UN special adviser welcomes France verdict on Rwanda genocide perpetrator News
I, Inisheer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UN special adviser welcomes France verdict on Rwanda genocide perpetrator

UN Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Nderitu welcomed on Monday the life imprisonment sentence that the Paris Assize Court issued Philippe Hategekimana on June 28. Hategekimana was sentenced to life imprisonment for the genocide crimes that he committed during the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The trial of Hategekimana was France’s fifth trial of alleged perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which more than 800,000 people—mainly Tutsis—were killed between April and July 1994.

A naturalized French citizen since 2005, Hategekimana, now age 66, was formerly the chief warrant officer of Butare, Rwanda. Charged for genocide and crimes against humanity, Hategekimana was accused of engaging in or inciting the murder of dozens of Tutsis in Butare. This included the mayor of Ntyazo, Rwanda who opposed the implementation of genocide in his commune. Hategekimana was tried in Paris, France on the premise of “universal jurisdiction”, which allows France to try serious human rights offenses committed outside the country, under certain conditions.

The prosecution claimed that Hategekimana commanded and supervised the erection of numerous roadblocks that were “intended to control and kill Tutsi civilians.” In addition, the prosecution accused him of having participated in massacres in Nyanza, Rwanda, such as the Nyabubare Hill massacre that killed 300 people on April 23, 1994 and the Nyamure Hill massacre that killed thousands of Tutsi refugees on April 27, 1994. Although the court did not recognize Hategekimana as the perpetrator of the massacres for the latter crime, the court found him complicit. Presiding judge Jean-Marc Lavergn abhorred Hategekimana’s “lack of any sincere expression of remorse.”

During the trial, which lasted 31 days and heard testimony from over 100 witnesses, Hategekimana remained silent. Because of his silence, the prosecution relied heavily upon witness testimony. It was not until later that Hategekimana confessed to committing the murders and coercing others to take part in the genocide. 

In light of Hategekimana’s life sentence, Nderitu called upon remaining fugitives of the 1994 Rwandan genocide to surrender themselves so justice can be served. She said, “This verdict is another strong signal to all those who commit atrocity crimes, incite to have them committed, or who glorify the perpetrators thereof, that justice will prevail – no matter their attempts at hiding, no matter the time that has passed.”

Nderitu espoused that numerous indicted individuals are still at large in UN member states, undermining the purpose of her office. She asserted that it is incumbent on her office to collaborate with parties seeking accountability from perpetrators of atrocity crimes and to deter potential perpetrators from committing atrocity crimes. She also noted that court verdicts are critical as they increase visibility, highlight standing, and ensure the dignity of victims and their families.


This article was also contributed to by Polina Dvornikova, a student at Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University, UA.