Rwanda genocide survivors urge France to reopen case
Lawyers for survivors of Rwanda's genocide on Friday urged France to reopen its investigation into claims that French troops were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people they had promised to rescue.
Six survivors, backed by human rights groups and other plaintiffs, launched a legal case in 2005 accusing French soldiers of abandoning Tutsi civilians in Bisesero, western Rwanda, in June 1994.
But France's probe into that claim was shut down in July as no one had been charged during 13 years of investigation.
The survivors say French soldiers had promised to rescue terrified Tutsis hiding in the hills of Bisesero at the height of the killing on June 27, 1994.
The troops arrived only three days later -- after hundreds of people had been massacred by genocidal allies of the Hutu government which had been backed by Paris for years.
Their deaths came nearly three months into the 100-day killing spree that left an estimated 800,000 people dead, most of them members of the Tutsi ethnic minority.
Fabrice Tarrit, one of the leaders of Survie, an anti-colonial activists' group which is a plaintiff in the case, said at a press conference that it was "premature" to close the case.
"The lines of inquiry were not sufficiently investigated to allow investigators to determine (France's) military and political responsibilities," he said.
The plaintiffs' lawyers have filed a request urging investigators to take further action despite the case being closed, including seeking testimony from soldiers and journalists who were nearby on June 27.
Olivier Foks, a lawyer for Survie, said French troops' handling of events could be seen as "complicity in genocide".
"French military authorities were aware that from the afternoon of June 27 onwards, civilians were being killed," he said.
Even though keeping civilians safe had been their mission, "no measure or order was taken to allow them to be brought to safety," he said.
On Thursday, the investigative website Mediapart published a video filmed on June 28, 1994, showing the head of France's special operations in Rwanda, Colonel Jacques Rosier, being told that Tutsis had been massacred at Bisesero.
The army officer briefing him is also seen suggesting that the guide whom French troops were using in the area was himself likely a genocidal Hutu.
"We avoided a lynching ourselves because the guide accompanying us was clearly one of the guys guiding the militias in the preceding days," the staff sergeant says in the video, which was handed to investigators five years ago.
Rosier's lawyer Emmanuel Bidanda said the video was "not new".
France's support for the ethnic Hutu forces which carried out most of the slaughter has been a source of deep acrimony in its relations with Rwanda ever since the genocide.
France has admitted mistakes but denied Rwandan accusations of complicity in the mass killings.