A Rwandan Doctor In France Faces 30 Years In Prison For Alleged Role In His Country’s 1994 Genocide

Sosthene Munyemana, a Rwandan doctor arrives at Paris court house, Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023 over his alleged role over the 1994 genocide in his own country...( AP Photo/Christophe Ena)


— A French court is expected to rule Tuesday on charges against a Rwandan doctor for his alleged role in the 1994 genocide in his home country. Prosecutors have requested a sentence of 30 years in prison.

Sosthene Munyemana, 68, faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and complicity in such crimes. Munyemana, who moved to France months after the genocide and quickly raised suspicions among Rwandans living there, has denied wrongdoing.

Nearly three decades have passed since the genocide in which more than 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus who tried to protect them were killed.

Advocate General Sophie Havard, one of the prosecutors, called on the court to find Munyemana guilty so “crimes against humanity don’t remain crimes without a criminal, a genocide without a perpetrator.”

At the time, Munyemana was a 38-year-old gynecologist in Tumba in the southern university district of Butare.

He is accused of co-signing in April 1994 “a motion of support” for the interim government that supervised the genocide and of participating in a local committee and meetings that organized roundups of Tutsi civilians.

The motion of support, broadcast on Radio Rwanda, was a way of “backing future massacres” in the area, prosecutors argued.

Munyemana was a friend of Jean Kambanda, head of the interim government.

Munyemana acknowledged participating in local night patrols which were organized to track Tutsi people, but he said he did it to protect the local population. Witnesses saw him at checkpoints set up across the town where he supervised operations, according to prosecutors.

Munyemana is also accused of detaining several dozen Tutsi civilians in the office of the local administration that was “under his authority at the time” and of relaying “instructions from the authorities to the local militia and residents leading to the roundup of the Tutsis,” among other things.

Prosecutors said there is evidence of “intentional gathering meant to exterminate people” and that Munyemana “couldn’t ignore” they were to be killed.

Only one survivor has been found among those detained under Munyemana’s alleged supervision. Most victims, some injured but still alive, were buried in holes initially dug for feces. Many corpses still haven’t been found.

Munyemana has denied participating in the genocide and said he wasn’t aware of the preparations for the mass killing. He said he believed people locked in the office would be taken away to be protected from armed militias.

He arrived in September 1994 in France, where he has been living and working until he recently retired. Members of the Rwandan community in France first filed a complaint against Munyemana in 1995.

In recent years, as relations improved with a Rwandan government that has long accused France of “enabling” the genocide, France has increased efforts to arrest genocide suspects and send them to trial.

This is the sixth case related to the Rwandan genocide that is coming to court in Paris, all of them in the past decade. Like previous ones, the trial has been made difficult by time and distance. French police and judicial authorities acknowledged that almost no physical evidence was left.

The investigation included hearing over 200 witnesses and 12 trips to Rwanda as well as judicial cooperation with Canada, Austria, Norway and Switzerland. Dozens testified during the trial, some coming from Rwanda, others speaking via videoconference from Kigali, including from prison.

Amid those attending the trial every day was Dafroza Gauthier, a Rwandan who said she lost more than 80 members of her family in the mass killing. She and her husband, Alain, have dedicated their lives to seeking the prosecution of alleged perpetrators of the genocide, founding the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda in 2001.

Last year, Laurent Bucyibaruta was sentenced by a Paris court to 20 years in prison for complicity to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, making him the highest-ranking Rwandan to be convicted in France on such charges. He appealed.