CourtCourt of Cassation (France)
Date06 janvier 1998
France, Court of Cassation (Criminal Chamber).

(Milleville, President; Batut, Rapporteur; de Gouttes, Advocate General)


War and armed conflict Enforcement of international humanitarian law Genocide Convention, 1948, Torture Convention, 1984 and Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, 1994 French Law of 1995 incorporating provisions of Statute into domestic law Whether permitting prosecution of crimes committed abroad where the accused is present on French territory

Jurisdiction Universal Genocide, torture and other crimes against international law Whether French Law providing for universal jurisdiction where accused present on French territory The law of France

Summary: The facts:In July 1995 fifteen Rwandan nationals lodged a complaint before a French examining magistrate against Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a Rwandan priest now resident in France, alleging that he had committed genocide and crimes against humanity during 1994 by participating in the elimination of ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda. The examining magistrate ruled that he was not competent to exercise jurisdiction pursuant to the Genocide Convention, 1948 since it did not provide for universal jurisdiction. On the other hand, the Torture Convention, 1984 did provide a basis for the competence of the French courts since it did make provision for universal jurisdiction. However, the Court of Appeal of Nmes overruled the examining magistrate, holding that criminal procedure rules required the most serious designation of the acts at issue to form the basis of any indictment so that only genocide and not torture could be charged in this case. Despite the existence of draft legislation, the French courts were not yet empowered to exercise jurisdiction over genocide committed in Rwanda. The complainants and the Procureur gnral appealed to the Court of Cassation.

Held:The appeal was allowed and the case was remitted to the Court of Appeal of Paris.

(1) According to sections 1 and 2 of the French Law adopting the Statute of the International Tribunal for Rwanda, 1994, persons accused of committing serious violations of international humanitarian law including genocide and crimes against humanity could, if they were found in France, be prosecuted and convicted under French law.

(2) The French courts were competent to exercise jurisdiction, under the rules of French criminal procedure, over persons accused of the commission outside France of torture within the meaning of the Torture Convention 1984, provided that the criminal acts at issue could be classified under French law as falling within the terms of Article 1 of the Convention. French law did not require acts charged only to be examined from the standpoint of their...

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