A French court has sentenced a former senior Rwandan official to 20 years in prison after finding him complicit in his country’s genocide.
Laurent Bucyibaruta is the most senior Rwandan to serve in France Tried was the 1994 massacre in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus died in mass murders in 100 days.
At the heart of the 78-year-old’s trial were several “security” meetings, which were either ordered or in which they attended from Bucyibaruta, which prosecutors have argued was actually planning meetings for the killings.
Specifically, the former prefect of the southern province of Gikongoro was accused of persuading thousands of people to attend the Murambi Technical School, promising them food, water and shelter.
Days later, in the early hours of April 21, Wu tens of thousands of Tutsis are being executed there in one of the bloodiest episodes of the genocide.
The court also examined Bucyibaruta’s responsibility for the massacre of Arou 90 Tutsi students at Marie Merci School in Kibeho on May 7, 1994 and in the execution of Tutsi prisoners – including three priests – in Gikongoro prison.
During his trial, Bucyibaruta denied any involvement in the killings.
“I was never on the side of the Murderers,” Bucyibaruta told the court as his trial ended on Tuesday.
In an apparent message to genocide survivors, he said, “I want to tell you that I never thought of attributing you to the murderers to leave.”
He added, “Did I lack courage? Could I have saved her? Those questions, even those regrets, have haunted me for over 28 years.”
His lawyers had urged the court to “make a bold decision” and acquit him.
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The trial involved more than 100 testimonies, including some from survivors Rwanda in person or via video conference.
Bucyibaruta, who has been in France since 1997, has a myriad of health problems and was allowed to remain under house arrest to receive treatment during the trial.
France stands has long been under pressure from activists to crack down on suspected Rwandan perpetrators who then fled to French soil.
The French government had been a longtime supporter of the in-power Hutu regime at the time of the genocide and has since to decades of tension ties between countries.
A separate French investigation into the act that sparked the genocide – the shooting down of Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane – was closed earlier this year.
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Four people in three cases have already been convicted in French courts of the genocide: a former hotel driver was sentenced to 14 years in prison, an army officer to 25 years in prison and two mayors to life imprisonment.