French complicity in the Tutsi genocide: a glimmer of light in the Bisesero file

Press release
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Aboodi Vesakaran via Pexels

The Paris Court of Appeal has overturned the order to stay proceedings issued in September 2022 in the Bisesero case. The case involves two thousand Tutsis being left at the mercy of their killers by the French army at the end of June 1994. The Court of Appeal found that the order had not been issued in the manner required by law. As a result, it did not rule on the requests to refer four French officers to the Cour d’Assise: the civil parties in this case welcome this annulment but regret that time continues to play in favour of impunity.

21 June 2023. Following the publication in March 2021 of the report by the commission chaired by Vincent Duclert, the Rwandan plaintiffs, Survie, the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) requested that it be added to the case file, stressing that it constituted a new element. Thirteen months later, on 3 June 2022, the judges appointed a specialist assistant to summarise the Duclert report. The plaintiffs and the civil party associations then welcomed the reopening of the investigation, before being seriously let-down a few weeks later: the order to stay proceedings issued by the investigating judges on 6 September 2022 [1].

The civil parties have appealed. The Investigating Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal has just ruled on the legality of this order to stay proceedings. It ruled that the investigating magistrates had indeed reopened the case by deciding to make use of the Duclert report, and that they could not therefore issue an order to terminate proceedings without first notifying the parties of their intention to close the case. This failure to comply with article 175 of the Code of Criminal Proceedings rendered the order null and void. The case is referred back to the examining magistrates.

For Eric Plouvier, lawyer for the Survie association, “this decision highlights the fact that the judge did not draw sufficient conclusions from the Duclert report. Even if the annulment apparently relates to a flaw in procedure, its underlying cause stems from the fact that the judge merely touched upon this report without linking it to the case or the observations of the civil parties. The Duclert Commission consulted military documents that were refused to the judges”.

For Patrick Baudouin, President of the LDH and Honorary President of the FIDH, “it was hard to imagine a decision other than this one, governed by sheer procedure. But we have to recognise that we are embarking on months, if not years, of legal battles, in an attempt to win the only thing that matters to us: an end to the impunity enjoyed by the military and political leaders in this case”.

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