France rejects Rwandan genocide accusations

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France yesterday dismissed as "unacceptable" Rwandan accusations that French politicians and soldiers encouraged the genocidal slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis 14 years ago.

A commission set up by the Rwandan government claimed on Tuesday that it had found evidence that 33 named French politicians, officials and soldiers were complicit in the genocide unleashed by Hutu authorities against the central African nation's Tutsi community from April 1994.

The French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Romain Nadal, said yesterday that there must be severe doubts about the "objectivity" and the "conclusions" of the Rwandan government commission. He said that the body's title alone was enough to justify doubts - 'The Independent commission charged by the Rwandan authorities with gathering evidence showing the French state's involvement in the genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994'.

The commission's 331 page report accused the late President François Mitterrand and three former French prime ministers of being actively complicit in the genocide. It also accused French soldiers – present in Rwanda to train the national army – of raping Tutsi women.

France has always rejected suggestions that its troops were passively or actively involved in the slaughter of Tutsis. It also insists that a French humanitarian force, sent to Rwanda after the massacres began, saved many lives.

Rwanda cut off relations with France and set up up the commission of inquiry two years ago. This followed a formal accusation by a French investigating judge that the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, had provoked the genocide by assassinating the moderate Hutu president in a missile attack on his aircraft at Kigali airport in April 1994.

The French press suggested yesterday, however, that the findings of the Rwandan commission should not be rejected out of hand. The centre-left newspaper, Le Monde, said that France "cannot be sure that its soldiers, caught up in a terrifying war alongside merciless killers, did not commit the murders, rapes and violence of which they are accused."

The French politicians accused by the Rwandan commission include the late President Mitterrand, the then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and two senior officials who later became prime minister – Alain Juppé and Dominique de Villepin. The commission suggested that they encouraged an "anti-Tutsi" attitude in the then Hutu-dominated government because Paris feared American influence on the Tutsi rebel forces gathering over the border in Uganda.

The commission called for legal action to be brought against the French officials and soldiers in "an international body". It is unclear whether such an action could be brought before the International Court at The Hague, whose jurisdiction is not "automatically" recognised by France.