Neo-Colonial Relationships Gone Wrong: French Leaders Should Be Held Legally Responsible for their Role in the Rwandan Genocide


This article explores the role of outside government intervention in civil war conflicts and the ability of these government actors to be held responsible for crimes committed by association and assistance to war criminals. By using the example of the French/Rwandan relationship and the criminal responsibility that France may have for its association and assistance to the Hutu majority government, it looks to the pitfalls that many western countries could find themselves in by assuming similar roles with other repressive and unstable regimes. This analysis proves particularly timely as lawyers for six Rwandan citizens recently filed a lawsuit with the Army Tribunal of Paris alleging that French soldiers had a role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Exploring various contemporary theories of criminal responsibility including complicity and other forms of indirect criminal responsibility, the analysis shows that if the allegations against French officials responsible for Operation Turquoise and the accompanying diplomatic and arms support are true, they could be held criminally liable for their participation in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Beginning by laying the foundation of the history of the conflict and subsequent genocide as well as the facts surrounding France’s role before and during this conflict, the article sets out a case for the culpability of France. Briefly exploring jurisdictional issues, the analysis moves on to examine three theories of culpability; complicity in genocide, joint criminal enterprise, and command responsibility. Upon making a strong case under each of these international legal theories the paper then compares the Rwandan incident with other incidences of neo-colonialism or imperialism both in past and present times. Finally, the article concludes by stating the need for global accountability in our responsibility to not participate in actions against humanity.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Human Rights Law | International Law

Date of this Version

March 2005