Legal action speeds up as April memorial approaches

21 February 2005 by Thierry Cruvellier

Every year, the run-up to the annual commemoration of the Rwandan genocide that began on April 1994, generates a flurry of legal activity. This year is no different, with a number of complaints lodged last year continuing or being repeated in 2005. Last week in Spain and France, NGOs from opposing political camps announced they were filing new complaints, while in Rwanda, the start of the gacaca trials is now set for March.

In France, six complaints were filed to a military court on 16 February against French soldiers serving in Rwanda in 1994 as part of Operation Turquoise. Lodged in the name of six Rwandans and backed by French NGOs including 'Survie', it accuses the soldiers of complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity. The accusations, based on testimony from Rwanda, including that of prisoners, concern two distinct sites. The first, cited in three complaints, is the mountainous region of Bisesero in western Rwanda, where tens of thousands of Tutsis sought shelter before being exterminated in repeated attacks between April and June 1994. Operation Turquoise soldiers arrived in the region towards the end of June 1994. Although French peacekeepers saw survivors emerge from their hiding places, they withdrew and did not return until three days later, leaving the Hutu militias more time to continue their killing. The second site is the Murambi camp where survivors of the massacres had gathered.

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