France refuses to extradite genocide suspect

September 15, 2010 12:00 am

, VERSAILLES, Sep 15 – A French court on Wednesday rejected Kigali\’s request to extradite Rwandan doctor Eugene Rwamucyo, who is suspected of involvement in the 1994 genocide.

The court in Versailles, just outside Paris, also ordered the release of Rwamucyo, who was arrested while attending a funeral in May on the strength of an international warrant issued by Rwanda in 2007.

"This is a relief because this matter is very political and so it\’s a victory of law over politics," said Rwamucyo\’s lawyer, Philippe Meilhac.

Rwamucyo is wanted by Kigali for having allegedly planned and carried out atrocities in the Butare region of southern Rwanda.

The doctor, aged in his 50s, is still the subject in Paris of a complaint filed by the families of genocide victims for crimes against humanity.

"The idea is not to avoid proceedings," said Meilhac. "We hope that French justice will pick up the pace and hear his case (brought by the families) as there\’s nothing worse than not being able to defend onself."

Alain Gauthier, who heads Rwandan victims\’ group CPCR, called on French magistrates to "take in hand the other 17 or 18 cases as Mr Rwamucy is only one among many."

A court in the southwestern city of Bordeaux is to rule on October 7 on an extradition request against Sosthene Munyemanan, another doctor accused of involvement in the genocide.

France has transferred three Rwandan suspects to Tanzania to face prosecution before the international tribunal, but judges have so far refused to extradite genocide suspects to Kigali.

In recent cases, French courts have ruled that the suspects cannot expect a fair trial in their homeland.

Rwamucyo\’s arrest came nearly three months after police detained Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of Rwanda\’s assassinated ex-president, and one of the alleged masterminds of the genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

It also follows President Nicolas Sarkozy\’s landmark trip to Kigali in March during which he said France would do everything possible to ensure that "all those responsible for the genocide are found and are punished."

Rwamucyo lived in Belgium with his family and until April worked as a doctor in a city hospital in Maubeuge, northern France.

In an interview to AFP last year, Rwamucyo denied the allegations of genocide. He accused the Tutsi-led government in Kigali of waging a campaign against him.

"They are trying to make people believe that all of the Hutus who held any position of responsibility at the time were thinking about killing Tutsis," Rwamucyo said.

Rwanda has repeatedly accused France of allowing genocide suspects to live comfortable lives in French towns and villages and turning a blind eye to calls for them to face justice.

An estimated 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were massacred over the course of about 100 days from April to July 1994.



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