French prosecutors approve arrest warrants for ranking Rwandans
PARIS – French prosecutors on Monday approved international arrest warrants for nine Rwandan officials in connection with the 1994 attack that killed Rwanda’s president, triggering the central African country’s genocide.French anti-terrorism Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, who had sought approval from the Paris prosecutor’s office, must now sign the order for the warrants to be issued. He is expected to do so in the coming days, judicial officials said.The nine officials are considered close to current Rwandan President Paul Kagame. They include Rwanda’s armed forces chief James Kabarebe and army chief of staff Charles Kayonga, the officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.Kagame is also considered to be among the suspects. However, immunity accorded by France to acting heads of state prevents French judicial authorities from issuing a warrant for him.France hopes to ask the Rwanda war crimes tribunal in Tanzania to pursue the case against him, the judicial officials said.The late President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was mysteriously shot down over the Rwandan capital of Kigali on April 6, 1994, setting off a barrage of Hutu killings of minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. About 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were killed in 100 days.The French court is investigating the case because the plane’s crew was French. The families of the pilot, co-pilot and mechanic, who all died in the crash, filed a suit in France in 1998.According to the judicial officials, Bruguiere suspects the decision to down the plane was made in late 1993 or early 1994 by officials of the rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front, or RPF, possibly including Kagame. The suspicions are based on testimony from former RPF members.Testifying Monday at the Rwanda tribunal, a Canadian general said Habyarimana’s killing ended his U.N. peacekeeping force’s task of helping to implement a national unity government. Romeo Dallaire said militants from the Hutu majority started setting up roadblocks immediately after the plane was shot down and started killing people.Dallaire has said he tried futilely to summon more foreign troops to stop the genocide. He has said he sent a cable to his superiors three months before the genocide began, asking permission to raid suspected weapons caches.Dallaire testified via video link from Canada because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and was unable to travel to Tanzania. His testimony was expected to continue Tuesday.The U.N. tribunal, which does not impose the death penalty, has convicted 27 suspects and acquitted five. Trials are under way for 26 others.—Associated Press Writer Sukhdev Chhatbar contributed to this report from Arusha, Tanzania.