From AP, Dec. 23:
PARIS — A French military tribunal opened an investigation Friday into allegations that French peacekeepers facilitated attacks on ethnic minority Tutsis during the 1994 genocide of more than half a million Rwandans, judicial officials said.
A judge from the tribunal visited Rwanda last month to interview six survivors who had filed a lawsuit in February accusing troops of “complicity in genocide” and “crimes against humanity.” The judge, Brigitte Raynaud, will head up the investigation, said the judicial officials, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
One of the central claims of the suit is that French soldiers allowed members of the Rwandan Armed Forces or militiamen to enter camps set up to protect Tutsis, said the survivors’ lawyer, Antoine Comte. The Tutsis were later killed, he said.
French officials have repeatedly denied that France aided or directed the Hutu forces involved in the slaughter.
Hutu militias killed more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus during the genocide, which lasted from April to July 1994. Some estimate that up to 800,000 died.
Rwandan government and genocide survivor organizations have often accused France of training and arming the militias and former government troops who led the genocide.
In 1998, a French parliamentary panel absolved France of responsibility in the slaughter. But the lawmakers said that successive French governments had given diplomatic and military support to Rwanda’s extremist government between 1990 and 1994.
A French civilian investigatory panel, made up of lawyers, historians and leaders of human rights groups, issued a report earlier this year alleging that French forces helped the attackers more than the victims.
Last year, Rwanda set up a commission charged with collecting evidence of France’s alleged involvement in the genocide.
Elsewhere Friday, officials said the body of a former Rwandan government minister indicted on charges of involvement in the genocide had been found floating in a canal in Brussels, Belgium.
Former trade minister Juvenal Uwilingiyimana, who faced a variety of genocide charges from the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, disappeared from his home on Nov. 21. His badly decomposed body was recovered from the canal last Saturday.
Uwilingiyimana had cooperated with investigators following his June indictment and was interviewed for the final time three days before he disappeared.
The ICTR said in a statement that he had expressed concern about “the dangers that he and his family would face from powerful persons in the Rwandan exile community when he told the truth about these persons’ responsibility for the Rwanda genocide.”
A cause of death has not been released. Police were investigating the incident.