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France grants researcher access to restricted Rwanda files

PARIS (AP) — France's highest administrative court on Friday granted a researcher access to restricted archives from the French presidency regarding the country's role before and during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

The Council of State ruled that the French researcher, Francois Graner, has a “legitimate interest” in consulting the 1990-1995 archives “to shed light on a debate that is a matter of public interest.”

Graner has written several books about events in Rwanda leading to the slaughter of some 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis. Critics say France was too supportive of Rwanda’s Hutu-led government, whose supporters carried out the genocide, and turned a blind eye for too long.

France denies complicity, but has launched several investigations in recent years. Under French law, presidential archives remain closed to the general public for 60 years after they were formally deposited — mostly to preserve the confidentiality of sensitive documents. Yet they can be opened before that under certain conditions on request from researchers.

According to Paris-based human rights group Survie, Graner had been denied access to the archives since he first requested it in 2015. In April 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron ordered a commission of researchers and historians to scour archives “to analyze the role and involvement of France” in Rwanda from 1990-1994. It is to deliver its conclusions next year.

The Council of State's ruling comes one week after a French court approved the extradition of Rwandan genocide suspect Felicien Kabuga to a United Nations tribunal. Kabuga’s lawyers appealed the decision, meaning the businessman accused of supplying machetes to the killers in the genocide remains on French soil for the time being.

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