KIGALI - Agence France-Presse
France played an active role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, a report unveiled by the Rwandan government said, naming French political and military officials it says should be prosecuted.
The damning report accused a raft of top French politicians of involvement in the massacres, threatening to further mar relations between the two countries, which severed diplomatic ties in November 2006.
"French forces directly assassinated Tutsis and Hutus accused of hiding Tutsis... French forces committed several rapes on Tutsi survivors," said a justice ministry statement released on Tuesday after the report was presented in Kigali.
The 500-page report alleged that France was aware of preparations for the genocide, contributed to planning the massacres and actively took part in the killing.
It named former French prime minister Edouard Balladur, former foreign minister Alain Juppe and then-president Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996, among 13 French politicians accused of playing a role in the massacres.
Dominique de Villepin, who was then Juppe's top aide and later became prime minister, was also among those listed in the Rwandan report.
The report names 20 military officials as being responsible.
Paris slams report:
France initially refused to comment directly on the report's findings, saying the inquiry had lacked legitimacy or impartiality. A Defense Ministry spokesman instead referred reporters to the government's position as set out in a statement from February 2007. But yesterday French foreign ministry accused Rwanda of making "unacceptable accusations" in a genocide report.
"This report contains unacceptable accusations made against French political and military officials," foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told reporters.
Former French FM Alain Juppe, one of 13 French politicians accused by Rwanda of taking part in the 1994 genocide, also slammed Kigali for an "unacceptable" attempt to rewrite history.
Contacted about the accusations contained in a report released by Kigali, Juppe referred AFP to a text published on his Internet blog in which he denounced Rwandan efforts to implicate France in the killing spree. "In the past few years, we have seen an insidious attempt to rewrite history. It aims to turn France from an involved party into an accomplice to the genocide," Juppe wrote in January.
"It is an unacceptable falsification," Juppe wrote.
That original statement declared that the Rwandan inquiry had no "independence or impartiality" because its stated remit was to "gather evidence of the involvement of the French state" in the Rwandan genocide.
The inquiry, it stated, had "no legitimacy nor competence" to conduct interviews on French soil because it had broken off diplomatic relations with France in November 2006. France has acknowledged making "mistakes" in Rwanda but denies any responsibility for the killing spree.
The 1994 genocide in the central African nation left around 800,000 people -- mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus -- dead, according to the United Nations.
"The overwhelming nature of France's support to the Rwandan policy of massacres... shows the complicity of French political and military officials in the preparation and execution of the genocide," the statement said.
Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama presented the report to the press in Kigali, more than two years after a special commission tasked with probing France's role in the genocide began its work.
The statement said the military and humanitarian Operation Turquoise carried out by the French in Rwanda between June and August 1994 abetted the killings perpetrated by the extremist Interahamwe Hutu militia.
The French military "did not challenge the infrastructure of genocide, notably the checkpoints manned by the Interahamwes.
"They clearly requested that the Interahamwes continue to man those checkpoints and kill Tutsis attempting to flee," the statement added.
"Considering the seriousness of the alleged crimes, the Rwandan government has urged the relevant authorities to bring the accused French politicians and military officials to justice," the statement said.
Karugarama hinted that Rwanda could launch a legal challenge against some of the officials named in the report.
The release of the report comes against a backdrop of tense relations between France and Rwanda.
Kigali severed diplomatic ties with France after French investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere accused Kagame and his entourage of involvement in the death of the then president, Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu.
Habyarimana's plane was shot down above Kigali airport on April 6, 1994, sparking the genocide.
In July, Kagame had threatened to indict French nationals over the genocide if European courts did not withdraw arrest warrants issued against Rwandan officials.