The trial of the former Gikongoro prefect, accused of involvement in the Rwandan genocide, began on Monday, May 9, at assists in Paris. As soon as the trial began, Laurent Bucyibaruta’s lawyers appealed against it.
“Why wait 22 years for a trial to begin?” asked Laurent Bucyibaruta’s lawyer at the beginning of the hearing. “This trial is coming far too late. The conditions for a fair trial are not met,” Maître Jean-Marie Biju-Duval pleaded, adding that his 78-year-old client is no longer fit to defend himself and that four key defense witnesses has died in recent years.The wife of the former official – “a Tutsi”, the defense specifies – is also no longer able to come and testify on his behalf.
Laurent Bucyibaruta, a refugee in eastern France since 1997, was arrested in 2000. The trial is set to last two months. He is the highest Rwandan official ever convicted in France of crimes related to the 1994 genocide.
But the defense insists that being tried within a reasonable time is a fundamental right. She therefore sought the annulment of the trial. The civil parties’ lawyers reacted immediately, arguing that a fair trial is also a fundamental right of the victims.
The lawyers for the various organizations that are civil parties – Licra, Human Rights League, Survie or even Ibuka – reminded that crimes against humanity are indescribable and can be convicted 15, 20 years after that. They asked the jurors not to lose sight of the seriousness of the charges.
After more than an hour of deliberation, the six jurors found that the accused was fit to stand trial and that this late trial did not in any way constitute an infringement of his fundamental rights. Throughout this first day of trial, the accused, present in the room, remained silent, sitting in his chair.