France report clears Rwanda president of assassination charge

[JURIST] A report compiled by a French court appeared Tuesday to clear Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official website; BBC profile] of accusations that he orchestrated the 1994 assassination of the country's then-leader Juvenal Habyarimana [NYT profile]. The accusations against Kagame stem from the April 6, 1994, plane crash that killed Habyarimana when his plane was shot down by a missile. The French team investigating the incident visited the site of the crash in order to determine the trajectory of the missile. They concluded that the missile came from an area held by the Rwandan army, a unit of elite presidential troops, making it unlikely that Kagame could have been behind the attack [BBC report]. The death of Habyarimana is one of the incidents which sparked the 1994 Rwandan genocide [JURIST news archive; HRW backgrounder].

Rwanda has been continually scrutinized in relation to the 1994 genocide. In a report released in June of last year, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged Rwanda to review laws it claims have a "genocide ideology" [JURIST report] that are being used to silence critics and dissenters. AI claims that Rwanda has broadly drafted hate speech laws passed since the 1994 genocide that are being used to criminalize legitimate criticism and expression that does not rise to the level of hate speech. In April 2010, Rwandan authorities arrested [JURIST report] opposition presidential candidate Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza [campaign website], accusing her of denying the 1994 genocide. The arrests come at a time when Kagame has received criticism from Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] for his treatment of opposition parties. Last August, Peter Erlinder, former defense counsel at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, argued [JURIST op-ed] that even though the White House has become more openly critical of Rwandan President Paul Kagame's regime, the US and international community at large must take a much closer look at those in power before true reconciliation will come to Rwanda.

 

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