Arusha, Tanzania - The United Nations genocide tribunal for Rwanda said on Thursday it was at nobody's behest to prosecute Rwandan President Paul Kagame for alleged complicity in the death of the country's former president as called for by a French judge.
The tribunal's spokesperson Everard O'Donnell said "the prosecutor takes instructions from nobody in the world," rebuffing Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere's suggestion that Kagame should face trial before the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Bruguiere said on Monday that Kagame should be prosecuted for "suspected involvement" in the death of president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination touched off the country's 1994 genocide.
O'Donnell said the April 6, 1994 shooting down of Habyarimana's plane, in which Burundi's then president Cyprien Ntaryamira and a four-man French crew were also travelling in, did not cause the genocide.
"The crash did not create the genocide," O'Donnell told a press conference. "Do you think we are historians?"
In addition, he said the tribunal had yet to receive a formal request from Brugiere regarding the Kagame's prosecution.
"The prosecutor has not yet received any representations from Judge Bruguiere," he said.
On Wednesday, Kagame lambasted Bruguiere for suggesting he should be prosecuted for Habyarimana's death, denouncing the calls as "rubbish."
"That some judge in France whose name I cannot even pronounce has something to say about Rwanda - trying a president and some government officials - that's rubbish," Kagame told diplomats and officials in Kigali.
Ties between Kigali and Paris are frosty, with Rwanda accusing France of complicity in the 100-day genocide in which an estimated 800 000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were slaughtered by Hutu extremists.
Paris has adamantly denied the allegation but Kigali has set up a commission to determine if there is evidence to file suit against France for damages at the world court.
The commission is set to resume public hearings between December 11 and 19.