The Paris Court of Assizes on Wednesday successfully concluded a trial case that involved the prosecution against a genocide suspect, Sosthene Munyemana, a medical doctor and University lecturer during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
Dr. Munyemana, 68, who was Gynecologist at University teaching hospital of Butare and lecturer at the national university of Rwanda from the same area, was found guilty of charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and participation in a conspiracy to prepare those crimes and thus sentenced to 24 years in jail.
The man who was referred to “the butcher of Tumba.” denied any wrongdoing and his lawyers said he would appeal the decision.
It took 28 years – and 26 days of court time, but the last journey of the trial begun on November 13, 2023 and culminated into the verdict in favour of prosecution and civil parties, December 19.
It is a trial that started back in 1995 when a complaint was filed against him in the southwestern France in 1995 where he had fled and resumed his medical career at Saint-Andre hospital in Bordeaux, then in Villeneuve-sur-Lot and Lot-et-Garonne – lately working in Geriatric care, only to retire one year ago.
All this time however, effort to have him successfully tried and/or extradited to Rwanda kept back-lashing, and the genocide survivors were, for the last 28 years wondering if ever justice would be rendered.
In the trial, 60 witness of the prosecution were heard, most of whom, with shocking testimonies on how they narrowly survived.
They shared information on how Munyemana, a personal friend of interim regime Prime Minister Jean Kambanda [later sentenced to life by the International Court for genocide] who visited him in Tumba, was instrumental in setting up road blocks and patrols in his neighborhood of Tumba targeting Tutsi.
Most of the witnesses told the court that he hold the key of the sector office where Tutsis were imprisoned before being taken away to be killed.
Munyemana agreed that indeed he had the key of the sectoral office, but denied having taken it with the intention to hand the Tutsi to killers, but, “in efforts to try and hide them.”
In several circumstances during the Genocide, the Tutsi were told told that they could get protection if they come together in the same place, but it was a technic to find them in the same place and exterminate them.
Several witnesses testified that their relatives were taken from the sector office to be killed.
He acknowledged participating in local night patrols-amarondo-organised to track the Tutsi but he alleged that he did it to protect the local population. Witnesses saw him at checkpoints set up across the town where he supervised operations, according to the prosecution.
He has been accused of co-signing in April 1994 “a motion of support” for the interim government that supervised the genocide and of participating in a local committee and meetings that organised roundups of Tutsi civilians.
One such a meeting would have come as earlier as April 17, 1994 and was co-chaiured by Conseiller Bwanacyeye Francois for Tumba citizen over security.
They decided that roadblocks and night patrols would be set for security purposes.
Munyemana would have told participants that their enemy is within them-the Tutsi, that he already 15 people-Hutu from Kigembe who came fleeing the RPF Inkotanyi who infiltrated from Burundi.
Several witnesses of the defence, including former colleagues in France tried to tell the court that Munyemana, as they know him, “cannot be involved in killings, because he is good-hearted person who used to give his level best to save patients.”
Others alleged that back in Rwanda, he used to help people irrespective of their ethnic background.
After reading the verdict, the court ordered for the immediate arrest of Munyermana who was accompanied by his wife in court.
Before going to start the new journey in jail, he kissed the wife and was handcuffed.
According the the court, Munyemana would only qualify to apply for early release after serving eight years.
He however has the option to appeal his sentence within ten days effective from December 20.
Munyemana becomes the sixth suspect to have faced trial in France over the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi. Others include Laurent Bucyibaruta, Pascal Simbikangwa, and Hategekimana Philippe Manier-Biguma.