|French-Rwandan relations have long been complicated by tensions over the 1994 genocide in Rwanda [EPA]
A French court has agreed that a suspect should be extradited to Rwanda to face charges of genocide in the central African state, it what would be the country’s first extradition of one of its citizens.
The court ruling in Rouen on Friday followed an international arrest warrant issued in December for Claude Muhayimana, a French-Rwandan dual national who is accused of taking part in genocide and crimes against humanity.
The extradition can only go ahead if the French government gives its accord, and France has never allowed French nationals to be extradited.
France has previously extradited Rwandan citizens to Tanzania to face trial at the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTR) for Rwanda but has never sent anyone to Rwanda itself for trial over the 1994 genocide.
Western countries and the ICTR had long hesitated to transfer indicted genocide suspects living abroad or detainees to Rwanda's national jurisdiction, fearing they would be denied a fair trial.
Kigali abolished the death penalty in 2007 and has committed to ensuring that indictees sent back home for trial will be treated according to international standards.
Muhayimana, a 51-year-old municipal employee in Rouen, denies any role in the genocide in which 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis, died, and is planning to appeal the decision to extradite him, his lawyer Geraldine Boitieux said.
She said her client would be happy to be judged by a French court or by the ICTR but not by a Rwandan tribunal.
"My client believes he has no guarantee that he will be judged by an impartial court given the current situation there," she said.
The Rwandan ambassador in Paris, Jacques Kabale, said in a statement he was "satisfied" with the Rouen court's ruling and said it set a precedent. Kabale insisted Muhayimana would be given a fair trial in his native land.
Rwandan-French relations have been tense in recent months, especially after the publication of a book by journalist Andrew Wallis alleging that France secretly provided military, financial and diplomatic support to the Hutus during the genocide.
US immigration trial
In a separate case, a woman who US prosecutors say lied about her role in the Rwanda genocide to obtain US citizenship will go on trial for the second time after a jury failed to reach a verdict in her case last month.
Beatrice Munyenyezi was indicted in June 2010 on two charges of lying on immigration and naturalisation papers. Prosecutors said she commanded extremist Hutu militia and ordered the rapes and killings of Tutsis in 1994.
The jury deadlocked on March 15 after four days of deliberations in New Hampshire.
Prosecutor John Capin said on Friday that Munyenyezi's new trial date is September 10.
Munyenyezi, who became a US citizen in 2003, did not testify. She had faced deportation to Rwanda if convicted, and her citizenship would have been stripped.