Life imprisonment for a former Rwandan gendarme, on trial in Paris for genocide and crimes against humanity
Philippe Hategekimana, 66, naturalized French under the name Philippe Manier, was found guilty on Wednesday of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda in 1994. This former senior gendarmerie officer in Nyanza, in southern Rwanda, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The verdict is in. The Paris Assize Court proved intransigent on Wednesday June 28 by sentencing former Rwandan policeman, Philippe Hategekimana, 66 years old, to life imprisonment. Naturalized French under the name Philippe Manier, he was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda in the spring of 1994.
The court followed the prosecution’s requisitions to the letter and found Philippe Manier guilty of “almost all the charges” against him. Genocide and crimes against humanity are beyond description.
The former superior officer of the gendarmerie in Nyanza (in southern Rwanda), standing in his box, leaning on a cane, remained passive at the announcement of the verdict, while outside the courtroom Rwandans, civilian parties to the trial, let their joy burst by singing and dancing.
Setting up roadblocks
Philippe Manier, who has become French since 2005, recognizes the reality of the genocide but denies any involvement in its implementation, was prosecuted for participation in a criminal association for the preparation of crimes of genocide and other crimes against humanity.
He was accused of participating in or inciting the killing of dozens of Tutsis in the prefecture of Butare (southern Rwanda), including the mayor of Ntyazo, who opposed the execution of the genocide in his municipality.
In particular, for the prosecution, he had ordered and supervised the construction of several “barriers”, roadblocks, “with the aim of controlling and murdering Tutsi civilians”.
The prosecution also accused Philippe Manier of having participated, by giving orders, even by being directly involved on the ground, in three massacres: the one on the Nyabubare hill where 300 people were killed on April 23, 1994, which four days later, from The hill of Nyamure, where thousands of Tutsis had sought refuge, and the hill of Rwanda’s Institute of Agronomic Sciences, where tens of thousands of victims were counted.
For this last crime the court recognized only the complicity of Philippe Manier, but not his guilt as the author of this massacre.
“You will listen to reason and your heart,” the accused had told jurors before the court retired to deliberate for more than ten hours.
Genocide “zealous agent”
For the prosecution, Philippe Manier, nicknamed “Biguma” at the time of the charges against him, is “a fundamental link in the execution of the genocide” in Rwanda.
During the hearing, the defendant chose to remain silent. The president of the tribunal, Jean-Marc Lavergne, deplored his “absence of any sincere manifestation of remorse”. When the verdict was announced, he condemned “a zealous agent” of genocide, “locked in lies”, “unable to accept his responsibility in light of the scale of the crimes committed”.
“I sincerely sympathize with the suffering of the victims. The genocide against the Tutsis is a reality. And I witnessed it. But I have nothing to blame myself,” Philippe Handle said on the occasion of one of his rare interventions.
“Acknowledging my innocence is not denying the genocide, it is not denying the suffering of the victims. It is simply accepting to recognize the complexity of the situation at the time”, he argued.
His defense counsel, who had acquitted him, wanted to give the defendant the benefit of the doubt by considering the charge “built on sand”. Philippe Manier is the “scapegoat” in a political game between Paris and Kigali, his counsel supported during the trial. They questioned the prosecution testimony, the most damning of the accused, by prisoners who were questioned by video conference from their prison in Kigali.
The defense has ten days to appeal the verdict.
The former top police officer was the fifth accused to be returned to the Assisi in France for crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide, which the UN says killed more than 800,000 people, mostly Tutsi, exterminated between April and July 1994.
He was tried in Paris under the “universal jurisdiction” exercised, under certain conditions, by France to try the most serious crimes committed outside its soil.