French judges finish probe into attack that sparked Rwanda genocide

This file photo taken on Aug. 3, 1975 shows Rwandan president General Juvenal Habyarimana during a OUA (Organization of African Unity) summit in Kampala, Uganda. French anti-terror judges have ended an investigation into the missile attack on a plane that killed Habyarimana, sparking Rwanda's 1994 genocide, legal sources said on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 21 December 2017
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French judges finish probe into attack that sparked Rwanda genocide

PARIS: French anti-terror judges have finished their investigation into the missile attack that sparked Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and will now decide whether to send the highly sensitive case to trial, legal sources said Thursday.
The missile strike on a plane near Kigali’s airport in April 1994 killed Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, triggering 100 days of bloodshed that left an estimated 800,000 people dead, mostly members of the Tutsi minority.
The genocide has caused two decades of tension between Paris and Kigali, which accuses France of complicity in the killings through its support and military training for Habyarimana’s Hutu forces who carried out most of the slaughter.
The French probe over the missile attack — set up in 1998 because the plane crew were French — has pointed the finger at members of a Tutsi militia headed by current Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Seven Tutsis have been charged in absentia by the French judges, including current Defense Minister James Kabarebe and Franck Nziza who allegedly fired the missile.
Having finished their probe, the judges will now await the opinion of the French prosecutor’s office on whether to take the case to trial and will then make a final decision at an unknown future date.
The Rwandan government has consistently blamed Hutu extremists for the assassination of Habyarimana, charging that they wanted to rid themselves of a president they considered too moderate.
Diplomatic ties broke down altogether between France and Rwanda for three years from 2006 when France sought the arrest of nine suspects, including the seven who have since been charged.
Relations recovered slowly in the years up to 2014 when French judges declared they had completed their investigation a first time.
But tensions resurfaced the same year when Kagame repeated accusations that French soldiers had been involved in the genocide and the relationship nosedived again in October last year when the investigating judges re-activated their probe.
They said they wanted to question dissident Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who has accused Kagame of being behind the missile attack, but South Africa — where he has refugee status — has refused permission for them to question him via videolink, sources told AFP.
Everyone onboard Habyarimana’s plane was killed in the surface-to-air missile attack, including Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira, who was on his way back from peace talks in Tanzania.
France at the time of the genocide was a major backer of the Hutus, and a new report commissioned by the Rwandan government this month repeated accusations that Paris wilfully ignored signs of a looming genocide.
Kigali launched an inquiry last year into the role of 20 French officials in the butchery.
Kagame’s government has further accused France for years of dragging its heels on prosecuting genocide suspects who fled there.
A man accused of transporting militiamen to the scene of a massacre in western Kibuye is set to face court in the third such trial in France, though the hearings have been suspended pending an appeal.
Kagame held rare talks in New York in September with France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who has since pledged to turn a page on a history of French meddling in francophone Africa.
In 2015, his predecessor Francois Hollande announced the declassification of French archives for the period covering the genocide, in what was considered a strong gesture on the 21st anniversary of the start of the killing.
But France’s highest court ruled in September that researchers could be barred from accessing the sensitive files because of a law protecting presidential archives for 25 years after the death of the head of state.
The president at the time, Francois Mitterrand, died in 1996, meaning his archives will not be made public until 2021.


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 37 min 52 sec ago
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.