PARIS, 3 May 2021 – Prosecutors have recommended that a judge drop a case accusing French soldiers of complicity in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
Survivors of a June 1994 mass slaughter of Rwandan Tutsis in the hills of Bisesero in western Rwanda accused the French troops of deliberately abandoning them to be killed by Hutu extremists as they later invaded the area.
Hutu extremists slaughtered hundreds of Tutsis in the area within days of the French troops abandoning the Tutsis.
The call, made Monday, to drop the 15-year-old case followed a major report in March examining allegations about France’s role in the genocide, which found that Paris had been “blind” to preparations but not complicit in the killings.
The Paris prosecutors urged the judge to drop the case by finding that the investigation by the French panel “did not make it possible to establish that the French forces could have been guilty of the crimes of complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity.”
The report handed over to French President Emmanuel Macron did not confirm that there had been any “help or assistance from the French military forces during the carrying out of the atrocities,” said chief Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz.
He also argued that the report did not establish that the French forces “refrained from intervening in the face of genocide or crimes against humanity due to a prior agreement”.
The report said France bore “overwhelming responsibility” for the genocide.
The case was filed in December 2005 after survivors of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide and rights groups filed complaints.
The outcome of this matter is “heartbreaking and legally distressing,” said Eric Plouvier, a lawyer for the NGO, Survie (Survival) which advocates better relations between France and Africa.
Advocates for the victims say, at the very minimum, that inaction by French troops constitutes the crime of failure to “assist a person in danger”.
The five French soldiers targeted by the investigation have never been charged and a final decision over whether to press ahead with the case rests with the investigating magistrates.
Some 50,000 people were killed in the Bisesero area alone, contributing to the one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus who were butchered over a period of 110 days.
The French historical commission blamed the troops’ failure to protect Tutsis in Bisesero on strategic considerations rather than the failings of individual soldiers.