Court in France is scheduled to start the hearing of appeal in one of the much awaited genocide cases involving two Genocide masterminds on Wednesday.
From May 2nd to July 6th, will be held at the Paris Assize Court the appeal trial of Octavien Ngenzi and Tito Barahira, both sentenced in first instance to life imprisonment over genocide crimes and crimes against humanity two years ago.
The crimes were particularly committed in Kabarondo parish of the former Kibungo prefecture-current Eastern Province.
The case of these former Bourgmesters of Commune Kabarondo between 1977 and 1994 was opened in May 2016 where they were accused of giving orders to kill more than 3500 Tutsi that had sought refuge at Kabarondo Parish, crimes against humanity, intent to exterminate the mass and intent to exterminate the Tutsi.
More particularily, Ngenzi, the successor of Barahira as bourgmester of Kabarondo was leader the “National Republican Movement for Development and Democracy” (MNRD)-then ruling party in Kabarondo.
Ngenzi allegedly participated in the massacre at Kabarondo church on 13 April 1994, where close to one thousand Tutsis were killed by Hutu militia.
He is accused to have organized and led the Interahamwe militia, armed with machetes, toward Kabarondo church.
During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Barahira was Director of Electrogaz, that was in charge of production and distribution of water and electricity in Rwanda 1976, Kabarondo section.
He formerly served as Bourgmester of Kabarondo until 1986. He was also chairperson of MRND in Kabarondo.
It is believed that he chaired and participated in the meetings where plans to exterminate Tutsis were designed together with Ngenzi.
In April 1994, Barahira allegedly organized and led a group of Interahamwe militia armed with machetes to the Kabarondo Church and participated in the killing of Tutsi who had taken refuge in the church.
He was also suspected of participating in the attack that killed the Tutsi of Rugenge and Nyakabungo sectors, and personally ordered the killing of an old woman – Josephine Mukaruhigira.
Ngenzi and Barahira were sentenced to life in prison in July 2016.
Back to the case in appeal, it will be a battle between the Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR), a French based non-governmental organization that aims at bringing before court genocide fugitives in France and three attorneys of the defense.
Alexandre Bourgeot will defend Tito Barahira while Fabrice Epstein and Chouai will lead defense for Ngenzi.
All the three lawyers were on the defense of Pascal Simbikangwa, who, also in France, was sentenced on appeal to 25 years of criminal imprisonment for genocide.
“Let’s hope that this trial can take place in serenity and dignity. The experience of the previous three trials has shown us that this was not always the case, witnesses from Rwanda were not protected from the defense,” wrote Alain Gauthier, President of the CPCR, also holder of medal of friends of Rwanda.
History of the trial
This trial which is expected to reveal some key information in the genocide planning and execution has some important events to note.
Considering the chronology of events, the case starts in April 2009 with an arrest warrant issued by Rwanda against Ngenzi for involvement in the Genocide.
This was followed on June 2nd 2010, by a complaint filed by CPCR against the same person, for same crime.
He was arrested the following morning and detained at Iles Mayotte in France.
Four months later – October 2010, Rwanda indicted Barahira for his alleged participation in the genocide and for incitement to commit acts of genocide and in March 2011, CPCR filed a complaint against him in French court.
After realizing that the case is about two suspects with similar circumstances of crimes and facts, on 5 April 2012, the court joined both cases but Barahira was still on the run.
He was arrested on 3 April 2013 in Toulouse, and detained in Fresnes (Paris). As it was the case for his co-accused, French courts refused to extradite Barahira to Rwanda.
French judges indicted Ngenzi and Barahira in May 2014, but the suspects appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. The latter upheld the indictment against both suspects for genocide and crimes against humanity.
Their trial took place between May 10 2016 and 1st July 2016 before Paris Criminal Court. On 6 July 2016, they were found guilty and handed life sentence in jail.
Two days later, defense lawyers announced their clients’ intention to appeal.
In the meantime, the list of Genocide suspects in France is still long.