Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


French court sentences Rwandan over genocide

15 March 2014, 08:30

Paris - A French court sentenced a former Rwandan army captain to 25 years in prison over the 1994 genocide on Friday, in a landmark ruling just weeks ahead of the massacre's 20th anniversary.

Pascal Simbikangwa, a 54-year-old former member of the Rwandan presidential guard, was found guilty of perpetrating genocide and of complicity in crimes against humanity.

Prosecutors in the trial - the first of its kind in France - have asked for life imprisonment for Simbikangwa, branding him an ethnic "cleanser" who was "radically committed" to his work and a "man capable of the worst".

The defence had requested he be acquitted, saying the trial was politically motivated and describing witnesses as unreliable and guided by spite, indoctrination or fear.

The defendant himself, who denied all charges against him, took the stand one last time on Friday morning, calling on the court to recognise his "innocence".

"In a few moments you will be alone with your conscience, you are called upon to decide my fate," he told the jury.

"To all Tutsi victims, I am thinking of them. Sorry for the weaknesses of my condition that did not allow me to help you like I would have wanted to," he said.

The jury then retired to deliberate their verdict on events that took place two decades ago in the small central African country, some 6 000km away.

The trial was being closely watched in France, which has long been accused of failing to rein in the Rwandan regime at the time of the genocide between April and July 1994 that left 800 000 dead.

And in a rare case for France, it is being filmed, with recordings due to be available once the case is concluded.

Simbikangwa, who is in a wheelchair after a 1986 car accident left him paraplegic, was accused of inciting, organising and aiding massacres during the genocide, particularly by supplying arms and instructions to Hutu militia who were manning road blocks and killing Tutsi men, women and children.

He was arrested in 2008 on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, after which Paris refused to extradite him to Rwanda and decided to try him under laws that allow French courts to consider cases of genocide.

Defendant 'never saw a corpse'

Over the past six weeks of trial Simbikangwa systematically minimised his role and his understanding of the massacres that were committed in 1994.

To general amazement, he said on the third day of trial that he had never seen a single corpse during the genocide, unleashed mainly on the minority Tutsi community after Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana was assassinated on 6 April 1994.

Pressed on the subject, he responded that his disability forced him to "lie down a bit" when he went out in cars.

Lawyers for the former army captain have sought to discredit witnesses, saying some had been coerced or that they were prisoners hoping to win shorter sentences.

They have also said that they did not have the means to properly defend Simbikangwa and had not even been able to visit Rwanda to verify prosecution evidence.

And the defendant was found to have saved a certain number of Tutsis.

But witnesses - even those he saved - have painted a picture of a man who was closely involved in the genocide, playing a lead role in checkpoints that identified Tutsis, stockpiling weapons at his home and distributing them.

Prosecutor Bruno Sturlese had asked the jury to declare him guilty of genocide, and not only of complicity.

"We will ask ourselves the question of whether or not we will appeal," said defence attorney Fabrice Epstein, denouncing what he called a "political trial".



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...