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.