Ex-military cop found guilty of Rwanda genocide sentenced to life

Commemoration of the 29th anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda on April 7, 2023. [File, VOA]

A Paris court has sentenced a former Rwandan military policeman to life imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity committed in the 1994 Rwanda massacre.

In a court hearing on Wednesday, June 29, Philippe Hategekimana, the accused was found guilty of nearly all the charges against him.

The 66-year-old Hategekimana was accused of taking part in or encouraging the murder of dozens of Tutsi in Southern Rwanda.

According to international news agencies, the prosecution argued in court that the former police officer ordered and supervised the erection of several roadblocks "intended to control and kill Tutsi civilians".

He was also accused of having participated, by giving orders or even by being directly involved in the field, in three massacres: that of Nyabubare Hill, where 300 people were killed in April 1994, another one in Nyamure Hill where thousands of Tutsis had taken refuge, and that of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences of Rwanda, where tens of thousands of victims were recorded.

Hategekimana however denied the charges.

The former cop became a neutralized French citizen in 2005 and acknowledged the reality of the genocide but denied involvement in its implementation.

Hategekimana had worked as a senior gendarme (a senior police officer in a French-speaking country) in Nyanza, a town in the south of the country before fleeing to France after the genocide.

The former chief warrant officer also worked as a university security guard in France and fled to Cameroon in 2017 when he heard a complaint had been filed against him.

 He was arrested in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and extradited to France the following year to face trial, reported AFP.

Hategekimana, nicknamed "Biguma" at the time of the events of which he was accused, was "a fundamental link in the implementation of the genocide" in Rwanda.

He was the fifth defendant to be tried in France for crimes committed during the genocide in Rwanda, in which, according to the UN, more than 800,000 people were killed, mainly Tutsis, between April and July 1994.

France has been one of the top destinations for fugitives as it has tried and convicted a former spy chief, two ex-mayors, a former hotel chauffeur, and ex-top officials in similar trials since 2014.

However, it has refused requests to extradite suspects to the Rwanda genocide prompting Paul Kagame to accuse Paris of denying Rwanda jurisdiction.