A French court on Tuesday sentenced a former Rwandan official to 20 years in prison after finding him guilty of complicity in the 1994 genocide in the African country.
The Paris Assize Court held Laurent Bucyibaruta, 78, the former prefect of Gikongoro province, guilty of acts of genocide and complicity in genocide 28 years after the horrific events that led to the massacre of nearly 800,000 Tutsis. He is the highest-ranking Rwandan official to have faced trial in France over the mass killings.
"I was never on the side of the killers," Bucyibaruta said in court at the end of the trial, according to a report by France24 news. At least 115 witnesses and experts testified in the case, including survivors of the Marie Merci School massacre.
The trial against Bucyibaruta, who was the main administrator of Gikongoro, involved claims he attended “planning” meetings in Murambi, Cyanika, Kaduha and Kibeho before the mass killings of Tutsis began. He was accused of persuading thousands of people to take refuge in Murambi Technical School and Marie Merci School in Kibeho, in which at least 82 Tutsi students were killed.
According to Rwanda’s leading daily The New Times, Bucyibaruta was nicknamed the “‘Butcher of Gikongoro” as over 50,000 Tutsis were killed on his command in Murambi, 25,000 in Cyanika, 47,311 in Kaduha and 28,937 in Kibeho.
After the genocide, Bucyibaruta escaped to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and later reached France, where he has been living since 1997.
Rwanda had sought his extradition, but the trial was launched in France after the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) referred the case to the French judiciary in 2007.