Laurent Bucyibaruta, prefect of Gikongoro between 1992 and July 1994, has been on trial since May 9 for genocide, complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity, charges he denies.
This region of southern Rwanda was one of the most affected by the genocide targeting the Tutsi minority, with “120,000 people exterminated in two weeks”, recalled Hector Bernardini, lawyer for the Survie association and three survivors.
In France since 1997, the 78-year-old ex-prefect, suffering from several pathologies, was the subject of a complaint in 2000.
“Behind this old gentleman you have in front of you hides in fact a zealous and implacable administrator”, estimated Gilles Paruelle, councilor of the association Rwandan Community of France and of six survivors.
He is tried in France under “universal jurisdiction” which allows the prosecution of suspects of the most serious crimes wherever they were committed, recalled the lawyers for civil parties to the court.
– “Overtaken by the events” –
Composed of three magistrates and six jurors, the latter must “try a foreigner, for crimes committed abroad”, in a country “smaller than a French department”, “where you may never go “, recognized Antonin Gravelin, representing the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), calling however not to doubt his “legitimacy”.
In turn, the representatives of the civil parties sought to dismantle the arguments of Laurent Bucyibaruta, in particular the fact that he would have been “overwhelmed by events”.
“This little music which consists in saying that the administrations could not do much about what was happening in Rwanda in 1994, that it was chaos (…) It is false. The Rwandan administrative machine was fully at the service” of the genocidal project, underlined Me Gravelin.
“He perfectly played his role as a conveyor belt for the messages of the interim government,” added Simon Foreman, lawyer for the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR).
In short, a “simple link in a great administrative machine” having “obeyed orders”, summarized Rachel Lindon, lawyer for Ibuka France, comparing this defense to that of Maurice Papon, prefect under the Vichy regime.
If Laurent Bucyibaruta was not one of the principals, of the extremists calling for hatred, “it was also necessary prefects who had committed or who let it happen, when they had the power and the moral duty to to act, to prevent”, estimated Sabrina Goldman, council of the Licra, qualifying this “inaction” of “bail for the killers”.
– No regrets –
He cannot use the excuse of “coercion”, he did not have “the gun to his head”, she added.
The representatives of the civil parties castigated his “very administrative, very technocratic responses”, the absence of “empathy” and “regrets” expressed and his “disconcerting facility” to “deny the obvious”.
“How can we believe Laurent Bucyibaruta when he asserts that the roadblocks were only checkpoints? (…). When he tells us that on the morning of April 21, he could not see the scenes of massacres in Murambi”, yet just opposite the prefecture, asked Me Paruelle.
In addition to his acts during the genocide, “the way he defended himself during the hearing” shows that he “adhered to the genocidal intention”, estimated Me Foreman, referring to his “way of minimizing the events”, his use of the “double talk of the interim government” or his “elusive, disembodied, standardized way of responding”.
“The meaning of this defense is to allow the accused to hide behind false arguments, perhaps to hide from himself the role he had in this reality”, added Jean Simon , lawyer for Survival, calling on the court to “drop the mask of this man who is simply trying to escape justice”.
The national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office will present its requisitions on Friday, before the defense arguments on Monday. The verdict is expected on Tuesday.