French court allows access to archives on 1994 Rwanda genocide

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s top administrative court on Friday ruled that a researcher could access former President Francois Mitterrand’s archives on the 1994 Rwandan genocide, marking a further step to ease tensions between Paris and Kigali.

Researchers have complained that only a fraction of classified French documents have surfaced and say a conclusive account on the role played by Paris has yet to be produced.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has accused France of being complicit in the bloodshed in which Hutu militias killed around 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

President Emmanuel Macron has sought to improve ties with Kigali and last year appointed researchers to carry out a two-year investigation into the role of the French army in the genocide.

Presidential archives are usually confidential for 60 years after they were signed, but under certain circumstances, such as public interest, can be made public earlier, the State Council said in a statement.

Notes from the president’s advisers and minutes of government meetings are part of the archives.

The court ruled that the academic had a legitimate interest in consulting the archives to contribute to his historical research after access had been denied by the French culture ministry.

Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995.

While Paris has acknowledged mistakes in its dealings with Rwanda, it has repeatedly dismissed accusations that it trained militias to take part in the massacre.

However, during a visit to Rwanda in 2010, then president Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged France had made “a serious error of judgment, a sort of blindness when we didn’t foresee the genocidal dimensions of the government”.

Reporting by John Irish and Matthieu Protard; editing by Nick Macfie