Laurent Bucyibaruta – Genocidaire dies quietly at home – French ‘justice’ too late again

Bucyibaruta – and right, at his trial, Paris Assize Court ,July 2022 pic credit: France TV5 Monde

UPDATE: 10 December 2023
The rumours, which have been swirling for a a couple of days, are true. The convicted genocidiaire, former Gikongoro prefect Lucien Bucyibaruta, is dead.
The 79 year-old, convicted at Paris Assizes in July 2022, died on Wednesday 6th December according to his lawyer, Jean-Marie Biju-Duval. One month after his conviction, on 12 September 2022, French magistrates allowed Bucyibaruta to go free while awaiting his appeal, and was staying in Saint-André-les-Vergers, around 100 miles south-east of Paris.
What remains is whether compensation will still be paid to his victims – a matter that was under discussion at the time of Bucyibaruta’s death and due to be heard again in court on 22 December.
His death has been greeted with some dismay by survivor groups who unsurprisingly feel that he has, to a great extent, escaped justice. In the years between his crimes from 1994 and 2022 Bucyibaruta enjoyed a good life in France, untroubled by justice and able to spend a happy retirement – something his victims in Rwanda could only dream about.
His legal team battled hard for many years to avoid him being sent to the International Tribunal in Arusha to stand trial, playing on the politics of the time and the close ties between the former Rwandan genocidal interim regime and the French governments of Mitterrand and Chirac. Justice did finally come knocking in 2022. By which stage the former prefect had fully lived his life. He was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity at his trial, forcing many survivors to retraumatiise themselves recounting the horrors they had been through and witnessed. He was given a paltry 20 year sentence. (see below for trial details), but immediately released from custody with French authorities noting his frail health made him unsuitable for prison conditions.

Bucyibaruta_verdict July 2022 (pdf)
Rwandan ex-prefect Bucyibaruta on trial for Genocide in Paris,, 9 May 2022

UPDATE: October 2023
The latest UN monitoring report of 21 October 2023 by Elsa Levavasseur confirmed that Ms Naima Rudloff  – head of the French war crimes Unit, had told her that, ‘due to the priority given to the hearing of other appeals concerning crimes against humanity involving people sentenced to life imprisonment and held pending final judgement, the hearing of Mr Bucyibaruta’s case, released in September 2022, would not take place until 2025’.
She noted also that she had spoken to
Richard Gisagara, representing the Rwandan community in France and a number of individuals acting as civil parties.’ Mr Gisagara told me of the civil parties’ fears regarding the length of time it would take to hear Mr Bucyibaruta’s case on appeal and the risk, if this situation were to continue, that the accused might at some stage be rendered unfit to stand trial due to his age or state of health.’

THE TRIAL: May – July 2022 – guilty but now too old to be punished
The trial of the former prefect of Gikongoro prefecture finally took place at the Paris Court of Assizes – after a 22 year delay, Laurent Bucyibaruta, now a frail 78 years old, was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison for complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity.
However, in a final blow to the civil parties and his victims who have had more than two decades of legal and political barriers thrown against them by the French State  which has seemingly at times fought tooth and claw to avoid putting Bucyibaruta on trial – only days after the landmark judgement, the genocidaire was transferred to a Parisian hospital, as no French prison was said to be able to provide him with the medical care he required. His lawyers applied for his release to live at home while awaiting a decision on the date of his appeal which could be up to two years in the future. This request was successful, and Bucyibaruta is once more living at home despite his sentence. Due to his age and infirmity, it was decided that ‘The state of health of the person concerned makes it impossible to detain him, just as it is not possible to take him permanently in charge in a hospital, with the only viable solution being a return home.’

The judicial supervision is detailed: ‘He is forbidden to leave the Aube department unless summoned or given an appointment with his lawyers, not to change his place of residence, and to respond to summonses.’

The two decade delay by France in administering justice has sadly denied survivors of Bucyibaruta’s crimes the knowledge that the man responsible will be in any way punished for them due to his age/infirmity. However, the trial established important evidence as to the genocide in Gikongoro and the complicity in it of a number of officials of the regime, and such truth will, going forward, assist the fight against denial.

Born in 1944, Laurent Bucyibaruta was prefect of the central/southern prefecture of Gikongoro. After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, he fled to France in 1997. His eventual trial in 2022 came after more than two decades of delay by France, in part due to political considerations interfering with justice.

Bucyibaruta was first arrested in May 2000 after a complaint against him by the International Federation of Human rights (FIDH) and the League of Human Rights.

The ICTR indicted Laurent Bucyibaruta on 16 June 2005. According to the indictment of ICTR, Laurent Bucyibaruta is accused of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, as well as for crimes against humanity consisting of acts of extermination, murder, and rape. His individual criminal responsibility as well as his superior responsibility were envisaged in the indictment.

On 21 June 2007, the ICTR issued an international arrest warrant against Laurent Bucyibaruta, asking the government of France to arrest him. The ICTR issued a second arrest warrant on 13 August 2007. The ICTR agreed November  to defer the case to France, which had assured the UN that it would try him.

A decade passed until in 2017 French authorities said they had completed their investigation. One year later he was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. His case was referred the case to the Criminal Court of Paris (Cour d’Assises de Paris) – which his lawyers then challenged.

On 21 January 2021, the Court of Appeal confirmed the referral of the case, changing the charges from complicity to direct perpetration of genocide for certain criminal facts, and adding others which had been rejected by the investigative judge.