Fri, Aug 03, 2007 - Page 6 News List

French court frees Rwandans because of warrant troubles

AFP , PARIS

An appeals court in France on Wednesday freed two Rwandans wanted for charges related to the African country's 1994 genocide in a decision condemned by a Rwandan official as political.

Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a 49-year-old Catholic priest, and Laurent Bucyibaruta, 62, a former official, were arrested last month on warrants issued by the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda (ICTR).

The French court ruled that the warrants could not be executed and said the men, both wanted by the ICTR for their alleged roles in the 1994 massacres on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, must be freed.

Philippe Greciano, lawyer for Bucyibaruta, said the decision was a "victory for human rights" and described his arrest warrant as "badly founded in law and impossible procedurally."

Munyeshyaka lawyer Thierry Massis said the decision "conformed with international law" and that the arrest warrant had been "arbitrary."

Their views were not shared by Benjamin Sehene, a Rwandan author close to the victims of the genocide.

"It's an injustice what has just happened when one knows exactly what they have done," he said as he left the hearing.

Rwanda's representative at the ICTR -- the Tanzania-based court formed in 1994 that has so far convicted 28 genocide suspects and acquitted five -- condemned their release as well.

"It's not a judicial decision. There are other motives behind it," Aloys Mutabingwa said, adding that it was "political."

Rwanda's justice minister Tharcisse Karugarama said he would wait "to have read the motivation of the decision" before deciding what to say further.

"If the decision is motivated judicially, I will respect it," he said. "If it is not motivated according to the law, I will react."

Karugarama called last month for legal proceedings against French politicians accused of ignoring signs of the 1994 genocide in his country.

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