PARIS (AFP) – French prosecutors have recommended the extradition of two Rwandans sought by Kigali for their alleged role in the 1994 genocide, a marked turnaround of their previous stance, according to court documents seen by AFP.
The recommendation is before a Paris appeals court that will on Wednesday hear the case for the extradition of Claude Muhayimana, 52, a French citizen since 2010, and Innocent Musabyimana, 41.
An estimated 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were massacred in Rwanda over the course of about 100 days from April to July 1994.
While several countries, such as Canada, have agreed to extradite those suspected of involvement in the Rwandan genocide, France has repeatedly refused to do so.
Muhayimana is accused of taking part in the massacre of ethnic Tutsis in the western town of Kibuye and Musabyimana in the north-western Gisenyi province near the Congolese border.
Both men have already appeared in front of appeals courts in Dijon and Rouen which ordered their extradition, a ruling quashed by the Court of Cassation -- France's highest appeals court which rules only on points of law -- which sent it on to the Paris appeals court.
French prosecutors said that while the two men could not be extradited on a number of the crimes attributed to them, they could be for those of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Court documents showed that the chief prosecutor in Paris considers that defendants extradited to Rwanda are now guaranteed a fair trial and no longer risk the death penalty, which was abolished in 2007.
"I see no explanation other than politics to explain the prosecutor's change in stance," said the two men's lawyer Philippe Meilhac, who said France wanted to please Rwanda as diplomatic relations warmed between the two nations.
There are currently about 20 genocide-related cases pending in French courts.