A ne pas manquer

Ngenzi/Barahira trial : Plea of the CPCR lawyer Maître Dechaumet

Mr President, Gentlemen Councillors, Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury,

It is with pride, but mostly humility that I stand before you in support of the interest of the Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda and the fifteen civilian individuals that we represent with my colleague Michel Laval.

As we arrive almost at the end of this trial with, for me, a lot of emotion, I must admit that these two months of hearings were also for me, as for you I imagine, deeply upsetting… Upsetting as a lawyer of course, as a citizen, but also as a woman and a mother…

A huge gap, if not more, separates France and this magnificent land of a thousand hills, a time gap, between April 6th 1994 and July 1st 2016, a geographical gap and a cultural gap that we must absolutely not neglect in this trial.

However, today, thanks to the CPCR that I have the honour to represent, but also thanks to all associations and civil suits, a bridge has been established between YOUR court and this terrible genocide that we all have trouble grasping.

A nagging question we have all been asking ourselves in this room : how is this possible ?

At the outset, I wish to rectify a number of issues that have been insidiously been distilled by the defence at the opening of the debate…

What is the CPCR, which presumably without, this trial would not take place ?

The CPCR is primarily the fight of a lifetime… The battle of a couple who has sacrificed everything, it’s health, family life, personal life…

The CPCR is also, and it seems important to recall, a non-profit organisation that generates no revenue and that does not redistribute any profit.

It is surely by pure modesty that Mr Alain Gauthier did not tell you that, for years, many years, it is his and his wifes personal resources that supported the association.

The CPCR has provided a titanic work, a colossal work, visiting Rwanda 5 to 6 times a year, tirelessly traveling the country in search of the truth…

So it seems to me that today we can only thank Alain and Dafroza Gauthier, who restore lost dignity to the victims.

And of course, I’ll confess, I shudder, I jump in surprise when I hear what is asked of them, whose entire family was wiped out in April 1994 during the genocide, why they did not file suits against the FPR, the FPR whose entry, I recall, still has the merit of putting an end to the massacres of the Tutsi…

Ladies and gentlemen of the Court, what now haunts this courtroom, is neither the atrocities, that we do not dispute, also committed by the FPR, nor the massacres in Congo, but the genocide of the Tutsi in April 1994 and specifically in Kabarondo.

Do not go where the defence is trying to take you since the opening of the trial…

I found while rereading the judgments of the ICTP, the decisions made in Brussels, that there was indeed a common strategy amongst the genocide indictments, a strategy that is absolutely unbearable for the victims :

– By applying constantly the “prosecution mirroring strategy” described by Mr. Audoin-Rouzeau and Hélène Dumas, a false historical truth was finally and gradually set up, as anticipated by Michel Laval from day one. Putting on trial the FPR, putting on trial the Tutsi, is very commonly called the mirroring accusation, we end up accusing others of what one has done oneself.

– This common strategy minimises the facts, minimises the number of deaths :

Mr. Ngenzis’ sudden last minute reversal on the number of deaths at the church is significant and deceives no one…

At the trial, on December the 1st 2010, but again in February 2014, he was formal, 150 or 200 people at most.

His wife, a model of devotion, also argued very formally in front of you last Friday that the number had not changed. If it was 200 in 1994, it is still 200 in 2016.

And there, over the debates, Mr Ngenzi will, by pure opportunism, suddenly realise that he probably forgot a zero and apologies…

Mr. Barahira, him, we have already been told, at least it was very clear has not seen any dead. This is absolute denial. Nothing was seen, nothing was heard…

Just as in the first trial for genocide, Mr. Simbikangwa, two years ago, very quietly assured that in this area of Kyovu, there were almost no deaths.

This common strategy includes :

– Pointing out from the beginning of the trial the inequality of arms and presenting themselves as a weak defence, which we all agree, was proved completely inaccurate during these two months of hearing. Mr. Ngenzi and Mr. Barahira can congratulate themselves for being brilliantly defended by lawyers who perfectly knew their case and perfectly master the procedure.

Finally, this common strategy consists in :

– Systematically discrediting the witnesses succeeding each other at the stand, turning the executioners into victims and victims into executioners.

The defence has continued to hammer the witnesses, the survivors, until very late, too late, demanding incongruous details, wishing to make surveyors, requesting excessive information with the sole purpose of putting them, 22 years later, in default.

A detail struck me : the defence has consistently questioned the witnesses on times, schedules. However, yesterday and the day before, when questioning it’s client, it underlined with great indulgence that it is quite normal that he does not remember the exact time and could simply refer to the position of the sun…

There is always a double standard…

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court, we nevertheless will not lie to ourselves. All the actors of the trial (the defence, the prosecution, the civil parties, the Court) have noted that it was appropriate to rule out some witnesses that could be unanimously considered biased.

We saw them, recognised them.

But we can not hide the other witnesses, those whose speech is free, whose integrity is absolute, and there are many…

All of these witnesses, who have tirelessly presented themselves before you, with dignity and courage. Keep in mind that most of these people are simple peasants, who do not speak the same language, some of which have never seen Kigali, the capital, have never taken a plane, travelling for 48 hours while they are well aware that if there is a conviction, they will not be compensated..

So obviously there are inaccuracies, details that have changed, but it is your responsibility to raise the overall coherence of all these testimonies.

Because you can not disqualify all the testimony because there are changes, inaccuracies or uncertainties?

Keep in mind that all these people have no interest in testifying before the Court,a part from contributing to the manifestation of the truth about the events at Kabarondo.

Kabarondo and these two men…

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court, you must always have in mind that these people played a key role in the articulation of those in power in 1994, one was a mayor (I recall that there were only 142 mayors in Rwanda).

The other was a former mayor and chairman, factually or legally, of the MRND, a party described by Mr. Ngenzi as a party with values of peace and unity…

Remember that the chain of command in Rwanda is perfectly structured and that we must analyse the massacres that were committed Kabarondo as throughout Rwanda, as a mental process, fed by hate speech, hammered home on the state level, prefectural, communal, hammered home on the radio, in newspapers, for several years..

Kabarondo… a city of 40 000 souls, directed for 10 years by a respected, influential, intelligent mayor, described by some as sneaky, playing a double game, and by an MRND chairman, former mayor, also respected, feared.

What is one of the common traits of the two people whose destiny is intimately, ultimately linked ?

They are protected by Colonel Rwagafilita, which much has been said of during this trial, member of the AKAZU, a shareholder in RTLM, one of the most influential people of the Kibungo region, he had retaken to the uniformed 1994, oversaw the organisation of preparatory meetings and massacres. Grand relay of the central government in Kibungo Prefecture !

When during the investigation and even during his interrogations during the trial, he is questioned about Rwagafilita, Mr Ngenzi has always defended him, saying he had never heard him speak “bad intentions”, even going to suggest that he is still alive when he died, and he knows this because his nephew will go to visit him at the Fleury-Merogis prison..

I must be honest with you however and admit (but this is a personal reflexion) that I have sometimes felt a sense of unease during this trial. I believe a few times, and I mean rare occasions but that have nevertheless destabilised me, Mr. Octavien Ngenzi, that I consider extremely smart, has managed to make me doubt… And I agree with what Alain Gauthier was saying the day before yesterday : What is worse than an innocent man in prison..?

And then one day, the puzzle pieces assembled, I understood.. Everything appeared clearly to me, with limpidity… because in reality all the testimonies, despite their shortcomings, all intersect..

And my personal conviction that I wish to share, although I am aware that it is not my role as council for the civil parties but that I still wish to share.. Is that at no time, and I mean no time whatsoever, did the two men, respectively mayor and president of the MRND, lose their authority during the genocide. There is not the slightest evidence that would suggest that these men were overwhelmed…

It is true, and that is probably what you will hear from the defence, that these men are cowards, who undoubtedly lack courage, who are devoid of any principal of honour. But do not be mistaken, it is much worse than that..

These two men are fully integrated in the genocide process.

I am firmly convinced that what the abbot Incimatata said is true, Ngenzi completely changed after April the 11th 1994.

He moves around freely, he wanders through the hills, which doesn’t fail to to cause the admiration of his wife, he directs operations, always armed, he joins the searches, drinking beers with the Interahamwe, he recruits for burials, how else can I put it ? Burials..

Only his best friend, Mr Mpambara, tried to help him, recalling for the first time that it was he who had told his friend that, on the morning of the 13th, the military were coming after him for being an accomplice of the FPR that was hiding Tutsis.

However, the General Counsel, faulting it brilliantly in front of this Court, pointed it out several times : in 2006, before his friend Ngenzi was prosecuted, in front of the ICTR, during the recounting of his schedule, Mr Mpambara never reported being in Kibungo and meeting Octavien Ngenzi on the 13th. On the other hand, on the morning of the 13th, Mr Ngenzi and his family had not yet have refugees in their home who, I recall, his wife confirmed this Friday, arrived after the church massacre.

As such, Mr. Ngenzi who will even try to impersonate a Just, a conventional method for genocide suspects, who did he actually save ?

The young Alice, a Hutu, 15 at the time, who comes before you collapsed, thanking Ngenzi, presenting him as her father while both confirm that they have cut all ties, all contact for years…

I give you here some personal reflections but will now humbly retake my role as lawyer for the civil parties and give voice to the victims.

After these two months of hearings, it is important, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court, to not get used to horror, do not fall into the trap of the trivialisation of evil..

We must never forget the Kabarodo dead..

Let us never forget Veronique Mukakibogo’s mother, civil party, who at the age of 85 was brutally thrown alive into the septic tank during the Rundu massacre, one of the sectors of the municipality of Mr. Ngenzi, who, on one hand, had full knowledge of this and allowed it to carry on, on the other, much more interested in crisscrossing the hills to gather the Tutsis…

Let us never forget those thousand infants (the youngest was 8 days old), those young children, adolescents, pregnant women, young parents, grandparents and great-grandparents (the oldest was 98 years old), who perished in agony on April the 13th 1994, at the Kibungo church.. all those broken destinies, all that innocence taken away forever !

Let us never forget the young children, 9 and 10 years of age and the pregnant wife of Eulade Rwigema, civil party.

Let us never forget the husband and over 20 family members of Benoite Mukahigiro, civil party, who appeared before you, who will have a hoarse voice for life because of a machete and is unable to stand due to a blow from a club brought to the spine but who held, despite his state of very fragile health, to come here to testify…

Let us never forget the husband and 5 children of Berthilde Mutegwamaso, civil party, who were savagely killed with machetes before her eyes in the church, the sole survivor was a little 8 month old baby that saved her by taking in her place a machete blow, while she was carrying him on her back in her loincloth.

Let us never forget this baby, now a young adult, who is now disabled for life…

Let us never forget Francine Uweras’ family, civil party. She came to testify at the bar with overwhelming dignity and, at the age of 14, has seen her entire family, her beloved older sisters with the exception of Augustin, her little brother, civil party, murdered in front of her. Her eldest sister who continued to reassure her even though part of her face was torn off, she will tell us that her last image will be that of her 8 month old sister, sucking at the breast of her dead mother… Only her 5 year old little brother, Augustin, who listened to her in tears, was miraculously saved..

Let us not forget the three children, only a couple weeks, 2 years and 7 years old, the wife, mother, brothers and sisters, cousins of Jean-Damascene Rutagungira, civil party.

Let us never forget the 150 family members of Jovithe Ryyaka, which included his wife, 2 sons, parents, siblings and nephews…

Let us never forget Straton Gakwavus’ baby, civil party, who has managed to escape the church with his mom but died of hunger in the bush,

Let us never forget all the victims who lost their lives in this church…

Some were, gentlemen, your neighbours, your work colleagues, your childhood friends, and for whom you have not shown the slightest ounce of humanity..

Let us never forget the mother, aunt, cousins of Mélanie Uwamaliya, here everyday since the opening of the trial, who has constituted herself civil party with her daughter Alexandra and her nephew Jean-Eudes.

And you gentlemen, never forget that the day following the church massacre, when you did not bother to go to the scene because you had not thought about it, never forget that young children were still alive and could have been saved…

Let us never forget the sister, brother, nephews and nieces of Mélanie, killed at the Birenga communal office, following raids carried out at Médiatrices’ and orchestrated by Octavien Ngenzi…

Let us never forget this woman, Médiatrice, civil party, who risked her life, with unprecedented courage, to hide during several days about twenty refugees..

Let us never forget Jacqueline, civil party, who told us she was loaded in a van “like cattle being led to slaughter”, who lived through the Birenga massacre, recounting to the Court the heavy silence of the adults against the cries of children being slaughtered with machetes and cudgels in pools of blood..

Let us never forget all the Kabarondo victims.

How dare you, in front of the victims families, claim that you have rendered the victims dignity by burying them, when you literally let the bodies rot for 3 days and threw them into a mass grave, like animals, without a look…

Mr. Ngenzi, Mr. Barahira, I adress myself to you for the last time : you have, during the past 45 days, had several meetings with the truth, that you have unfortunately missed, which again, don’t ever forget this, prevents the victims who are there before you, and all those who have already returned to Rwanda, which prevents them from rebuilding themselves…

So naturally, I turn to you Ladies and Gentlemen of the Court, since you now bear the heavy load (and oh how heavy I imagine it to be) to restore the truth for all the victims and victims families we represent…

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