Arusha, November 27, 2014 (FH) - France Télévisions was on Wednesday ordered by a Paris court to pay 5,000 Euros in damages to Rwandan priest Wenceslas Munyeshyaka for having presented him as guilty of genocide, Hirondelle learned Thursday.

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The report entitled  “Rwandan priests accused”,  was broadcast on France 3 on April 13 this year, as part of its “Pieces of Evidence”  series . “Despite some perfunctory precautions of style (...), the report in question indeed contains some definitive conclusions biased towards the assumption of guilt for the alleged facts for which he (Munyeshyaka) is under investigation,” says the judgment cited by AFP.

The court deemed that the report therefore violated Munyeshyaka’s right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. The former priest of Sainte-Famille church in Kigali is the first Rwandan residing in France to have a plaint filed against him (in July 1995) for alleged involvement in the 1994 anti-Tutsi genocide.  A Rwandan court in 2006 sentenced Munyeshyaka in absentia to life in jail. He was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for genocide, rape, extermination, murder, and crimes against humanity, before being put under investigation in France in July 1995 for “genocide”.

He is currently under judicial supervision and ministering at a church in Gisors, Normandy, whilst waiting for the conclusions of the investigation and a possible trial.  The Paris court judgment makes reference to a sequence in the report containing survivors’ testimonies against the priest, interspersed with commentary “without attempting to take any distance (from the testimonies)”. It also notes that elsewhere the report claims Munyeshyaka hid himself amongst Tutsi refugees in order to flee Rwanda.

The judgment refers to a third sequence implying that the church in France helped him flee to escape justice in Rwanda.  The court said the way this was presented left no doubt that he was guilty in the eyes of the report.     As well as paying damages and interest, France Télévisions was ordered to broadcast a communiqué on the judgment in the next edition of its “Pieces of Evidence” series.

The ICTR transferred Munyeshyaka’s case to France at the end of 2007.

According to a recent report by the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), the French investigation into his case is in its final phase.

France and Rwanda are the only two countries to which the ICTR has transferred certain cases as part of its closure strategy. The Tribunal is due to close its doors by the end of this year.