Pascal Simbikangwa was born in 1959. During the conflict in Rwanda he was working at the Central Intelligence Rwanda. After the conflict in Rwanda, he lived in Comoros and in 2005 he moved to Mayotte under false identity.
The international commission on investigation of human rights violations in Rwanda in 1993 found that Simbikangwa was involved in massacres, assassinations and various disturbances of opposition parties were organised by the President’s entourage. The Prosecution found witness who testified on the direct involvement of Simbikangwa in the genocide and activities of death squads.
Simbikangwa was indicted in Rwanda on 3 March 2008 for genocide and complicity in genocide, conspiracy and organized crime.
On 28 October 2008 he was arrested in Mayotte (French territory) for making hundreds of fake identity cards. During his detention, his real identity was established and the French police discovered he was wanted by Interpol.
On 13 February 2009, the NGO Collectif des parties civiles pour le Rwanda filed a complaint in Mayotte for the crimes he committed during the genocide. The Prosecutor of Mayotte opened the case.
In July 2009, Simbikangwa was transferred to the prison of Saint-Denis on the island of la Reunion. On 16 April 2009 he was indicted for his involvement in the Rwandan genocide and placed under custody. He was accused of genocide and complicity in genocide, conspiracy and organized crime. He was transferred to Paris on 20 November 2009.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the Paris Court (Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris) rejected Simbikangwa’s application for extradition to Rwanda.
On 29 March 2013, the judges from the French war crimes unit indicted Simbikangwa for complicity in genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity.
The trial took place from 4 February 2014 to 14 March 2014. Simbikangwa was sentenced to 25 years of prison in Paris for his participation in the Rwandan genocide and for having been an accomplice of crimes against humanity.
Simbikangwa appealed this judgment. On 3 December 2016, the French Criminal Court (Cour d’Assises de Bobigny) confirmed the verdict on appeal.
On 24 May 2018, the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) rejected Simbikangwa last recourse appeal and confirmed his sentence to 25 years imprisonment.
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.