Claude Muhayimana was born in 1961 and is a French citizen of Rwandan origin. He obtained French citizenship in 2010. He lives in Rouen, France.
Muhayimana allegedly organized transport of Hutu militias to several places where attacks against Tutsis occurred, while he was the driver of the Kibuye Guest house. He was also allegedly involved in the attack on the Nyamishaba school (Kibuye district) in April 1994 and in the massacres of Tutsi civilians who had found a temporary refuge in Karongi, Gitwa et Bisesero between April and June 1994.
He is also accused of having participated in killings carried out in the Kibuye church on the 17 April 1994, and the following day in the Gatwaro stadium. Both massacres resulted in the death of thousands of victims.
On 13 December 2011, the Rwandan judicial authorities issued an international arrest warrant against Claude Muhayimana for his alleged participation in the Rwandan genocide. In addition, the Rwandan authorities requested his extradition by France.
On 29 March 2012, the investigative Chamber of the Rouen Court of Appeals issued a favourable opinion on the issue of Muhayimana’s extradition to Rwanda. The Court considered that the fundamental guarantees of a fair trial and the rights of the defense would be ensured in Rwanda. Muhayimana appealed this decision arguing the opposite. Finally, on 24 February 2014, the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) ruled that Muhayimana could not be extradited because Rwanda’s application was based on laws passed after the alleged crimes took place.
On 9 April 2014, Muhayimana was arrested in Rouen following a complaint filed in June 2013 by the Collectif des Parties Civiles pour le Rwanda (CPCR). A criminal investigation was launched regarding his alleged role in the genocide committed in the district of Kibuye, and he was placed in pre-trial detention. On 3 April 2015, Muhayimana was released and placed under judicial supervision.
On 9 November 2017, the examining magistrate referred the case to the Criminal Court in Paris (Cour d’Assises) for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity through aiding and abetting.
The Prosecutor called for the dismissal of the accusations regarding the massacres committed in the Kibuye church and in the Gatwaro stadium, as Muhayimana presented an alibi proving that he was not there during the events. Muhayimana appealed the decision on the referral.
The appeal hearing on the decision to refer the case to the competent court took place on 18 October 2018 before the Investigation Chamber of the Court of Appeals in Paris.
On 4 April 2019, the Court of Appeals confirmed the referral of Muhayimana’s case to the Criminal Court for complicity in crimes against humanity and genocide. Muhayimana has announced his intention to lodge an appeal before the French Supreme Court.
The trial took place before the Paris Criminal Court (Cour d’assises) between 22 November and 17 December 2021. Muhayimana was found guilty of complicity in genocide for transporting militiamen to various massacre sites during the genocide. He was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.
Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994, the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutus targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were largely outnumbered the genocidaires and the international community notoriously failed to respond otherwise at the relevant period.
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA (ICTR)
In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955. The Resolution established the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Tribunal’s function was to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in the territory of Rwanda, by Rwandan citizens and those committed in neighbouring states. During its existence, 93 persons have been indicted by the ICTR, the Tribunal was officially closed in 2015.
Some proceedings are however still ongoing before the so-called International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”). The Mechanism was established by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) and took over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism has been functioning since 1 July 2012 in parallel with the Tribunals and nowadays as an exclusive institution. It gradually took over the functions of the ICTR and ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the protection of witnesses.
THE GACACA COURTS
In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. Paul Kagame, about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.
These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before the national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.
According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity