NGOs sue French bank for geno­cide

Rwan­dan arms deal ‘com­plic­ity’

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

THREE non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions (NGOs) have filed a law­suit in Paris against the French bank BNP Paribas, al­leg­ing that it know­ingly ap­proved a trans­fer of $1.3 mil­lion (R16.9m) from the Rwan­dan cen­tral bank to an arms dealer dur­ing the Rwan­dan geno­cide in 1994.

More than 800 000 eth­nic Tut­sis and mod­er­ate Hu­tus were slaugh­tered dur­ing a three-month killing spree by Hutu ex­trem­ists af­ter a plane car­ry­ing the pres­i­dent, Ju­ve­nal Hab­ya­ri­mana, was shot down.

The three groups – Sherpa, CPCR (Col­lec­tive of Civil Par­ties for Rwanda) and Ibuka France – said yes­ter­day that their suit ac­cused BNP Paribas of com­plic­ity in geno­cide, crimes against hu­man­ity and war crimes.

They said a UN arms em­bargo on Rwanda had been in ef­fect at the time of the trans­fer.

In an e-mailed state­ment BNP Paribas said: “We have learned about the suit through the me­dia. At the mo­ment, we do not have suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion on the sub­ject to be able to com­ment on it.”

Rwan­dan cen­tral bank gov­er­nor John Rwan­gombwa said in a What­sapp mes­sage that he had no com­ment.

The state­ment from the NGOs said that Hutu colonel Théon­este Bagosora had agreed the pur­chase of 80 tons of arms with a dealer on June 17, 1994, and these were de­liv­ered to Gisenyi in Rwanda via Goma, a city in the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of the Congo.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil had put an arms em­bargo in place the pre­vi­ous month.

Bagosora, 70, is serv­ing a 35-year sen­tence for crimes against hu­man­ity in con­nec­tion with the Rwan­dan geno­cide.

The NGOs said that BNP’s pre­de­ces­sor, Banque Na­tionale de Paris, which merged with Paribas in 2000 to cre­ate BNP Paribas, had know­ingly ac­cepted the trans­fer of $1.3m from its client, the Rwan­dan cen­tral bank, to the arms dealer’s Swiss ac­count.

“Ac­cord­ing to the nu­mer­ous tes­ti­monies and in­ves­tiga­tive reports at­tached to the com­plaint, BNP would have cer­tainly known the des­ti­na­tion of the funds,” the NGOs said.

Rwanda opened an in­quiry in Novem­ber into the pos­si­ble role of at least 20 French mil­i­tary and other of­fi­cials in the 1994 geno­cide.

Rwanda, a for­mer Ger­man and Bel­gian colony, had strong ties with France un­til 1994.

Un­der its cur­rent pres­i­dent, Paul Kagame, it has forged close links with the US and Bri­tain.

The logo of the BNP Paribas bank in Paris.

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