Rwanda genocide

French prosecutors ask judges to drop Rwanda massacre case against top soldiers

Skulls of Rwandan genocide victims on display at a memorial in Kigali.
Skulls of Rwandan genocide victims on display at a memorial in Kigali. Jacques NKINZINGABO AFP/File

Paris prosecutors have asked judges to drop a case accusing senior members of the French armed forces of complicity in the massacre of Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The call to drop the 15-year-old case follows the recent publication of a report about France's role in the genocide.

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The case against the French army was taken by survivors of the 1994 massacre in the hills of Bisesero, in western Rwanda. They accused French troops of deliberately abandoning them to Hutu extremists who, within days, murdered hundreds of people in the area.

Now, in the wake of the March publication of a report on the French army's role in the Rwanda genocide, prosecutors have concluded that the investigation "did not make it possible to establish that the French forces could have been guilty of the crimes of complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity".

The inquiry did not confirm that there had been any "help or assistance from the French military forces during the carrying out of the atrocities," said chief Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz.

Nor, he added, did it establish that the French forces "refrained from intervening in the face of genocide or crimes against humanity due to a prior agreement".

Fifteen year criminal investigation

The criminal investigation into complicity in genocide opened in December 2005 after complaints filed by survivors and human rights groups.

The final decision over whether to press ahead with the case rests with the investigating magistrates.

They are now expected to drop the case, unless any further investigation is ordered.

The five French military officers targeted by the investigation have never been charged.

Survivors of the massacre allege that France, which supported the Hutu government of the day, used the UN-backed Turquoise peacekeeping mission as a front to maintain the regime in place, as a buffer against English-speaking Tutsi rebels.

Rwandan report claims French 'collaboration' with killers

In March, a landmark French report compiled by historians concluded that Paris bore "serious and overwhelming" responsibilities over the slaughter of around 800,000 people between April and July 1994, most of them minority Tutsis.

An estimated 50,000 people were killed in the Bisesero area alone, which was deemed a haven of Tutsi resistance.

A Rwandan report released in mid-April went further than the French investigation, calling France a "collaborator" of the genocidal Hutu regime.

Neither report, however, found evidence that France was complicit in the genocide.

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