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Claude Muhayimana is the fourth and lowest-ranking Rwandan to face genocide charges before a court in France, which allows for universal jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against humanity.
By Molly Quell

The month-long trial of a former hotel chauffeur charged with crimes relating to the Rwandan genocide came to an end on Thursday evening, nearly a decade after the investigation first began.  Claude Muhayimana was given a 14-year jail sentence by the Assize Court in Paris for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. The court found that he used his job as a hotel driver to transport Hutu militiamen to the sites of massacres of ethnic minority Tutsis during the violent conflict in 1994.

Muhayimana, a Hutu, was married to a Tutsi woman, has denied the charges, claiming he was forced to make trips at gunpoint. The investigation into his actions revealed he also hid members of aided members of the ethnic group in escaping at his own peril.
He is the fourth and lowest-ranking Rwandan to face genocide charges before a court in France. Muhayimana became a French national after leaving Rwanda in the late 1990s and France’s legal system allows for universal jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against humanity.
The court deliberated for 10 hours before handing down the sentence. Trials before the Assize Court are heard by a panel of six jurors and three judges.
During closing statements on Thursday, Muhayimana told the court: “I did what I could. The rest is up to God. »
The trial opened in November, with some 50 witnesses giving evidence, many flown in from Rwanda to testify.
At the time, Muhayimana was employed by the state-owned Kibuye Guest House, a tourist hotel on the shore of Lake Kivu in western Rwanda. According to prosecutors, during the conflict, thousands of Tutsis took refuge in the mountainous region surrounding the lake and Muhayimana transported armed men to the sites of mass killings.
The Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda brought a complaint against Muhayimana, who had been working as a construction worker for the northern French city of Rouen, in 2013. Group leader Daphrosa Gauthier told French public radio station RFI she had mixed feelings about the sentence.
“Despite everything, it is a relatively lenient sentence for genocide,” she said.
The 60-year-old Muhayimana was acquitted of some charges, which gives his lawyer Philippe Meilhac hope for an appeal.
« I am convinced that on appeal, we will succeed in clearing him,” he told RFI.
France has refused to extradite any suspects to face charges in Rwanda. Instead, it has pursued cases under universal jurisdiction, a legal principle that allows certain atrocity crimes to be prosecuted in France regardless of where they occurred. Authorities have handed off some suspects over to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a United Nations court established to bring justice for victims of the genocide.
More than one million members of the Tutsi minority group, as well as moderate Hutus, were slaughtered between April and July 1994. Violence broke out after the president was assassinated when his plane was shot down, with genocidal killings beginning almost immediately. The French government was found to have enabled the genocide by failing to stop the killings in the landlocked East African country and putting its own economic interests above the safety of locals. A French-led force ultimately quelled the unrest.
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