Why Some Are Fighting to Bring Rwanda Genocide Suspects To Justice

By bringing civil lawsuits against Hutus suspected of involvement in the genocide, Alain and Dafroza Gauthier have challenged France’s longstanding protection of Rwandan fugitives. Catalina Martin-Chico for The New York Times

By bringing civil lawsuits against Hutus suspected of involvement in the genocide, Alain and Dafroza Gauthier have challenged France’s longstanding protection of Rwandan fugitives. Catalina Martin-Chico for The New York Times

ABOVE his desk in a peaceful and tidy townhouse with pots of geraniums hanging from the windowsills and walls covered with photos of his children, Alain Gauthier keeps 24 files labeled with the names of some of the men and women accused in one of the most appalling crimes of the 20th century.

Mr. Gauthier and his wife, Dafroza, have been collecting information for 13 years on each of the 24 Rwandan men and women they suspect of having participated in their country’s 1994 genocide. The suspects are members of the Hutu ethnic group who now lead comfortable lives in France and deny any involvement in the slaughter of more than 800,000 people — most of them Tutsi — in just 100 days.

“What drives us is that the killers be judged, for history, for the victims,” Mrs. Gauthier said. “It is our turn, us as alive people, as survivors to claim for justice because if we don’t do it, nobody will, and nobody will make amends for what happened.”

But most important, by bringing civil lawsuits against Hutus suspected of being fugitives, the couple has challenged French authorities and the news media over the country’s longstanding protection of Rwandan fugitives.

France, which has long been accused of providing weapons and military training to the Hutus before the genocide, has never convicted anyone accused of complicity in the Rwandan genocide. But after restoring diplomatic relations with Rwanda in 2009 — they were broken in 2006 when a French judge accused a group of Rwandans of having plotted in 1994 to shoot down the plane of Rwanda’s president at the time, touching off the genocide — Paris appointed five judges to investigate the matter of the Rwandan fugitives and opened a police section specializing in crimes of genocide. Next month, the judges are scheduled to bring their first criminal case against a Rwandan fugitive accused of genocide.

For the Gauthiers, these are crimes that cannot be erased. They say that only by bringing the accused to justice can they help the victims and their families to forgive and move on. In France, they are frequently likened to Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, the couple who pursued Nazi criminals in the 1950s.

Mrs. Gauthier, a graceful woman from Butare, one of the largest cities in Rwanda, lost her mother and about 80 relatives in the genocide. Mr. Gauthier, 65, is a retired high school principal who lived in Rwanda as a young man, teaching French at a local junior high school, which is how they met.

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Source: The New York Times | MAÏA de la BAUME


  

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