The trial in Paris of a former Rwandan intelligence chief charged with complicity in the genocide that left 800,000 dead started yesterday, the first of its kind in France.
Pascal Simbikangwa has denied the accusations made against him. The trial is being closely watched in France, which was accused of failing to rein in the Rwandan regime at the time of the 100-day genocide in 1994. The 54-year-old defendant appeared in court in a wheelchair because a 1986 car accident left him a paraplegic. He faces life in prison.
Arrested in 2008 on the French island of Mayotte, in the Indian Ocean, he is accused of inciting, organising and aiding massacres during the genocide, particularly by supplying arms and giving instructions to militia who were killing Tutsi men, women and children.
"I was a captain in the Rwandan army, then in the intelligence services," Simbikangwa, a small, bald man wearing a brown jacket and white tracksuit bottoms, told the court in a brief opening statement.
After his arrest, France refused to extradite him to Rwanda, as it had done in previous cases, and decided to try him under laws that allow French courts to consider cases of genocide and war crimes committed in other countries.
The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks. It will be filmed. Recordings will be made available once the case finishes.
More than 50 witnesses, including journalists, historians, farmers, security guards and intelligence officials, are expected to be called to testify, nearly all by the prosecution.
Several films are to be shown at the trial, including Kill Them All, a 2004 documentary about the genocide.
Additional reporting by Reuters