(AFP) – Nov 11, 2008
KIGALI (AFP) — Rwanda is poised to issue indictments and arrest warrants against 23 French military and political officials over their suspected role in the country's 1994 genocide, judicial sources said Tuesday.
Indictments against France's late president Francois Mitterrand and former prime minister Dominique de Villepin among others would mark a new step in the judicial escalation between the two countries.
The threat of warrants against top French officials -- several of whom are still active -- came as hundreds demonstrated in Kigali against the arrest by Germany, acting on a French warrant, of a top aide to the Rwandan president.
"The indictments are being finalised, the arrest warrants can be issued any time from now," a senior Rwandan justice official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Rwandan prosecutors had spent the past three months examining a 500-page report drafted by a special commission tasked with probing France's role in the genocide and released on August 5 by the justice ministry.
It names former French prime minister Edouard Balladur, former foreign minister Alain Juppe and then-president Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996, among 13 French politicians accused of playing a role in the massacres.
Dominique de Villepin, who was then Juppe's top aide and later became prime minister, was also among those listed in the Rwandan report.
It also names 20 military officials, involved notably in Operation Turquoise, a 1994 French military mission to Rwanda which Kigali charges was used to assist Hutu genocide perpetrators.
The justice official speaking to AFP Tuesday did not specify who the 23 officials facing indictment were.
The 1994 genocide in the central African nation left some 800,000 people dead -- mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus -- according to the United Nations.
The report alleges that France was aware of preparations for the genocide, contributed to planning and actively took part in the massacres.
France, which has admitted to making "mistakes" in Rwanda but denied any direct responsibility for the massacres, had called the report "unacceptable".
The arrest in Frankfurt on Sunday of Rose Kabuye, Rwandan President Paul Kagame's chief of protocol, had sparked the ire of the Rwanda's authorities, who called for a series of protests.
State-run Radio Rwanda said Kagame visited Kabuye in detention and said she was "fine and that she was psychologically prepared to take on this injustice."
On Monday, several thousands demonstrators marched to the German embassy in Kigali and the offices of the Deutsche Welle, Germany's national broadcaster.
On Tuesday, around a thousand youths demonstrated in front of the French cultural centre in Kigali, which has been closed since Rwanda broke diplomatic ties with France in November 2006.
Officials have said that a demonstration of women could also take place on Wednesday.
French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere issued warrants in 2006 against nine members of Kagame's entourage suspected of having a hand in the attack that brought down then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana's plane in 1994.
The assassination of the Hutu president is widely seen as the spark that set the divided country ablaze and triggered the genocide.
Kagame's Tutsi regime has retorted that France could be largely blamed for the massacres and complained that Paris and other European capitals were seeking to prosecute the victims rather than the perpetrators.
Felicien Kabuga, one of the most wanted men in Africa, is accused of being one of the genocide's main financiers. After hiding in Kenya for years, he is thought to have been moving between several European countries in recent years.
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