A French court on Tuesday, sentenced the former senior Rwandan official Laurent Bucyibaruta, to 20 years in prison after finding him guilty of complicity in the bloody 1994 genocide that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Mr Bucyibaruta was police chief of the southern region of Gikongoro (since re-named Nyamagabe) at the time.
RFI reports that Mr Bucyibaruta have faced trial in France over the 1994 massacres in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus died in 100 days of mass killings, reports
Mr Bucyibaruta, the primary administrator of Gikongoro, attended “planning” meetings at Murambi, Cyanika, Kaduha, and Kibeho before the start of the mass killings of Tutsis were made during his trial.
Following the massacre, he fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and then made his way to France, where he has been living since 1997.
However, he was detained and charged by the Troyes prosecutor’s office in May 2000 as a result of a complaint the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the League of Human Rights (LHR) submitted to the Paris High Court on January 5, 2000.
He was arrested on June 6, 2000, but filed an appeal and was freed by the examining magistrate in December 2000.
Seven years later, in June 2007 an arrest warrant was issued, asking the French authorities to arrest Bucyibaruta and they did so in July that year.
Following his arrest, the investigating chamber of the Court of Appeal of Paris ordered his immediate release, arguing that the arrest warrant lacked sufficient specificity, and therefore violated French law.
Only in October 2018, was Bucyibaruta formally charged with genocide and crimes against humanity.
On May 9, 2022, Bucyibaruta’s trial before the Paris Criminal Court began, during which the 78-year-old denied any involvement in the killings.
More than 100 witnesses testified during the trial, some of them were Rwandan survivors, either in person or via video conference.
Mr Bucyibaruta earned the moniker “Butcher of Gikongoro” for ordering the murder of almost 50,000 Tutsis in Murambi, 25,000 in Cyanika, and over 47,000 in Kaduha, and at least 28,937 in Kibeho, according to reports.
Meanwhile, the court looked into Bucyibaruta’s involvement in the killing of about 90 Tutsi students at the Marie Merci school in Kibeho on May 7, 1994, and in the execution of Tutsi detainees, including three priests, in Gikongoro jail.
“I was never on the side of the killers,” Bucyibaruta told the court as his trial ended.
“I want to tell them that the thought of leaving them to the killers never entered my mind. Did I lack courage? Could I have saved them? Those questions, those regrets even, have been haunting me for over 28 years.”
To date, four people in three cases have already been convicted in French courts over the genocide.
French-Rwandan Claude Muhayimana, a former hotel driver was handed a 14-year sentence for his involvement in transporting Hutu militiamen who massacred hundreds of Tutsis.
Aloys Simba, an army officer was sentenced to 25 years after he was found guilty of two counts of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.
Two former Rwandan mayors, Octavien Ngenzi and his predecessor Tito Barahira, were given life sentences after they were found guilty of crimes against humanity in their village of Kabarondo, where at least 2,000 people seeking refuge in a church were bludgeoned and hacked to death.
Meanwhile, in Rwanda 49-year-old Jean-Paul Micomyiza, who is accused of participating in the genocide is appearing in court following his extradition from Sweden, at the request of Rwanda.
The prosecution is accusing Micomyiza of various charges including murder, complicity to commit genocide, rape, causing permanent injuries, and crimes against humanity.