In the hallowed halls of the Parisian cour d’assises, a former Rwandan physician, Sosthène Munyemana, stands trial from November 14, 2023, facing charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The allegations against him trace back to his suspected involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where he, as a gynecologist-obstetrician in Butare, in the southern part of the country, is accused of grave crimes.
The charges levied against Munyemana encompass genocide, crimes against humanity, participation in a conspiracy to prepare these crimes and complicity. Notably, this case represents the lengthiest investigation in France about the genocide of the Tutsi people.
From the initial genocide complaint filed in Bordeaux in 1995 to the indictment issued in 2018, the exhaustive inquiry spanned 23 years. Initially designated as a “témoin assisté” (assisted witness), Munyemana was formally charged in 2011 for his alleged role in the 1994 massacres.
Once considered close to Jean Kambanda, the Prime Minister of the interim government established after the attack on President Habyarimana’s plane, the former obstetrician from Butare now faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is accused of confining Tutsi civilians in inhumane conditions, devoid of medical care, hygiene, or sustenance, within the premises of the Tumba sector office (a neighborhood in Butare). Subsequently, these individuals were executed, and Munyemana is accused of holding the key to this office.
Additionally, Munyemana is suspected of contributing to the drafting and dissemination of a motion supporting the interim government. Furthermore, he allegedly participated in a crisis committee that implemented barriers and patrols, leading to the apprehension and subsequent killing of individuals. The accused vehemently denies these grave accusations, dismissing them as relying solely on testimonies dating back 29 years, a challenge acknowledged by his lawyer, Me Jean-Yves Dupeux.
Conversely, Emmanuel Daoud, representing the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the League of Human Rights (LDH), contends that Munyemana could not have been oblivious to the atrocities due to his standing as a recognized and highly esteemed physician. This trial, slated to last until December 22, will be documented, with eight organizations and 66 individuals expressing their intent to be civil parties. Over five weeks of hearings, 67 witnesses are set to testify, commencing with Munyemana’s spouse, Fébronie Muhongayire, this Tuesday afternoon.
It is noteworthy that, thus far, six individuals, including three senior officials, one officer, one gendarme, and one chauffeur, have been convicted in France in cases linked to the Rwandan Tutsi genocide, three of whom have received final judgments.