Tito Barahira was a mayor of Kabarondo commune in Rwanda since 1977. Barahira held this position until 1986 when he was replaced by Octavien Ngenzi .
During the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Barahira was the director of Electrogaz in Kabarondo, a company created in 1976 which was granted monopoly on the production and distribution of water and electricity in Rwanda. He was also the chairman of the ruling party at the local level called the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND).
Barahira was accused of participation in the massacre of the Tutsis between April and July 1994 in collaboration with military leadership in Kabarondo.
As the chairman of MRND, he was accused of presiding over and participating in the meetings where plans of the extermination of Tutsis were prepared. Together with Ngenzi, who was the mayor at the relevant period of 1994 when the genocide took place, Barahira allegedly used his influence to incite people to massacre the Tutsis.
In April 1994, Barahira allegedly organised and led a group of Interahamwe, a militia armed with machetes, to the Kabarondo Church. He allegedly participated in the notorious killing of Tutsis who had taken refuge in that church.
He was also suspected of participating in the attacks slaughtering the Tutsis in Rugenge and Nyakabungo areas, and of personally ordering members of the militia to murder an elderly woman Josephine Mukaruhigira
The National Public Prosecution Authority (NPPA) in Rwanda opened an investigation into the case of Barahira in October 2010 for his alleged participation in the genocide and for incitement to commit acts of genocide.
On 28 March 2011, the “Collectif des parties civiles pour le Rwanda” (Rwandan Plaintiff Collective) filed a complaint against Barahira for his alleged implication in the 1994 massacres.
Barahira was arrested on 3 April 2013 in Toulouse and detained in a French prison. The Rwandan authorities requested his extradition. However, the French authorities refused their request.
On 16 July 2013, the proceedings in the cases of Ngenzi and Barahira were decided to be conducted jointly based on the link established by witnesses between those two cases. Fourteen civil parties joined the case.
On 13 May 2014, the Office of the Prosecutor of the High Court of Paris sought the prosecution of the case before the Paris Criminal Court.
On 28 May 2014, the investigating judges referred their case to the Paris Criminal Court. The defendants appealed this decision but the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation) dismissed their appeal on 7 January 2015.
Their trial took place from 10 May to 6 July 2016 before the Paris Criminal Court. On 6 July 2016, Baharira and Ngenzi were found guilty of genoicde and crimes against humanity and condemned to life imprisonment. Their attorneys announced on 7 July 2016 that both Baharira and Ngenzi would appeal the decision.
The appeal trial of the two accused began on 2 May 2018 before the Paris Criminal Court. On 6 July 2018, the Court upheld the first instance judgement and confirmed the life imprisonment. Both convicts lodged an appeal against the judgment before the French Supreme Court.
On 16 October 2019, the French Supreme Court upheld the life sentences of Octavien Ngenzi and Tito Barahira. The judgment is now final.
It is already the second trial held in France which resulted in a conviction of Rwandan citizens for their participation in the 1994 genocide.
For the first time, and in contrast to the Pascal Simbikangwa case, victims or relatives of victims have the option to participate in the proceedings before the court.
Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three 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 largely outnumbered the genocidaires and the international community notoriously failed to respond otherwise at the relevant period.
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. The Resolution established the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Tribunal’s function was to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in the territory of Rwanda, by Rwandan citizens and those committed in neighbouring states. During its existence, 93 persons have been indicted by the ICTR, the Tribunal was officially closed in 2015.
Some proceedings are however still ongoing before the so-called International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”). The Mechanism was established by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) and took over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism has been functioning since 1 July 2012 in parallel with the Tribunals and nowadays as an exclusive institution It gradually took over the functions of the ICTR and 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 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.