France keeps Rwanda genocide files secret
In 1994 France was supporting the Rwandan ethnic Hutu leaders while the ethnic group was committing genocide, killing around 800,000 of its Tutsi neighbours.
The French Constitutional Council ruled that a 25-year block on former president François Mitterrand’s archives was legitimate.
Researcher François Graner had been seeking access to them, arguing that it violated the public right of access to official archives dating back to the 1789 revolution against the Ancien Regime.
Graner said he would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, “which isn’t encumbered by such political considerations”.
The block on access to the presidential archives “are justified on the grounds of common interest and are proportional”, the council announced.
The council said its ruling was “justified in the general interest” and it did not undermine freedom of expression, rejecting Graner’s claim that the 25-year rule contravened several constitutional rights.
The constitution says papers deposited in the archives by a president, prime minister or minister should remain secret for 25 years after their death.
Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995. As the socialist leader died in 1996, his archives should become available in 2021.
In April 2015, Paris announced that its presidential archives on Rwanda for 1990-95 would be declassified and at the time it was considered a strong gesture, coming on the 21st-anniversary of the genocide in the former Belgian colony.
The office of then president, Francois Hollande, said the move was motivated by a “wish for truth” as it opened the files to researchers, victims’ associations and NGOs.
But Graner’s request for access to the Mitterrand archives was rebuffed. He has written a book accusing French officers of assisting the Hutu militias.
Rwanda’s veteran president, Paul Kagame, an ethnic Tutsi who took power after the genocide, has made similar allegations of French assistance. Paris denied any involvement in the killings.
“It’s obviously a cover-up,” Graner claimed. “There are political reasons for this decision.”
France had close ties with Rwanda’s military until 1994.
During the 1994 killings, France sent a force to set up a supposedly safe area, while critics said it did too little to stop the slaughter.
A French soldier, one of the international force supporting the relief effort for Rwandan refugees, adjust wire surrounding an airport in August 1994. Picture credit: Wikimedia