Genocide survivors speak out on Simbikangwa trial
Rwanda’s former intelligence chief, Pascal Simbikangwa is accused of arming the Interahamwe militia and instructing them to man roadblocks and instructing the killing of the Tutsis in various parts of country including Kiyovu, Kigali and also in some parts of Ngororero district.
Simbikangwa, 54, who is disabled because of a car accident in the 1980s and uses a wheelchair, was arrested in 2008 on France’s Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, where he had been living under an alias name Safari Pascal
He is accused of helping arm Hutu soldiers who manned roadway checkpoints in the capital, and instructing them about their part in the slaughter.
Dativa Mukarugema, one of the witnesses says that she has vivid memories of seeing Simbikangwa deploying interahamwe militia groups from the top of the hills, who later descended and killed numerous Tutsis.
Some of the victims of genocide also have a feeling that though Simbikangwa is being tried in France, it would be better if his case is transferred to Rwanda and more evidence gathered from the areas where the crimes were committed.
More than 50 witnesses – including journalists, historians, farmers, security guards and intelligence officials – are expected to be called by the prosecution. Among civil parties to the case are Alain Gauthier and his wife Dafroza, who lost more than 80 family members in the genocide, and have spent 12 years working on this case.
Dafroza Gauthier said before the trial: “I am especially dedicating this [trial] to the anonymous victims of Pascal Simbikangwa, those without a name, a grave …We are thinking of them and the struggle continues.”
Esperance Gahongayire, the French representative of Ibuka-the umbrella organ for survivors says that the appeal to have more suspects tried still continues and it is a shame of nothing is done
The French court yesterday paved way for the trial of Capt. Pascal Simbikangwa, a former intelligence who is charged of genocide crimes and war crimes in connection with a 1994 killing that left at least half a million people dead.
The triall of Simbikangwa is the first genocide case to be tried in France over the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. His case is set to last about seven weeks and if convicted Simbikangwa could face a life sentence.
Another 27 cases linked to Rwanda’s genocide are being investigated by the Paris court war crimes unit, including one focusing on Agatha Kanzinga, the wife of former president Juvenal Habyarimana.
Some of the French cases include –Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, who practicesin the Gisors parish of northern France, while France’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, is expected to decide on an appeal against a decision to extradite two men of Rwandan origin, Claude Muhayimana and Innocent Musabyimana to Rwanda
Ties between France and Rwanda eroded after the genocide. A low point came in November 2006, when a French magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière delivered arrest warrants on Rwandan top leaders.
Last year 2013, France promised to start extradition and trial of some of the genocide suspects who are rooming freely in the French nation, and have been able to evade justice since France had not endorsed the plea from Rwandan authorities to have the suspects brought to justice, 20 years down the road.
Rwanda’s Justice Minister Johnston Busingye said that Simbikangwa’s trial is an important moment in the global fight against impunity.