Laurent Bucyibaruta was sentenced on Tuesday July 12 by the Paris Assize Court to twenty years’ imprisonment for complicity in genocide. After nearly eleven hours of deliberation, the former prefect of Gikongoro, 78, was acquitted as a perpetrator of genocide but found guilty of complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity for four massacres.
Laurent Bucyibaruta, who appeared free but under judicial control since May 9 and who suffers from multiple pathologies, spent the night in prison. Moving with a cane, he was escorted by gendarmes shortly after the verdict was announced. He is the highest Rwandan official ever tried in France.
Accomplice of Genocide
The prosecution had demanded life imprisonment against him, considering him an accomplice in a massacre and as the author of four others in Gikongoro prefecture. This region of southern Rwanda was one of the most affected by the genocide, which killed more than 800,000 people between April and July 1994.
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The court acquitted him of charges of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in the parish of Kibeho on April 14, 1994, as well as those relating to the executions of Tutsi prisoners, including three priests, at Gikongoro prison. The public prosecutor had asked for an acquittal for these last facts.
The magistrates and jurors, on the other hand, recognized him as an accomplice in genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacres of the school under construction in Murambi and the parishes of Cyanika and Kaduha, which killed nearly 75,000 people on 21 April 1994. Laurent Bucyibaruta was also sentenced for complicity in the executions of students at the Marie Merci school in Kibeho and for those committed during rounds and at roadblocks.
The former prefect has ten days to appeal.
“Indispensable cog in the murderous machine”
“Twenty years… I have the impression that it’s half a fig and half a grape,” reacted Alain Gauthier, president of the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR). “It’s a shock, at the same time he is doomed pour complicity in genocide so I will not procrastinate either, ”commented Dafroza Gauthier, who tracks down the alleged genocidaires with her husband.
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The defense had asked the court to make “the choice of courage” by acquitting an official “isolated and without strength” to prevent the massacres in his prefecture. During the nine weeks of debates, Laurent Bucyibaruta constantly minimized his importance in the hierarchical chain and that of the means at his disposal to prevent the killings, repeating that he had been “overwhelmed by events”.
He was “an essential cog without which the murderous machine could not have been implemented”, had estimated the general attorneys in their indictment. If he “did not kill anyone”, the former official “has on him the blood of all the victims killed in Gikongoro”.
Under investigation since 2000
In his last words to the court, the accused insisted on having “never been on the side of the killers” and expressed his “remorse” for not having “been able to save” the Tutsi from his prefecture.
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Laurent Bucyibaruta had fled Rwanda after the end of the genocide on July 23, 1994. He has lived in France since 1997, in the suburbs of Troyes, and has been under investigation since 2000. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), who had for a time demanded Laurent Bucyibaruta, had finally relinquished in favor of the jurisdictions French.