Laurent Serubuga was born on 1 January 1939 in the village of Ruhunga, Rwanda.
Serubuga belonged to the circle of the “Comrades of the Fifth of July”, a group of eleven army officers who orchestrated a coup d’état in 1973 in order to bring Juvénal Habyarimana to power. Serubuga quickly became the right-hand man of the new president, and was given the position of Deputy Chief of Staff in the Rwandan Defence Forces – the highest in the army after that of the President. From that moment on, Serubuga was known as Colonel Serubuga.
Allegedly, Serubuga was a member of the “Akazu”, an informal organisation close to the President and composed of Hutu extremists. This group is said to have strongly contributed to the genocide of 1994.
As Serubuga’s political and military influence grew, Habyarimana, who felt increasingly threatened, decided to push him into early retirement in 1992.
On 30 April 1994, shortly after the beginning of the genocide, the Ministry of Defence addressed a message to Serubuga, offering him to be reinstated in his former position. Serubuga accepted, and officially rejoined the army on 2 May 1994.
Reportedly, Serubuga supported the self-defence forces, which were perceived as the body in charge of managing the genocide. Serubuga is also accused of having planned the genocide. In particular, he is said to have lead attacks in the region of Giciye, although no formal evidence has been presented to support this allegation.
At the end of the genocide, Serubuga fled the country. Reportedly, he first settled to Kenya, then moved to France in 1998.
Once in France, Serubuga, who detained a residence permit, applied for refugee status. In June 2002, the French Refugee Appeals Board denied his request. The Board contended that, although Serubuga’s role in the genocide was unclear, it could not be denied that in his capacity of Deputy Chief of Staff in the Rwandan army, he at least had the knowledge of the mass atrocities perpetrated by the combatants under his command, and did nothing to stop them.
On 6 January 2000, several NGOs, including the FIDH, lodged a complaint against Serubuga with the Prosecutor’s office of the Court of Strasbourg. However, the prosecutor refused to investigate on the basis of the lack of existing evidence.