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Rwanda president rejects French judge's recommendation for trial

[JURIST] Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile] Wednesday derided the recommendation of French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere [BBC profile] that he stand trial for the 1994 killing of former president Juvenal Habyarimana [Wikipedia profile] as "bullying and arrogant." Kagame has denied involvement [JURIST report] in shooting down the plane that carried Habyarimana, leading to the former president's death, which in turn sparked the country's genocide [HRW backgrounder; BBC backgrounder] in which some 800,000 people died. Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, Kagame said "That some judge in France whose name I cannot even pronounce has something to say about Rwanda - trying a president and some government officials - that's rubbish!"

Although French law does not permit a warrant to be issued for Kagame's arrest because he has diplomatic immunity as a head of state, sources say Bruguiere had written to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] asking for Kagame to face trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive]. On Tuesday, the defense lawyers association at the ICTR requested that prosecutors immediately start legal proceedings [Hirondelle report] against Kagame on war crimes charges. Last month, the ICTR denied a request to hear testimony from Bruguiere who was expected to implicate Kagame for ordering the attack on Habyarimana. The tribunal has also refused to give a 1997 UN report to Bruguiere which allegedly discusses Kagame's involvement in the former president's murder.

Meanwhile, French prosecutors have authorized arrest warrants for nine senior Rwandan officials who Bruguiere claims were involved in Habyarimana's death. The list includes Rwandan Armed Forces [Wikipedia backgrounder] chief James Kabarebe, army chief of staff Charles Kayonga, and other officials with close contact to Kagame, according to French court officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. Reuters has more.

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