Kagame Loses Court Case Against African Journalist

By Ruth Nabakwe

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

June 4, 2002

Paris, France - The French High Court Tribunal Monday rejected the case filed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the Rwandan State against Cameroonian Journalist Charles Onana for his latest book , "Les Secrets Du Génocide Rwandais- Enquête Sur Les Mystères d'un Président" (The Secrets of the Rwandan genocide- Investigations on the Mysteries of a President).

The French Tribunal considered the defamation suit filed by the Rwandan leader and the Rwandan state against the journalist as inadmissible as the plaintiff had failed to meet the necessary legal deadline in filing the case as required under French Law.

The principle under French law of 29 July 1881 concerning Press Freedom and Publications requires that a plaintiff against any given new publication takes recourse to justice within a period of three months after the publication of a book that is the subject of a court case.

But according to the French Judge Edith Dubreuil who heard the case which opened on 8 April assisted by two other judges Sylvie Menotti and Sophie Poitou the plaintiff had failed to honour the stipulated deadline of three months as the case was filed on 6 March 2002 which was Four months after the publication of the book in November 2001.

Kagame had instituted the defamation suit claiming that he was defamed by the journalist in his new publication, which cited the Rwandan leader as the principle instigator in the shooting down of the plane carrying former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira who both died in the plane crash.

The Plane had been shot down in a missile attack in Kigali.

Onana's publication attacks Kagame as the lead person responsible for the Rwandan genocide as the shooting down of the plane provoked the 1994 Rwandan genocide that claimed an estimated 800,000 lives.

For Onana, President Kagame should be judged by the UN Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, for what he describes as "Kagame's uncontestable responsibility" in not only the shooting down of the Rwandan President's plane that caused his death and that of his Burundian counterpart but also his responsibility in the Rwandan genocide.

Kagame had demanded that the French court order the journalist to pay one symbolic Euro in damages and interest as well as phase out several passages in his new book that Kagame considered defamatory within a period of ten days after the judgment had been delivered - failure to which he (Onana) should pay 5000 Euros per day on each day delayed to suppress the passages considered defamatory by Kagame.

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