Genocide in Rwanda: imprisonment of a refugee priest in France

More than twenty years after his arrival in France, Fr. Marcel Hitayezu was arrested on Wednesday April 14 at his home in Montlieu-la-Garde (Charente-Maritime), where he was vicar. He was indicted for facts related to the Rwandan genocide, Agence France-Presse reported on Friday.

Charges of “genocide” and “complicity in crimes against humanity”

Marcel Hitayezu, born in 1956, was indicted, in particular for “Genocide” and “Complicity in crimes against humanity”, by a specialized investigating judge from the Paris court, according to the national anti-terrorism prosecution (Pnat), also responsible for cases of crimes against humanity.

“Priest of the parish of Mubuga (south) in Rwanda in 1994, Marcel H. is accused of having deprived of food and water from the Tutsis who took refuge in his church ” and to have “Provided food to the Interahamwe militiamen who attacked the Tutsi refugees” in the building, said Pnat in a statement.

“Marcel H. disputed these facts during his initial examination before the examining magistrate”, added the prosecution.

Rejection of an extradition request in 2016

Arrived in France at the end of the 1990s, after having spent several years in refugee camps in Congo, he arrived between 1998 and 1999 in the diocese of La Rochelle (Charente-Maritime). In 2011, he was granted refugee status. Five years later, a request for extradition from Rwanda was rejected by the Court of Cassation, as was the case for all the suspects of participation in the genocide claimed by Kigali.

→ READ. Rwandan genocide: the priest of Saintes will not be extradited

But in 2019, the French justice opened a judicial investigation to examine the charges against Fr. Marcel Hitayezu. ” Slowly the wheel turns, welcomed in a press release the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), civil party in this case. Despite the slowness of French justice, people who believed they had found refuge in France are caught up by their past.

Seven other defendants have been returned to the assizes in France for crimes linked to this genocide, but only three have already been tried and sentenced. About thirty investigations are continuing. Another priest who took refuge in France, Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, accused of having played a role in the massacres, was dismissed in 2015, which became final in 2019.

The memory of the genocide

This arrest came as the debate on France’s role during the genocide was revived by the publication, at the end of March, of the report of a commission of historians mandated by Emmanuel Macron. In this document of more than a thousand pages, these experts established the responsibilities “Overwhelming” of France in supporting the racist dictatorship which was preparing the genocide, which left more than 800,000 dead according to the UN, mainly Tutsis.

→ TRIBUNE. Rwanda: letter of hope from Kigali

This publication gave rise, a few days later, to the mea culpa of Alain Juppé, former foreign minister of Édouard Balladur, a first for a French politician who held leading responsibilities at the time. In a column published in Le Monde, Alain Juppé recognized the errors and mistakes made by France in Rwanda in 1994.


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