Senior French officials involved in Rwandan genocide: report

Rwanda has accused senior French officials, including the country's former president and prime minister, of involvement in its 1994 genocide.

Rwanda has accused senior French officials, including the country's former president and prime minister, of being involved in its 1994 genocide.

France knew preparations for the genocide were underway and even contributed to them, according to accusations in a 500-page report compiled by an independent commission appointed by the Rwandan government.

A Rwandan survivor of the 1994 genocide prays over the bones of victims at a mass grave in Nyamata, Rwanda, on April 6, 2004. ((Sayyid Azim/Associated Press))

The report, released Tuesday, also suggests France was responsible for killing some of the 800,000 people slaughtered in Rwanda between April and July 1994, most of them minority Tutsis or moderate Hutus killed by Hutu militias.

"French soldiers themselves directly were involved in assassinations of Tutsis and Hutus accused of hiding Tutsis," the report said. "French soldiers committed many rapes, specifically of Tutsi women."

France's late president, Francois Mitterrand, and former prime minister Dominique de Villepin were among a dozen French officials fingered in the report for providing support of "a political, military, diplomatic and logistic nature."

Villepin was at the time the chief aide to foreign minister Alain Juppe, who was also named in the report, as well as then-prime minister Edouard Balladur. Twenty military officials were also accused of involvement, according to a report from Agence France Presse.

Rwanda doesn't intend to issue indictments in the immediate future, said Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama. He added, however, that the report "could be the basis for potential charges against individuals or the state."

France's Foreign Ministry said it was reviewing the report and could not provide comment.

Rwanda cut diplomatic ties with France in 2006 after a French judge issued arrest warrants for nine ranking Rwandans — including current president and former Rwandan Patriotic Army leader Paul Kagame — suspected of plotting the downing of President Juvenal Habyarimana's airplane on April 6, 1994. The act helped spark the killings.

According to a statement released by Rwanda's Ministry of Justice Tuesday, the French military "did not challenge the infrastructure of genocide, notably the checkpoints manned by the Interahamwes [Hutu militia]" during its operations there between June and August 1994, AFP reported.

"They clearly requested that the Interahamwes continue to man those checkpoints and kill Tutsis attempting to flee," the statement added.

"Considering the seriousness of the alleged crimes, the Rwandan government has urged the relevant authorities to bring the accused French politicians and military officials to justice," the statement said.

Tuesday's report was not the first time France has been accused of contributing to Rwanda's genocide. A statement released by then-president Pasteur Bizimungu's office in 1998 said France armed Hutu soldiers and militiamen in spite of signs of impending genocide. It also claimed France helped Hutu leaders escape the country when Tutsi rebels took control.

A French parliamentary committee cleared France that same year of any responsibility in the massacre, but noted that successive French governments had provided diplomatic and military support to the Rwandan government between 1990 and 1994.

With files from the Associated Press