A former Rwandan military police officer who fled to France after the 1994 genocide and started a new life under a false identity is on trial in Paris, accused of crimes against humanity.
Philippe Hategekimana, 66, fled to France five years after the genocide, obtaining refugee status under a fake name. He became a security guard at the university in the city of Rennes in Brittany and obtained French citizenship in 2005.
He is accused of participating in the massacres of the Rwandan genocide between April and July 1994, in which 800,000 people died, most of them ethnic Tutsi.
Hategekimana is accused of being involved in the killing of many Tutsis and also setting up roadblocks to stop Tutsis being killed in and around the southern provincial capital of Nyanza, where he works as a senior police officer. .
He denied the allegations.
The plaintiffs accused him of “using the powers and military forces granted to him by his rank to … engage in genocide”.
He is suspected of being involved in the killing of a nun and the mayor of the town of Ntyazo who was against the killings.
He is also accused of having a role in the killing of 300 Tutsi refugees on a hill called Nyamugari, and in an attack on another mountain called Nyabubare where nearly 1,000 civilians were killed.
He fled France for Cameroon in late 2017 after the press reported that the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda, one of the plaintiffs in this week’s trial, filed a complaint against him. He was arrested in the capital, Yaoundé, in 2018 and extradited to France.
The case that began on Wednesday is the fifth trial in France of an alleged participant in the Rwandan genocide, after years of tension between Paris and Kigali over the role France played before and during the killings. Kigali accused France of not doing enough to stop the genocide, and later of not doing enough for the justice process.
For years Kigali has accused France, which is one of the main destinations for refugees from the massacres, of protecting Rwandan genocide suspects. France has generally refused requests to extradite Rwandan suspects, prompting the president, Paul Kagame, to say that Paris was refusing jurisdiction over Rwanda.
The first Rwanda genocide trial in France took place in 2014 when the former spy chief was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Two former mayors, a hotel chauffeur and a former top official have faced similar trials since then. Another Rwandan, a doctor called Sosthene Munyemana, who has lived in France since 1994, faces trial in Paris later this year.
Relations between France and Rwanda are now heating up significantly since a report by historians commissioned by Emmanuel Macron and released in 2021 recognizes the “greater” responsibilities of France for failing to stop the massacre.
A report commissioned by Kigali found in 2021 that France “bears significant responsibility” for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the Rwandan genocide in 1994 because it remained “unwavering in support” of its allies even though officials knew the massacre was being planned.
Philippe Hategekimana’s trial in Paris will last until June 30.
Agence France-Presse contributed to this report