In the ongoing trial in Paris concerning retired doctor Sosthène Munyemana, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, his defense has faced scrutiny and skepticism for what is described as a tangled web of deceit.
At 68 years old, Munyemana, who has been residing in southwestern France since 1994, faces potential life imprisonment for his alleged involvement in the massacres that resulted in the tragic loss of over 800,000 lives.
The prosecution asserts that Munyemana played a complicit role by supporting the interim government formed after the assassination of Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane.
It is alleged that he endorsed a motion that encouraged the killings and was involved in setting up barricades and patrols in Tumba, where individuals were apprehended and subsequently executed. Additionally, he stands accused of holding the keys to an office where Tutsi individuals were detained before their tragic demise.
Throughout the trial, Munyemana vehemently denied these allegations, presenting himself as a moderate Hutu striving to protect Tutsi individuals by offering them shelter in the sector office. However, lawyers representing civil parties contest the plausibility of his defense, claiming he actively participated in the unfolding violence.
François Epoma, one of the attorneys, highlighted Munyemana’s attempts to construct a narrative portraying himself as unaware of the events in the country, describing it as a scenario where he “did not listen to the radio, did not observe outside, and did not perceive the escalating violence.” Nevertheless, this portrayal has been met with skepticism from various legal perspectives.
Justine Vinet, representing the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), argued that Munyemana, described as an “academic gynecologist,” was deeply integrated into Rwanda’s public and political life, refuting his claim of ignorance.
Hector Bernardini, a lawyer representing the Survie association, raised doubts about Munyemana’s alleged lack of awareness regarding the government’s actions, questioning whether he could be the sole citizen oblivious to the government’s directives given his active support for the interim government.
As the trial approaches its conclusion, the public prosecutor’s office is scheduled to present its arguments on Friday, followed by the defense’s plea on Monday, with the verdict anticipated on Tuesday.