Joseph Habyarimana was born on 12 June 1957 in Mbazi, in the Prefecture of Butare, in the south of Rwanda. He obtained the French citizenship and lives today in Toulouse, France.
He is suspected of having participated in the organisation of the extermination of Tuitsi in Gihingamuyaga, in the Butare region. At that time, he was the director of a workshop producing items of tin for the monastery of the area. Joseph Habyarimana is accused of participating in the killing of Tutsi monks in this monastery, of the massacre of refugees and of genocide acts committed in a health centre located in a convent.
On 15 June 2010, the Committee of the Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR) lodged a complaint before the investigating judge of Toulouse. The case was transferred to the Paris Tribunal (Tribunal de Grande Instance) on 8 July 2011, at the genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity unit. The investigation is still on-going.
Rwanda has requested extradition for Habyarimana in order to charge him for committing crimes against humanity and complicity in genocide. On 15 September 2015, the request was denied, in accordance with the principle of non-retroactivity of laws, at the time the actions were committed they were not considered as a crime under the Rwandan law.
Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people 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 outnumbered.
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, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR. Some proceedings are however still ongoing.
The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.
Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the 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 care and protection of witnesses.
THE GACACA COURTS
In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda 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 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.