Simbikangwa denies role in Genocide on second day of trial
On the second day of his trial, Cpt. Pascal Simbikangwa played it safe by denying his participation in the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi, saying he was absent and unable to move due to his physical condition.
The Rwandan former intelligence director, denied charges of crimes against humanity and complicity in the 1994 genocide and told a Paris court on Wednesday, but admitted his involvement in financing Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) an extremist station that played a role in mobilising Hutus to kill Tutsis during the Genocide.
“I participated neither in the end of the war nor in the descent into chaos,” Simbikangwa, 54, told the court, and insisted that he was on his wheel chair and could not move, though he was receiving funds from his boss to run intelligence operations.
After a 1986 car accident that left him a paraplegic, Simbikangwa left the army and joined the intelligence services, but it is said that he kept his resentment for the Tutis’s and his involvement as an intelligence officer was evident in giving directive and ordering hits, in which victims called him the ‘The Torturer’.
“Even though I was called a director, I didn’t have a role, I didn’t have decision-making power,” said Simbikangwa, sitting in a wheelchair in the defendant’s box. “I was a mere agent. The rest is a lot of nonsense.”
Witnesses questioned during the preliminary investigation refuted that argument, citing one man who said he was hired by Simbikangwa to recruit youth for the National Revolutionary Movement for Development (MRND), party- which played a major role in organizing the genocide.
Simbikangwa also referred to the witness testimonies as propaganda from Rwanda, and denied any involvement in with the MRND party, though he admitted that he was a close friend of former Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyirimana, who was head of state during the Genocidal regime.
Hasna Makni, who leads the France-based rights group Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR), was upset about Simbikangwa’s testimony and defense during the court proceedings saying that the suspect lied and held back most of the information throughout the court session.
Some victims and sympathizers in this case living in France suggested that the case should be transferred to Rwanda where more witness and evidence can be retrieved in this case so as to seek proper justice.
Simbikangwa, who was arrested in 2008 on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, faces a life sentence if convicted with a mandatory 22 years behind bars. This case is considered to be a historical case that will determine the future of other genocide suspects on the run in France, as the whole international media descends in Paris to cover the case.
Who is Captain Pascal Simbikangwa?
Simbikangwa was born in the Northwestern Rwandan town of Rambura in 1959 and he is believed to be a relative of former Rwandan president, Juvénal Habyarimana, with whom France had close ties.
Simbikangwa was a key intelligence officer who served in Habyarimana’s regime monitoring the activities of Tutsi community in the country.
Simbikangwa retained his anti-Tutsi sentiments which were evident from his chilling activities as a spy chief.
Simbikangwa was one of the brains behind the Radio Mille Collines, which was primarily used to broadcast messages against Tutsi and encouraged their slaughter.
As soon as the Hutu regime was ousted in 1994 by the Tutsi rebels, Simbikangwa fled the country with his family to the Democratic Republic of Congo before wading into Kenya and Cameroon.
He is believed to have entered in the French territory of Mayotte in 2005 but was apprehended by authorities in 2008 for possession of fake documents to support his travel. Simbikangwa was initially charged for possessing illegal papers.
French authorities were able to establish his true identity and it emerged that he was wanted by Interpol for “crimes against humanity, genocide and organised crime”.
In April 2009, he was indicted for genocide and organised crime related to the 1994 killings. Simbikangwa was then transferred to the French detention centre of Saint-Denis on the island of Reunion.