France Drops Charges Against Rwandan Officials in Habyarimana’s Death

December 26, 2018 Updated: December 26, 2018

PARIS—Investigative magistrates in France have dropped charges against nine Rwandan officials investigated over the death of the country’s president in 1994, an event that sparked the genocide in Rwanda, a judicial source said.

France launched the investigation, which also targeted Rwanda’s former Defense Minister James Kabarebe, in 1998 following demands by the relatives of the French crew who died when President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was downed.

Militants from the Hutu majority in Rwanda blamed the minority Tutsis for the former president’s death, leading to the ethnic slaughter of 800,000 people over 100 days. Most of those killed in the genocide were of the Tutsi minority.

wreckage from the plane the former president of Rwanda died in
The wreckage of the plane in which former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana died, in April 1994. The photo was taken on April 15, 2007, in Kigali, Rwanda. (Gerard Gaudin/AFP/Getty Images)

While reports said ethnic violence in Rwanda isn’t a rarity, the scale and speed in which the 1994 genocide spread has been described as shocking.

The investigation, and accusations by Rwandan officials that France was complicit in the 1994 genocide by supporting the Hutu regime, has damaged relations between the two countries. Several people close to current Rwandan President Paul Kagame have been charged in the probe.

The judicial source said Dec. 26, that the charges were dropped on Dec. 21. In October, a French prosecutor had recommended that the charges be dismissed, due to insufficient evidence.

Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the first judge to lead the investigation, supported the theory that Tutsi extremists from the former rebellion led by Kagame were responsible for shooting down the plane, according to the AFP news agency.

Former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana
File—Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana in July 1975. (Keystone/Getty Images)

Philippe Meilhac, a lawyer for Habyarimana’s widow, Agathe, told AFP that authorities in Rwanda “have never sought to help bring truth to the light.” He said the plaintiffs would appeal the decision to end the investigation.

“We have to interpret this decision by French judges as a form of resignation faced with a political context, which prosecutors did not know how to fight,” he said.

Rwanda said on Dec. 24 that it welcomed the definitive end of what it called a politically motivated investigation.

“We welcome this decision, which brings to an end a brazen attempt over two decades to obstruct justice for the genocide against the Tutsi and prevent accountability for both the perpetrators and their wilful accomplices,” Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Dr. Richard Sezibera said in a statement cited by The Associated Press.

By Myriam Rivet

Epoch Times reporter Jane Gray contributed to this article