Life imprisonment was requested on Monday for former Rwandan policeman Philippe Hategekimana, naturalised as a French citizen under the name Philippe Manier, described by the public prosecutor as a “fundamental link in the implementation of the genocide” in Rwanda.
“Mr Manier is the perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity”, argued Céline Viguier, one of the two public prosecutors. “He is not a ‘little fish’, he is not a mere executor but a fundamental link in the implementation of the genocide” in Rwanda in 1994, she insisted, before calling for the most severe sentence possible for these crimes.
In their two-voice closing arguments, general counsel Céline Viguier and Louisa Aït Hamou asked the court to “hold the accused criminally responsible” for all the charges brought against him.
Mr Manier is charged with participation in a criminal conspiracy to prepare the crimes of genocide and other crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes against humanity.
The 66-year-old ex-gendarme is a “liar and an affabulator”, said the prosecution. “No credit can be given to him”.
They criticised the defendant’s decision not to talk about the facts. During the trial, the accused showed “no empathy for the survivors”, they deplored, even though dozens of survivors of the massacres had taken the witness stand.
Not only did Philippe Manier take part in the massacres, but as chief warrant officer in the gendarmerie, he “incited” the population to kill, often setting an example himself.
“I have no comment’ was the sentence that Mr Hategekimana uttered most during the hearing”, said the judges.
Mr Hategekimana/Manier, also known by the nickname “Biguma”, is being prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the murders of dozens of Tutsis in the Butare prefecture, including the mayor of Ntyazo who resisted the implementation of the genocide in his commune.
In particular, he is alleged to have ordered and supervised the erection of several “barriers”, or roadblocks, “intended to control and kill Tutsi civilians”.
The prosecution also accused Mr Manier of having participated, by giving orders or even by being directly involved on the ground, in three massacres: that of Nyabubare hill where 300 people were killed on 23 April 1994, that, four days later, of Nyamure hill where thousands of Tutsis had taken refuge, and that of the Institute of Agricultural Sciences of Rwanda, where tens of thousands of victims were counted.
– Rare and precious accounts” –
To support their case, the Attorneys General detailed the circumstances of these three massacres. There is “no doubt” that the accused actively participated in them, they argued, citing the investigation file and testimony given by survivors at the hearing.
“The aim of genocide is that no witness should survive. That is why survivors’ accounts are rare and precious”, they insisted, while the defence sometimes questioned the credibility of the testimony of survivors or former assailants testifying against the accused.
Throughout the closing arguments, Mr Manier, wearing a short-sleeved checked shirt, remained staring at the ground. The former Rwandan gendarme contests all the accusations.
In a statement read out at the hearing last week, he denounced “unjust accusations”, saying that he heard “day after day, unknown people (accuse him) of every conceivable crime”.
“Acknowledging my innocence does not mean denying the genocide, it does not mean denying the suffering of the victims. It is simply accepting the complexity of the situation at the time”, he said.
The former chief warrant officer is the fifth defendant to be tried in France for crimes committed during the genocide in Rwanda, which the UN estimates killed more than 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis, between April and July 1994.
The defence case is due to be heard on Tuesday and the verdict is expected on Wednesday.