes with which the accused was charged.
France had earlier been condemned in 2004 by the European Court of Human Rights for its failure to deal with the Rwandan cases in a reasonable time period.