Paul Barril was born on 13 April 1946 in Vinay, France. He began his career as an officer in the French National Gendarmerie, and worked his way up the ranks to become captain. He has also written several books on his military career. In 1974, Barril was a co-founder of the Intervention Group of the National Gendarmerie (GIGN) and became its Commander in 1982. Barril also played a part in the creation of the Elysée anti-terrorist cell. After retirement in the 1980s, Barril established several companies in the field of private security (in particular a company called SECRETS), and became a consultant to numerous heads of state notably that of Rwanda.
In 1994, following the outbreak of the genocide against the Tutsis, Barril’s private limited company reached an agreement with the Rwandan interim government to provide military assistance at a time when an international embargo had been imposed by the UN in view of the situation in Rwanda. This contract provided for the sale of firearms and hand grenades for the sum of USD 3.13 million. However, only an amount reaching USD 1.2 million was paid for and the contract was only partially completed due to a French military operation which prevented the conclusion of the full contract (Operation Turquoise).
On 6 April 1994, a deadly attack was committed against the plane of the Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana. Today, this attack is considered to be one of the sparks which led to the Rwandan genocide and much controversy surrounds the participation of Barril in this operation, being in effect under suspicion for having supplied arms to the Hutu belligerents, thereby shouldering indirect responsibility for the death of countless Tutsis.
On 27 June 2013, the Paris Prosecutor’s Office took steps to open up legal proceedings against Barril for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. The complaint forming the basis to open up legal investigations was lodged by three human rights organizations: Survival International, the International Federation of Human Rights (IFHR) and the Human Rights League. The complaint explicitly addresses the contract for military assistance signed in 1994 between Barril’s private company and the Rwandan government.
On 27 June 2013, the Paris Prosecutor’s Office took steps to open up legal proceedings against Barril for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. The complaint forming the basis to open up legal investigations was lodged by three human rights organizations: Survival International, the International Federation of Human Rights (IFHR) and the Human Rights League. This complaint explicitly addresses the contract for military assistance signed in 1994 between Barril’s private company and the Rwandan government
In early 2014, the Examining Magistrate, to whom the enquiry had been assigned, was in possession of all the necessary documents required to institute proceedings. The majority of the documentary evidence came from the counter-terrorism division, whose employees had been working almost exclusively on the 6 April 1994 plane attack. Barril was interviewed on four occasions, but his testimony continues to reveal inconsistencies. However the actual trial itself has not yet been officially opened.
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 Kagameannounced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.