Brussels, 4 September 2008 (FH) - The lawyers of three of the nine Rwandan officials targeted by arrest warrants issued in 2006 by French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere criticized during a press conference Thursday morning in Brussels the "inadmissible" way in which French justice ensured the overview of this case.

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"The way with which the French legal authorities treat such an important case, is inadmissible. We have lost confidence", stated Bernard Mangain who, with Lev Forster, represents Rose Kibuye, head of protocol for the Rwandan State, the retired general and deputy of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) Samuel Kanyemera, alias "kaka", and Jacob Tumwine, former lieutenant-colonel turned businessman.

"There is a political way, extra-judicial, to spread suspicions of people", added the Belgian lawyer. The two counsels denounced the "deafening silence" with which would oppose the prosecutor and the two investigating magistrates who succeeded Mr. Bruguière to their various requests. "Our requests for the judges to go Rwanda - contrary to Mr. Bruguière - or at the very least communicate with the Rwandan authorities; or even that certain witnesses are heard in cross-examination: in seventeen months, we have not received any answer", underlined Maingain.

Revealed on 27 November 2006, the order from the investigating Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière concluded on the responsibility of the RPF and the Head of the Rwandan State, Paul Kagame, for the attack against the plane of President Juvénal Habyarimana, on 6 April 1994. This attack marked the beginning of the genocide which resulted in more than 800 000 deaths, according to the UN, primarily Tutsis.

"We have decided to no longer request action and to await a possible transfer before an Assize Court to represent our clients and to ensure that a thorough investigation is conducted at that time", stated Bernard Maingain. According to him, the proceedings should begin before the end of the year.

However, although they regretted not having access to the case, the two men pointed out that it was about a legal tendency in French law: when arrest warrants target people considered "at large", their lawyers cannot officially intervene (and thus have access to evidence) as long as they have not been arrested or surrendered.

"It is for this reason that we ask for the lifting of the arrest warrants, so that our clients could know the charges which they face, even if nothing prevents the investigating magistrates or the prosecutor to already proceed to investigations which appear useful to us for the clearness of the debate", explained to Forster.

According to him, under other conditions, their clients would be ready to be heard by justice, notably that they "have not disappeared, or are "at large": they occupy official, visible functions". "But in this state, if they made themselves prisoners, which guarantees would they have that their case would be treated fairly whereas it has obviously not been the case since the beginning? ", he questioned himself.

Ultimately, Mangain and Forster, thus, criticize a prosecution investigation, known testimonies of people "having fled Rwanda and having an interest to give a negative image of it". They also reminded that certain key witnesses had reconsidered their statements after the publication of the order. In addition, the disclosure of it would be an "obvious violation of the secrecy of the investigation".

In the same logic, they wonder about the origins of the case, a complaint filed on 31 August 1997 by a family member of the French pilot of the presidential Falcon 50. "Why more than three years after the facts? The order reports obstructions to the investigations before this complaint. But it is a pretext: he never established that France ever requested anything on this subject from Rwanda before this date. And, if that was the case, wouldn't the prosecution have launched its own procedure, would it have been necessary to wait for the civil parties? ", argued Forster, evoking possible manipulation.

The two lawyers also mentioned the role in this case of the Frenchman Paul Barril, a former officer of the gendarmerie turned security, present in Rwanda at the time of the genocide.

They made a point of reminding that the last conference of African Union countries, which was held 30 June and 1 July, had criticized "the abusive use of universal jurisdiction by judges of certain not-African countries against African leaders, in particular from Rwanda", "an obvious violation of sovereignty" which has "a destabilizing effect". The countries, unanimously, requested a "moratorium" on these arrest warrants and requested from the Member States of the UA not to apply them.


© Hirondelle News Agency