Sosthène Munyemana

25.04.2016 ( Last modified: 17.07.2018 )
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Sosthène Munyemana was born on 1955 in Gitarama, in Rwanda. He is an obstetrician gynecologist in Tumba.

On 7 April 1994, when massacres began, thousands of Tutsi refugees fled to Butare, traditionally known for its peaceful coexistence between the different communities of the country. Thousands of them were murdered there.

On 17 April 1994, Munyemana was appointed security officer for some streets of Tumba. He allegedly made a speech in which he clearly expressed his intention to exterminate the Tutsi community of Tumba. His speech is alleged to have encouraged the inhabitants of Tumba, and in particular Hutus, to locate Tutsis in the city. This speech has reportedly contributed to a large extent to the outbreak of the genocide in Tumba.

On 21 April 1994, the outbreak of systematic massacres occurred in the area of ​​Tumba. The first victims were intellectuals and Tutsi businessmen.

Munyemana allegedly participated directly in the attacks, but he also reportedly commanded a group of soldiers. Appointed team leader of the night watch, Munyemana allegedly made lists of families to attack at night.

Moreover, between April and June 1994, Munyemana reportedly went regularly to his home commune of Rusambira to ensure the Tutsi extermination campaign was going well.

At the end of June 1994, Munyemana fled Rwanda. In October 1994, he and his wife were recruited by the University of Bordeaux, where he coordinated a working group on AIDS in Rwanda.

legal procedure

On 18 October 1995, four French and Rwandan citizens living in France, supported by three non-governmental organizations (the Collectif girondin pour le RwandaSurvie and the International Federation for Human Rights, also known as FIDH), filed a complaint against Munyemana in Bordeaux on allegations of genocide, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and asked for his arrest. They decided to appear as civil parties in the subsequent trial. In 2001 the investigation was transferred to Paris.

In 2006 Rwanda issued an arrest warrant against Munyemana on charges of war crimes and genocide.

In January 2008 the French National Court for Asylum dismissed the asylum application of Munyemana. The French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless persons (OFPRA) stated that the application was not sincere and aimed at hiding truth. Furthermore, there were reasonable grounds for considering that the applicant had committed genocide and crimes against humanity. Therefore, pursuant to art. 1(F)(a) of the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugee, he was not suitable for such a status.

In October 2008, Munyemana was convicted in absentia by the Butare’s Gacaca, traditional Rwandan Courts. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crimes committed at the Butare hospital and to 30 years of imprisonment for the crimes committed in Tumba.

On 20 January 2010, he was arrested by the Police in Bordeaux on the basis of the previous arrest warrant issued by Rwanda, which asked for his extradition. Subsequently he was released on probation, waiting for his initial appearance in front of the Court of Appeal.

On 19 October 2010, the Bordeaux Court of Appeal dismissed the Rwandan request for extradition on grounds of inaccuracy. It also lifted the probation against Munyemana.

On 30 January 2011, the Collectif girondin pour le Rwanda  organized a demonstration in front of the hospital where Munyemana works, in France. On 8 November 2011, the Collectif was convicted by the Tribunal of Bordeaux for outrage to the presumption of innocence.

On 14 December 2011, Munyemana was indicted in Paris for genocide and crimes against humanity, and put again on probation. On 9 May 2017, the investigating judge within the Paris Tribunal informed the parties that he had completed his investigation.

On 9 May 2018, the prosecutor of the French war crimes unit issued his final submission. The prosecutor argues that Munyemana organised a hunt against Tutsis, detained some of them in inhumane conditions and sent them to killing sites. The prosecutor considers that there are sufficient charges to send Munyemana to trial.


During the Tumba massacre in 1994, members of the provisional government came mostly from Butare, the “intellectual capital” of Rwanda. Most members of this government reportedly went to Butare during the genocide with the sole purpose to encourage people to kill the Tutsi community.

The genocide in Rwanda in general, and particularly in the microcosm of Butare, was conceived, planned and carried out by intellectuals. Compared to other prefectures, an extraordinarily high number of doctors, nurses, academics, students, teachers, priests and officials have led the bloody chase against Tutsi in Butare


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.


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.


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.