Laurent Bucyibaruta was born in 1944 in Rwandan prefecture called Gikongoro. He became the prefect of Gikongoro on 4 July 1992 and held the position until July 1994. He allegedly participated as an activist in the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (NRMD) and the head of the prefectural committee of the Interahamwe movement, the youth organization of the NRMD.
Laurent Bucyibaruta is accused of participation in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 as one of the perpetrators. In December 1993, during a public rally in Gikongoro market, he allegedly made a speech in which he encouraged financial contributions from the population in order to buy arms to fight the “Tutsi enemy”. Bucyibaruta is further accused of having ordered, on several occasions, the military police, Interahamwe and armed civilians who were under his command to commit several massacres against the Tutsis. It is believed that many of the following killings were organised and directed by him: massacre in the parish of Cyanika and Kaduha on 21 April 1994; on 22 April 1994, killing in the prison of Gikongoro; on 7 May 1994 massacre at the girls’ school in Kibeho. Additionally, on 10 April 1994, Laurent Bucyibaruta allegedly encouraged many Tutsis to go to the Murambi Technical School where they were promised food. However, the Tutsis who gathered in the school were killed on 20 and 21 April 1994 by gendarmes, policemen and armed civilians.
Laurent Bucyibaruta fled Rwanda for France in 1997.
PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA (ICTR)
The ICTR indicted Laurent Bucyibaruta on 16 June 2005. According to the indictment of ICTR, Laurent Bucyibaruta is accused of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, as well as for crimes against humanity consisting of acts of extermination, murder, and rape. His individual criminal responsibility as well as his superior responsibility were envisaged in the indictment.
On 21 June 2007, the ICTR issued an international arrest warrant against Laurent Bucyibaruta, asking the government of France to arrest him. The ICTR issued a second arrest warrant on 13 August 2007. Eventually, the ICTR deferred the case to the French judiciary.
PROCEEDINGS IN FRANCE
On 30 May 2000, Laurent Bucyibaruta was arrested and indicted by the Office of the Prosecutor in Troyes on the basis of a complaint filed in the High Court of Paris on 5 January 2000 by the International Federation of Human rights (FIDH) and the League of Human Rights.
On 6 June 2000 he was put in detention. He appealed the decision and was released by the examining magistrate on 20 December 2000. Nonetheless, he remained under judicial supervision.
On 12 June 2007, the Prosecutor of the ICTR demanded from the Tribunal an authorization to defer the cases of Laurent Bucyibaruta and Wenceslas Munyeshykaya to a criminal court in France since the two men were still under investigation in France and an agreement was concluded with France 2006 which allowed for such arrangement.
Following the arrest warrant issued on 21 June 2007, asking the French authorities to arrest Bucyibaruta, while waiting for the decision of the first instance chamber of the ICTR, seized with this matter, to decide on the issue of his transfer to Rwanda, he was arrested again on 20 July 2007 by the police in Reim at his home in Saint-André-des-Vergers in the department of Aube where he was living during the previous four years. The same month, French Ministry of Justice confirmed their agreement with French judiciary taking over the cases of Laurent Bucyibaruta and Wenceslas Munyeshykaya.
Following his arrest on 20 July, the investigating chamber of the Court of Appeal of Paris ordered an immediate release of the two men. The Chamber argued that the arrest warrant issued by the ICTR was not specific enough and therefore violated French law, particularly the principle of presumption of innocence.
The General Prosecutor Office did not appeal the decision on the release of the two men. They remained under judicial control in the proceedings initiated in France concerning the accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity.
On 13 August 2007, the ICTR issued a second arrest warrant which was formulated differently from the previous one. The arrest warrant requested the transfer of Bucyibaruta and Munyeshykaya until the Trial Chamber had made a decision regarding the Rule 11 bis (on the deferral to the French courts). Consequently, the French authorities again arrested the two men on 5 September 2007.
On 26 September 2007, the Court of Appeal of Paris demanded additional information from the ICTR stating that they were unable to proceed with the request of transfer to Rwanda on the basis of the information provided. On 20 November 2007, the ICTR withdrew their request in favour of the French judicial proceedings against the two men.
On 9 May 2017, the examining magistrate within the Paris Tribunal completed his investigation.
On 4 October 2018, the prosecutor formally charged Laurent Bucyibaruta with genocide and crimes against humanity. On 24 December 2018, the Parisian examining magistrate referred the case to the Criminal Court of Paris (Cour d’Assises de Paris). Laurent Bucyibaruta appealed the referral in 2019.
On 7 October 2020, a hearing took place before the Paris Court of Appeal, following the appeals lodged by the accused and by civil parties against the referral of the case to the Paris Criminal Court.
On 21 January 2021, the Court of Appeal confirmed the referral of the case, changing the charges from complicity to direct perpetration of genocide for certain criminal facts, and adding others which had been rejected by the investigative judge.
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 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 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 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.