For the first time, a legal challenge concerning the responsibility of French authorities in the Rwanda genocide is before the administrative justice system. As reported by Afrique XXI on October 11, in April 2023, genocide victims and two associations filed a lawsuit in the Paris administrative court.
Until now, civil parties had turned to the criminal justice system, with the latest case involving the Operation Turquoise military personnel in the Bisesero massacre resulting in a dismissal. This time, the French State itself is under scrutiny for its alleged shortcomings before, during, and after the genocide of the Tutsis, which claimed nearly 800,000 lives.
In this plea before the administrative court, the French state services are implicated as a system in several actions that the civil parties consider tainted by unlawfulness, potentially constituting “errors of judgment” and “gross misconduct in service.”
For instance, the failure of France to denounce the military assistance agreement with the Hutu regime when it became genocidal is seen as a critical fault by the claimants. These errors, according to Philippe Raphaël, the representative of the plaintiffs, enabled the Bisesero massacre.
An epitome of the entire French intervention
“Bisesero, he explains, is an epitome of the entire French intervention. Evidently, at the highest levels of the military staff, the genocide was viewed as secondary, compared to an interpretation suggesting that it was merely a conflict between Rwanda and Uganda through the Rwandese Patriotic Front (FPR), which was perceived as an auxiliary of the Ugandan government. This constitutes a manifest error in judgment. And this manifest error in judgment is seminal as it resulted in continuous and systematic serious service misconduct.”
The administrative court will receive the defense pleadings from the opposing party, namely the General Secretariat of the Government. Despite the volume of the documents, the civil parties anticipate more expeditious proceedings in the administrative court than in the judicial system. They are prepared to take the case all the way to the Council of State if necessary.