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Page last updated at 17:25 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 18:25 UK

France accused in Rwanda genocide

Rwanda genocide survivor praying next to skulls (file picture)

Rwanda has accused France of playing an active role in the genocide of 1994, in which about 800,000 people were killed.

An independent Rwandan commission said France was aware of preparations for the genocide and helped train the ethnic Hutu militia perpetrators.

The report also accused French troops of direct involvement in the killings.

It named 33 senior French military and political figures that it said should be prosecuted. France has previously denied any such responsibility.

Among those named in the report were the late former President, Francois Mitterrand, and the then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur.

Two men who went on to become prime minister were also named - Alain Juppe, the foreign minister at the time, and his then chief aide, Dominique de Villepin.

The French foreign ministry told the BBC it would only respond to the fresh allegations after reading the report, which was released on Tuesday afternoon.

Checkpoints

Earlier this year France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner denied French responsibility in connection with the genocide, but said political errors had been made.

The Rwandan government has urged the relevant authorities to bring the accused French politicians and military officials to justice
Rwandan justice ministry

Some 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu militias in just 100 days in 1994.

The report says France backed Rwanda's Hutu government with political, military, diplomatic and logistical support.

It accuses France of training Hutu militias responsible for the slaughter, helping plan the genocide, and participating in the killings.

"French forces directly assassinated Tutsis and Hutus accused of hiding Tutsis... French forces committed several rapes on Tutsi survivors," said a statement from the justice ministry cited by AFP news agency.

"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.

It further alleged that French forces did nothing to challenge checkpoints used by Hutu forces in the genocide.

"They clearly requested that the Interahamwes continue to man those checkpoints and kill Tutsis attempting to flee," it said.

Testimonies

The BBC's Geoffrey Mutagoma in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, says the commission spent nearly two years investigating France's alleged role in the genocide.

It heard testimonies from genocide survivors, researchers, writers and reporters.

The 500-page document was presented to the Rwanda's government last November, but was not made public until now.

Rwanda has repeatedly accused France of arming and training the Hutu militias that perpetrated the genocide, and of dragging its feet in co-operating with the investigations that followed.

France has maintained that its forces helped protect civilians during a UN-sanctioned mission in Rwanda at the time.

The two countries have had a frosty relationship since 2006 when a French judge implicated Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the downing in 1994 of then-President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane - an event widely seen as triggering the killings.

President Kagame has always denied the charge.

He says Mr Habyarimana, a Hutu, was killed by Hutu extremists who then blamed the incident on Tutsi rebels to provide the pretext for the genocide.



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