Prosecutor Ricard moved by Genocide history in Murambi

By Esther Muhozi
On 13 March 2024 at 12:32

Jean-François Ricard, the Head of French National Anti-Terrorism Prosecution Office, Jean-François Ricard has visited Murambi Genocide Memorial, where it is alleged that French soldiers deplyed there during ’Operation Turquoise’ were involved in crimes including rape.

Ricard arrived in Rwanda on March 10, 2024, for a four-day visit, during which he held various meetings with the Chief Prosecutor of Rwanda and officials from the IRMCT to discuss investigating evidence related to the complicity of France in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.

On this 12th of March 2024, he visited the Murambi Genocide Memorial located in Nyamagabe District.

This memorial was established on the grounds where bodies of Tutsi victims were initially buried in mass graves but later exhumed, and it now holds the remains of over 50,000 Tutsi victims killed in 1994.

Among the atrocities documented are the actions of French soldiers who arrived at Murambi between July 21, 1994, and August 21, 1994.

These soldiers encountered Tutsi refugees who sought shelter there, but instead of protecting them, over 50,000 were massacred, and their bodies disposed of in mass graves.

French soldiers used the classrooms of a nearby school to hold Tutsi women and girls they had abducted, turning them into sex slaves, as evidenced by the materials found on site.

Chief Prosecutor Jean-François Ricard sought to further explore the historical context of the Tutsi Genocide and its execution but was confronted with the sight of the classrooms where French soldiers raped women

He also visited a volleyball court where French soldiers played Volleyball and the ball falling on human heads.

This memorial bears witness to the genocide in a visceral and tangible way, allowing visitors to witness the extent of the horror.

Ricard expressed his inability to comprehend the scale of the atrocities witnessed, estimating that over 50,000 Tutsis were massacred at this site alone, making it difficult for him to provide a detailed account to the media due to the overwhelming nature of what he saw.

However, in a brief interview with French students who visited the Murambi Genocide Memorial, he emphasized the need for acknowledging the truth and ensuring accountability for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis, suggesting that justice must be served to those who participated in the genocide.

In a message left in the memorial’s guestbook, he wrote, "For the first time, I came to Murambi to witness firsthand the profound suffering inflicted during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda, but the horror is beyond comprehension."

"I wish to emphasize the importance of ensuring justice for the victims of this genocide so that we may prevent such atrocities from happening again, as we strive to promote a culture of reconciliation."

The testimony provided by a survivor of sexual violence named Oliva corroborated the systemic rape and sexual abuse perpetrated by French soldiers at Murambi. She recounted how French soldiers stationed in the area would raise the French national flag at their base, and then systematically rape and abuse women and girls on a daily basis.

She stated, "French soldiers would wait at the gates. Every evening, they would come to the camps and take girls, sometimes in groups of ten would all rape one girl , . Every evening, we feared for our lives. It was like a ritual for them."

The atrocities committed at the Murambi site were led by four senior military officers who commanded troops stationed there, including Col Didier Tauzin, the overall commander of Operation Turquoise in Gikongoro, Col Jacques Rosier, who was a subordinate of Col Didier Tauzin and led the troops in Murambi.

Lt Col Erik De Stabenrath also served under Col Rosier, along with Capt Marc Zwilling, who was the commander of the Murambi base.

Prosecutor Ricard moved by history of Genocide against the Tutsi as he visited Murambi Memorial.