Page last updated at 11:37 GMT, Thursday, 7 January 2010

France to set up new court to investigate genocide

French Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Kouchner at Elysee Palace in Paris on Jan 5 2010
Mr Kouchner is trying to speed up the process of war crimes cases

The French government has announced that it will set up a new panel to try cases of genocide and war crimes committed in France or abroad.

The new court would speed up the way genocide cases are tried where the suspect is on French territory but the process involves several jurisdictions.

The unit is to include linguists and specialists with historical knowledge.

French authorities are currently hearing several cases against Rwandan genocide suspects living in France.

Those being investigated include Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of the late president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose plane was shot down in 1994, triggering the violence and killing inside Rwanda.

'No sanctuary'

In a joint statement to the newspaper Le Monde, the French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, and the justice minister, Michelle Alliot-Marie, said legislation to create a new unit within the Paris High Court would be presented in the coming six months.

"As the homeland of human rights, France will never be a sanctuary for the authors of genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity", the statement said.

The move, part of broader legal reform in France, will not change French war crimes law.

However, it will enable courts to move more rapidly through the complicated international procedures involved in investigating crimes committed outside France.

The announcement comes as Mr Kouchner is in Rwanda at the start of an African tour which will also take him to Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso.

Mr Kouchner is due to hold talks in Kigali with the Rwandan president Paul Kagame, in his first visit following the resumption of diplomatic ties between France and Rwanda last November.

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