Update: 28 June, 20.50 Paris time
Original article on Rwanda Justice for Genocide website :
The verdict in the 6 week trial of genocide suspect Philippe Hategekimana, alias Manier/Biguma, on trial in Paris at the court of Assizes was finally reached late evening on 28 June. The accused was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Hategekimana has been sentenced to life in prison.
The former police officer had steadfastly denied all the charges, and even knowing nearly all the witnesses who testified against him – many whom gave harrowing testimony of how their families were murdered in front of them, and how their lives were ripped apart during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
Hategekimana refused to take the stand during the trial, issuing only a very short statement to proclaim his innocence at the tail end of the 6 weeks of evidence. His three children refused to testify, and his wife decided to avoid her own time in the witness box at the final moment, citing ill health. Hategekimana had told the court he would no longer make any comment on any question put to him.
As a result he staunchly stayed silent in the closing stages of the trial despite the prosecution putting dozens of questions to him about his whereabouts during the time witnesses said he had taken part in genocidal attacks, accusations against him of personally killing Tutsis and that he ordered/directed the massacres of others in the southern district of Nyanza. To all of which questions and statements Hategekimana – or ‘Biguma’ as he was known – refused to answer or respond. Just a solitary ‘no comment’ to all except one question. ‘I’m not Biguma.’
The long-delayed trial of former police officer Philippe Hategekimana, alias Manier/Biguma, began at the Assize Court in central Paris on 10 May 2023. It marked, 29 years after the genocide against the Tutsi, the fifth trial to be held by France, current home to dozens of suspects who fled there after the genocidal regime fled in July 1994. A number of witnesses have testified that ‘Biguma’ was a leading figure in repeated attacks against Tutsis, working with interahahmwe militia to kill thousands around the area of Nyanza. His alibi that he was not in the region at the time of the killings has seemed less and less convincing as former interahahmwe and survivors have taken to the stand to testify against him. He has refused to explain why so many witnesses put him at the centre of attacks against the Tutsi, except to say he either does not know them or that they were all lying. Contradictory statements about where he was at the time – he says in was not in Nyanza in April and May 1994 – have further muddied the defence. His lawyers have, in the absence of their client giving evidence, noted that the witnesses were either lying or could not possibly remember the events due to the long time since the genocide or the trauma they had been through. Added to which was the usual conspiracy theory that all witnesses for the prosecution were somehow working on behalf of the political machinations of the Kigali government. Hategekimana’s defence team is led by Maitre Emmanuel Altit – who is also busy leading the defence of Felicien Kabuga at The Hague.
While there is undoubted relief that this killer will now face life behind bars for his terrible crimes, there is also considerable frustration that Hategekimana/Manier was able to live such a good life in France for so long, taking citizenship and it was only civil society groups who forced the state into legal action against him. It is clear this genocidaire is just one of dozens – yet most, at the current rate of French justice – will be rewarded for their crimes with French citizenship and a comfortable retirement. The French Republic has a long, long way to go not to become a Republic of genocide impunity. As witnesses get older – as do the perpetrators – trials that do not take place within the next few years will not be possible, as this case showed how reliant the cases are on visual testimony rather than documentation.
For more articles about the case see :
Justiceinfo.net, Genocide in Rwanda: The multiple lives of a Gendarmerie officer on trial in Paris
The Guardian: Former Rwanda police officer on trial in Paris accused of taking part in genocide
Justiceinfo.net: Fr. Hormisdas Nsengimana – controversial Catholic Priest is full of yet more denials – see no evil, hear no evil, do no evil in his court hearing.
Hategekimana, alias Biguma/Manier, is a former police officer from the Nyanza commune near Butare in southern Rwanda.
He is accused of the organisation and commission of multiple atrocities in the southern town of Nyanza and the surrounding villages in April 1994, including the assassination of a Tutsi mayor and the massacre on the Nyamure Hill, where thousands of people died . In addition, Hategekimana is said to have organised roadblocks and called for the killing of all Tutsis.
After the genocide, Hategekimana fled to France and settled in Mordelles near the city of Rennes. He obtained French citizenship and changed his name to Philippe Manier.
Shortly before his arrest in March 2018, he fled France to Cameroon.
In June 2015, the Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR) filed a complaint against Hategekimana. The CPCR alleged Hategekimana’s involvement in a number of atrocities during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. In September 2015, an investigation against Hategekimana was opened in the High Court of Paris.
The examining magistrate from the French specialized unit for the prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture within the Paris High Court, issued an international arrest warrant.
Shortly before his arrest in March 2018, Hategekimana fled France for Cameroon in order to escape the French justice. He was arrested in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on 30 March 2018. France has requested his extradition for the purpose of trying him before a French court.
In February 2019, Cameroon has accepted the extradition request of France. Hategekimana has been brought before the Parisian examining magistrates on 15 February 2019 and he has been placed in pre-trial detention since then. The civil parties traveled to Rwanda in December 2020 to collect evidence.
On 20 September 2021, investigative judges from the French National Anti-Terrorist Office ordered that Hategekimana be sent to trial before the French Criminal Court for genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and participation in a group formed for the purpose of preparing these crimes.
His trial took place from May 10 to June 28 in Paris. Found guilty, he appealed against this decision.
- See Ex-Rwandan military policeman found guilty of genocide by Paris court, AFP in Paris/The Guardian, Wednesday, June 28, 2023.
- See Philippe Hategekimana makes final statement, then goes silent. Lena Bjurström, Justiceinfo.net, June 23, 2023