Ex-Rwandan military policeman found guilty of genocide by Paris court
The Paris Assize Court was merciless on Wednesday in sentencing former Rwandan gendarme Philippe Hategekimana, 66, naturalised French under the name Philippe Manier, to life imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda in the spring of 1994.
The court followed the prosecution’s instructions to the letter and found Mr Manier guilty of “virtually all the charges” against him.
There is no statute of limitations for genocide and crimes against humanity.
The former chief warrant officer of the Nyanza gendarmerie (southern Rwanda), standing in his box, leaning on a cane, remained impassive as the verdict was announced, while outside the courtroom Rwandans, civil parties in the trial, burst into song and dance.
A naturalized French citizen since 2005, Mr Manier, who acknowledges the reality of the genocide but denies any involvement in its implementation, was prosecuted for participation in a criminal conspiracy to prepare the crimes of genocide and other crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes against humanity.
He was accused of participating in or encouraging the murder of dozens of Tutsis in the Butare prefecture (southern Rwanda), including the mayor of Ntyazo who resisted the implementation of genocide in his commune.
According to the prosecution, he ordered and supervised the erection of several roadblocks “intended to control and kill Tutsi civilians”.
The prosecution also accused Mr Manier of having participated, by giving orders or even by being directly involved in the field, in three massacres: that of Nyabubare hill, where 300 people were killed on 23 April 1994; that, four days later, of Nyamure hill, where thousands of Tutsis had taken refuge; and that of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences of Rwanda, where tens of thousands of victims were recorded.
For the latter crime, the court only recognised Mr Manier’s complicity but not his guilt as the perpetrator of the massacre.
“You will listen to reason and your heart”, the accused had asked the jurors before the court retired to deliberate for more than ten hours.
– Zealous agent” of the genocide –
For the prosecution, Philippe Manier, nicknamed “Biguma” at the time of the events of which he was accused, was “a fundamental link in the implementation of the genocide” in Rwanda.
During the hearing, the accused chose to remain silent.
The presiding judge, Jean-Marc Lavergne, deplored his “lack of any sincere expression of remorse”. When the verdict was announced, he denounced “a zealous agent” of the genocide, “locked in lies”, “incapable of accepting responsibility for the enormity of the crimes committed”.
“I sincerely sympathise with the suffering endured by the victims. The genocide against the Tutsis is a reality. And I witnessed it. But I have nothing to reproach myself for”, Mr Manier said at the hearing during one of his rare appearances.
“Acknowledging my innocence does not mean denying the genocide, it does not mean denying the suffering of the victims. It is simply accepting the complexity of the situation at the time”, he said.
His defence, which had argued for acquittal, wanted the accused to benefit from doubt, arguing that the accusation was “built on sand”.
The defence has ten days in which to appeal.
Philippe Manier is the “scapegoat” of a political game between Paris and Kigali, his counsel argued during the trial. They questioned the most damning testimony given by prisoners questioned by videoconference from their prison in Kigali.
The former chief warrant officer was the fifth defendant to be tried in France for crimes committed during the genocide in Rwanda, in which, according to the UN, more than 800,000 people were killed, mainly Tutsis, between April and July 1994.
He was being tried in Paris on the basis of the “universal jurisdiction” exercised, under certain conditions, by France to try the most serious crimes committed outside its territory.
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