Arusha, 26 June 2007 (FH) - The transfer to the French courts of the indictment of Wenceslas Munyeshyeka, a Rwandan priest exiled in France since the genocide, is likely to rekindle tensions between Kigali and Paris.

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Rwanda and France have already broken off their diplomatic relations since the end 2006, after the publication of the conclusions of the investigation of French Judge Jean Louis Bruguiere who accused President Paul Kagame and investigated nine of his close associates.

Since the announcement of the transfer request of Munyeshyeka last week, the Attorney General of Rwanda, Mr. Martin Ngoga declared that he was surprised that France was entrusted the responsibility to try a man who is exiled there. For the Rwandan ambassador at the ICTR, Aloys Mutabingwa, France does not have any "moral authority" "to try a case in which its own authorities (political and military) are co-defendants". It cannot, he adds, be judge and parti.

In Kigali, Munyeshyeka, more known under the name of Father Wenceslas, was a vicar at the parish of the Holy Family, in the center of the city, was convicted in absentia to a life sentence. Since 1995, he has been registered on the Rwandan list of people suspected of having taken part in the genocide.

A few months after his arrival in France, Munyeshyeka was the object of an investigation, but in 1996 the Court of Appeals of Nimes abandoned the proceedings estimating that French courts did not have jurisdiction. In January 1998, the Court of Cassation reconsidered this decision and ordered the resumption of the proceedings. The investigation gathered in Paris, as well as other instructions into the genocide, did not result in any legal document, interrogation or other.

Therefore, since July 2005, the ICTR, which profits from a primacy of proceedings, issued an indictment which remained under seal. Two other indictments had remained secret; one is for a fugitive of which the arrest and the judgment were entrusted to Rwanda and the other is for Laurent Bucyibaruta, former prefect of Gikongoro, also exiled in France and whose case is also the subject of a transfer request to France.

The two men, moreover, were the objects of arrest warrants issued by the ICTR. These transfers of accused expressly aimed by the ICTR are regulated by article 11 bis of its rules. It stipulates that the Chamber before returning its decision "must be convinced that the defendant will receive a fair trial" and does not risk the death penalty. Already a request in this direction was rejected because the country concerned did not have in its penal code express incrimination for genocide.

© Hirondelle News Agency